If you have to get a new laptop, my PC World laptop I got a couple of months ago came with Microsoft Works which has a spreadsheet and a word processor facility on it.
I actually like Works better than the new Word and Excel, which I had a free trial of, because it looks like Word and Excel used to look but then I am a Luddite, obviously.
Data recovery is very expensive though - as much as a new laptop, I was quoted - I didn't bother as I only lost a holidays worth of photos.
Are you sure it is terminally dead or is there a glimmer of hope? I agree, go to a local PC shop and get it looked at rather than PC World though. I think though, that if I were you, I would have preferred the Black Screen of Doom to the Blue Screen of Death. In my experience, something can be done about the Black Screen of Dome.
You need a nice little man that tinkers with computers in his spare time. Unfortunately you need to "know" someone to get teh best and cheapest service. Your data should be recoverable. It is usually the operating system/processor that dies not the hard drive I&think...which means that your hard drive with your data on is probably still safe. You just need to know (someone who knows) how to get at it.
Open office is fine. MS Office is actually £120 I think. I would say try open office for free. If you don't like it you have lost nothing and can by MS Office. If you do like it you have saved £120.
WRT where to get a cheap laptop...I think curry's are advertising one for £300 reduced from £400 ATM..don't know how good value is fro spec though.
strawberry... you can get Windows on a student license. Don't ask me how it works. All I know is that you can get one per year per household. You have children in school therefore you are entitled. Ask the school (though I bet some clever bod knows right here on MN).
Sorry about your 'puter! I've just started my next Creative Writing course. Shouldn't you be doing a new one by now?