John Robertson, a lecturer from Paisley University's education faculty, has completed a study into the use of refurbished computers in schools. He said they were a useful partial strategy, but heads still needed to be able to buy new machines.
The warning follows this month's launch of Tools for Schools, a charity which aims to distribute 10,000 computers to schools by the end of 1999.
The study assessed the use of recycled PCs in two primary schools and one secondary in south-west Scotland. He said there was a variety of responses, with the primaries having the more positive attitude.
Although recycled machines were useful as they gave pupils some access to computers and were adequate for applications such as word processing, Mr Robertson said 486s were not fast enough for Web surfing. This was vital if schools wanted to make use of the National Grid for Learning.
Dorian Jabri, chief executive of Tools for Schools, said there had been an overwhelming response in the few days since the initiative was announced.
He said there would be an application process in which schools would have to demonstrate that the computers would not go unused. Those where pupils have little access to technology will get priority. "It is unacceptable to have schools and pupils divided along the lines of the haves and have-nots when it comes to computers in education," he said.
The machines will have 486 or Pentium processors and come from companies replacing equipment. Each will cost Pounds 50. Further details will be released late next month.
Mr Robertsons study was commissioned by the Scottish Office, which is expected to make a policy announcement about recycled computers in schools next week.
For information, e-mail schools @tfs. org. uk or call 0171 609 9624.