What is your school's best buy? Gerald Haigh talks to heads about their favourite purchases and why they made them. Strand Junior School, Grimsby, Humberside
Head: Tom Wilson
The children at Strand have been very interested in Compton's Encyclopaedia running on CD on the school's multimedia PC. Tom Wilson said: "It enables them not only to see pictures as well as text, but to hear the sounds of creatures and so on."
They particularly like the fact that it features Patrick Stewart, of Star Trek fame. "Every time you click on 'help' his little icon appears and he explains what you have to do. It's like having a teacher there."
* Compton's Encyclopaedia. Pounds 52 with education discount, from Silica Systems, Silica House, Hatherley Road, Sidcup, Kent DA14 4DX Harwell Primary School, Oxfordshire
Head: Mike Armstrong
Mike Armsrong nominated the school's new adventure playground, which the parents have built over the last year for the youngest children.
"It's really been terrific. They bought the materials from various local sawmills and made seven or eight individual items swings, climbing frames and a sort of swinging log. It's marvellous just to watch the children using it."
The children had a lot to say about the emerging design. "They drew and wrote about what they wanted, and they saw the designs so they could say what they liked best. It's well worth it, and very morale boosting. The advice would be to take the local authority along at every step looking at the plans and getting them out to see, so that all the health and safety regulations are met. The only warning I'd give is that it's a hell of a lot of work."
* The playground cost Pounds 2,500
Crawley Ridge Junior School, Camberley.Head: Betty Kerr
Betty Kerr embarked on an enthusiastic endorsement of the school's new digital copy printer. "It costs more than the photocopier to lease per quarter, but in terms of speed and quality there's no comparison. Instead of a newsletter to parents taking all afternoon it takes 15 minutes."
A digital copy printer cuts a master and then prints from it. Thus the first copy is expensive, but beyond 30 copies it is cheaper than photocopying and the cost per copy rapidly goes down to fractions of a penny. Copying speed is several times quicker than photocopying.
Crawley Ridge's machine was from Infotec, which has just announced a new range of digital copy printers. Retail prices start from Pounds 3,450. A range of leasing deals is available.
* Infotec UK, Hoechst House, 50 Salisbury Road, Hounslow TW4 6JH
Heaton Royds School, Bradford
Head: Mary Fowler
Heaton Royds is a school for special needs pupils (primary and secondary) in Bradford. Teachers there have nominated Fisher Price cameras as their best buy.
Many special schools use cameras. The children's own pictures provide a rich resource for language development and for building story sequences. The average compact camera can be frustrating for a child with limited hand movement. These have two handles and are very sturdy and easy to grip. Mary Folwer said, "One of our staff used one with her son who is an adult with special needs. He couldn't use an ordinary camera but he could manage this one with two hands. "
* Fisher Price camera, Pounds 15.50
Broughton High School, Edinburgh
Head: Gordon Ford
In the opinion of head Gordon Ford, the biggest and best spending decision in recent months has been to move the school's computer policy from Apple Macintosh to PC.
Scottish schools have been loyal Mac users for many years, and the change at Broughton High will bring a tear to the eye of those Mac loyalists who thought that Scotland was leading the way.
Gordon Ford wanted his pupils using "industry standard" systems: "We're preparing children for the business world outside."
As such, Broughton High has started off by buying eight IBM 486 machines and has just installed a fibre-optic network, in collaboration with British Telecom.
Sacred Heart RC Primary, Peterborough
Head; Andrea Togher:
Andrea Togher was almost apologetic when she mentioned the new machine which keeps up a supply of coffee in the staffroom. However, anyone who knows how precious the morning break is to hard-pressed staff will understand how morale is improved by anything that makes it more comfortable.
The staff at Sacred Heart were unanimous that their best bit of recent classroom equipment has been a number of ordinary ice cube trays, used for desktop storage of small colour-coded cards showing letters, vowel blends and word endings. "It's a tiny little filing system for little hands. They quickly become proficient at finding what they need. It's very successful attractive for children, neat and tidy, and needs minimal storage space," said Andrea Togher.
* Countess, 40-cup automatic coffee maker from GLS Fairway, Pounds 100
Fulfen Primary School,Brentwood, Staffs
Head: Chris McDonnell
The head is particularly pleased with a very large clock which helps children learning to tell the time.
"It has large black Arabic numerals, and there's no second hand to confuse things. We've hung it low down in the dining room. Clocks in school are often hung much too high," said Chris McDonnell.
* Bravur clock from Ikea, Pounds 40