Inspiring a new generation of geographers

Regular blog readers will be aware of the work we do to support the teaching of geography in schools. It’s an important area for us and we are keen to support teachers to inspire children to learn about the benefit and use of geography particularly through our joint project with Edina – Digimap for Schools.

We also sponsor some awards which recognise the commitment and passion shown by Geography teachers. This week, two outstanding teachers have been recognised by being presented with the Ordnance Survey Award for excellence in secondary geography teaching by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). They received their awards from Ordnance Survey’s Director General and Chief Executive, Vanessa Lawrence CB.

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Teaching geography in schools with Digimap for Schools

Our Education team have been running a series of twilight workshops for teachers aimed at showing them how to make the best use of Ordnance Survey’s mapping in the classroom. The most recent sessions have been for teachers in Southampton and Hampshire, but there are plans to take them out across the country if there is enough demand.

With the fourth workshop recently completed, we thought you might like to find out about how geography is taught in schools these days as it’s changed quite a bit from my schooldays when we all pored over (and fought over) a large paper map. A very precious and much revered Ordnance Survey map at 1:25 000 scale showing contours and footpaths was shared amongst a gaggle of teenagers trying hard to identify the map symbols and work out why things were where they were.

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Play spot the difference with our Cartography team

Have you ever wondered how our dedicated team of cartographers find the changes that they need to update on a piece of mapping data? When our 300 or so surveyors are out on the ground (or in the air) capturing changes to the landscape, it isn’t only the updated information that is supplied to the cartographers, they have to check an entire ‘chunk’ of data to find any changes.

Our cartographers manipulate and enhance the core data provided by our collection teams to produce our paper maps and small-scale data products. I’m sure you can imagine that it takes a fairly specific set of skills to do this – so do you think you’re up to the task?

Have a look at our before and after shots below. The top set has only one change, but the bottom set has six changes.

Can you find them all? Leave a comment saying where you think the changes are and we’ll reveal the answers later today.

The original

Spot any differences?

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Why poor maps left Queenslanders without insurance

A few weeks ago, I came across this article from the Australian news site ‘news.com.au’ entitled: ‘Bad maps reason for lack of flood insurance.’

It reports on how an Australian company was unable to offer some Queenslanders flooding insurance because the mapping available to them lacked detail and accuracy.

Insurance Australia Group Chief Executive Michael Wilkins is reported as saying: “Had better quality flood maps been available more insurers would have offered flood insurance in Queensland,”

“Basically, flood mapping data is the province of local councils and some of those councils simply don’t have the data available to them or have been unable to provide that information to the industry.”

“Without that information we can’t assess the risk and hence can’t price the risk.”

Visualising flooding

Visualising flooding

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Digimap for Schools wins national Gold award

digimapgoldawardWe were really pleased when Digimap for Schools won Gold in the annual Geographical Association Awards recently. The award was made in recognition of the fact that it represents a major step forward in the way schools can access and use Ordnance Survey maps.  The pupil-friendly web service gives access to all the mapping scales that a school needs to teach geography, including providing full access our most detailed mapping of the whole of Great Britain to schools for the first time.

Maps can be used on personal computers and interactive whiteboards and can be printed or saved at A4 or A3 size. All output carries a watermark, the name of the school and copyright information, providing complete assurance to teachers that they are complying with the license terms and conditions.

Digimap for Schools has been developed by EDINA, University of Edinburgh, who are also responsible for mapping services to higher education. EDINA are working closely with the geography teaching community to enhance Digimap for Schools in line with their needs, with the first enhancements due in a few weeks time.

Any teachers wanting to find out more about Digimap for Schools should visit: www.digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk


How the recession transformed the high street

In an article from the latest issue of Intelligence magazine for the land and property market, Guy Grainger, Head of Retail at Jones Lang LaSalle, gives his views on how shopping habits will change and the importance of location of stores for retailers in the current environment.

High street retailers face an epic battle next year, with consumer spending under pressure and competition from out-of-town parks and supermarkets. When Sir Philip Green announced that he would close up to 300 regional stores operated by his Arcadia brand, it was interpreted as another threat to the vibrancy of the UK high street.

Woolworths was just one victim of the recession

High street Woolworths stores were just one victim of the recession

“This is a very common theme,” says Grainger. “It gets in the press because it’s Philip Green, but really it could be any other retailer out there.” HMV and Game Group are two he names as walking away from less profitable regional stores when leases come to an end. The result? Rising vacancies in the high streets and shopping centres of affected towns.

“London and the South East are proving to be very robust in the downturn, but the regional picture is not nice to see,’ he says. ‘The locations that retailers choose to walk away from could be areas of high unemployment, or high streets that are overshadowed by a large out-of-town retail destination or food store,” he adds.

“Spend has shifted from the high street to somewhere else. The supermarkets are the real powerhouses; they are all expanding, and they sell more non-food lines than ever before.”

What our data shows

By comparing the number of retail addresses across Britain today with the amount in October 2008 (just after the collapse of Lehman Brothers), we can see that:

Estate agencies are down by an average of 9.2%. Our data shows that the North West and Waleswere hit hardest, with numbers of estate agency offices falling far more than the national average at 15.4 %. The South East (down by 14.8%) and West Midlands (down by 11%) also suffered significant falls.



Building societies are down by 28.2%. London suffered the biggest fall, with the amount of building society offices decreasing by 46.9%. Meanwhile, the South East, Scotland and North West were also hit hard, experiencing drops of 33.8%, 33.7% and 30.1% respectively.

The number of auction houses across the UK have fallen by 14%, whilst the amount of employment agencies on the high street has shrunk by 13.4%

In comparison, one of the only types of outlet on the high street to increase in number were bookies, which opened in 280 new locations, reflecting a jump of more than 5%.

[Picture innpictime via Flickr]


Our first annual festive geography quiz

frustrationThinking about winding down the grey matter as Christmas approaches? Well think again, as it’s time for our first annual (hopefully) festive geography quiz! To be honest, the questions aren’t very festive but they most definitely are geography related.

Alas in the age of austerity the only prize we can offer is a sense of pride at being a geography wizard and generally more intelligent than everyone else.

The first person to leave all the correct answers as a comment will be officially crowned as the winner – thinking caps on and try not to resort to Google immediately! And you never know, just some of the answers might be lurking in previous blog posts…

1. What name do islands in England, Scotland and Wales all share?

2. Britain’s longest river rises in Wales; what is it called?

3. Which islands lie between Iceland and the Shetland Islands?

4. Which area of land in England is administered by Verderers?

5. What is the most easterly point of mainland Great Britain, and which OS Landranger Map is it on? – OSGB grid reference please!

6. What is the length of the coastline of Great Britain, including all major islands, at Mean High Water at 1:10,000 scale, to the nearest 10 kilometres?

7. What is England’s Second Largest Cathedral?

8. Why is Sixpenny Handley, Dorset, so called?

9. Name the three towns or cities that have contained Ordnance Survey’s Headquarters?

And finally,

10. What was the first map to contain the words Ordnance Survey?

[Image by Sybren A. Stüvel via Flickr]