Tesco deal: Spend £220,000 for one school computer

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The Independent Online

Parents have to spend more than £200,000 on shopping before their child's school can benefit from a free computer offered in a supermarket promotion, according to a report out today.

Tesco's "computers for schools" scheme has won plaudits for its contribution to the community. However, Which?, the magazine of the Consumers' Association, is questioning whether the scheme is value for money.

The magazine selects Tesco and the Walkers/News International "free books for schools" scheme for particular criticism in an investigation that questions whether schools promotions are as philanthropic as they might seem. The books scheme, which gives vouchers in exchange for buying crisps or a News International newspaper, is accused of breaking government guidelines on healthy eating.

According to Which?, under the current exchange rate 21,990 vouchers would be needed to provide a school with a new PC. One token is given for every £10 spent, so total spending required is £219,900.

This year Tesco has provided schools with about 70,000 items of equipment – 4,000 of which have been computers.

The Walkers/News International scheme offers better value for money, Which? says. Up to 50 packets of crisps (£15) or seven weeks' supply of newspapers (£21) enable a school to receive a new book. The Consumers' Association points out, though, that the scheme breaches the Government's "national healthy schools standard" guidelines, which say lessons on healthy eating should be reinforced by the type of food sold at the school.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said he welcomed the schemes but was concerned they would benefit only bigger schools with many parents. Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said there should be a balance between corporate promotion and educational value.

* Teachers' leaders warned of industrial action in the new year if the Government failed to cut their working hours. The threat followed publication yesterday of the final report by the management consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers into workload.

The report backed teachers' demands for a guaranteed number of hours away from the classroom to concentrate on marking and preparation. It also supported Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, in urging that classroom assistants be given a bigger role. The report was commissioned after all four teachers' unions affiliated to the TUC threatened to impose a 35-hour week in schools.

Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary of the NASUWT, warned of action if swift progress on reducing workload was not made.

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