January 21, 2008

Mapping Proposed School Closure Plans on the Isle of Wight

When I got back home last week, I found we'd received a copy of a consultation document from the the local council laying out three options for the the future of schools on the Isle of Wight. A lot of the detail can be found on the Isle of Wight council website: Which Way Forward for Island Education?

I still haven't read the document closely (I hope to give it a proper read over the next couple of days - you can see an online copy here), but I did skim through it; and one thing that struck me was that the document just contained words, and a series of tables describing the future of each school under each of the three suggested options.

Visual aids can often be used to mislead the reader, of course, or over-simplify matters, but they can also be used to help tell stories. And what is a consultation for if not to listen to the stories of how people act today, and how they think they are likely to be affected by a change? (That these predictions are likely to be unreliable - people accommodate to change very quickly - is irrelevant: the stories may turn up previously unanticipated consequences, particularly when systemic changes are proposed, and that is a Good Thing.)

Long time readers of this blog may recall that I tinkered with a couple of Google maps mashups at the time of the floods last year (Making the Most of Google Maps (or not): Gloucestershire Emergency Water Points) and the foot and mouth outbreaks (More UK Emergency Mapping Opportunites - Foot and Mouth and Quick Way of Adding Weather to the Foot and Mouth Map - I wish I'd picked up at the time on the Gpolygon API example as a way of plotting circles!)

So it seemed sensible to have a think about how maps might be useful in providing another way of comparing the different closure options, for example by providing a visual overview of school catchment areas and allowing people to see at a glance how the various patterns of closure of local schools might affect families in the villages concerned.

Using the tabulated closure information from the consultation document that was reprinted in last week's Isle of Wight County Press, I put together a series of Google maps using Google MyMaps.

- IW Schools today

- Option A

- Option B

- Option C

These maps can be embedded in third party websites by following a link to the map, then clicking on the "Link to this Page" link and copying the embed code you need to add you your own website. The maps can also be viewed in Google Earth.

As an example, here's the Option B map, embedded (if you're reading this via a feed, you'll probably need to click through to see it):

View Larger Map

Looking at this now, I realise I really need to be able to add some sort of caption, as well as a legend for the symbols. If I get a chance, I'll put a proper web site together wrapping all the maps with some navigation, a legend explaining the symbols, and so on.

Once created, MyMaps can be used as the basis for derivative maps (the three option maps all started out as a copy of the Island Schools map, for example).

To get a copy of a maop so that you can add your own customisations, you need to gain access to the "my maps" feature on http://maps.google.co.uk by registering for a Google account. The easiest was to do this is to go to Google Maps, click on the MyMaps tab and then Create This then gives you

1) Go to one of the custom maps I have linked to above, and copy the link headed "View in Google Earth".

2) In the My maps tab, Create a new map. (If you don't have a Google account, you will be prompted to create one.)

3) Click on the "Import" link.

4) In the text box that follows "Or enter the url of map data on the web" paste the Google Earth link you copied in the previous step, and hit upload

5) You now have a copy of the annotated map.

Maps can be collaborated on with other named individuals, or with anyone - just click on the Collaboration link and do what seems sensible.

PS The map views are particularly useful when addressing geo-related issues. For example, in reconciling school closure options against the best advice contained in this government response:

Parliamentary Written Answers, Monday January 21, 2008 (via They Work For You)

Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families whether his Department has conducted a study of the effect of the reorganisation of schools on the Isle of Wight on the number of road miles driven and car journeys made to travel to schools.

Jim Knight (Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families)

No such study has been undertaken by the Department. It is for local authorities to decide how best to organise the schools in their areas in the light of local circumstances, concerns about the proposal should therefore be directed to the Isle of Wight council.

In bringing forward proposals, authorities must consider the implications for school travel and transport, and the Department's statutory guidance to decision makers makes it clear that they should bear in mind that proposals should not unreasonably extend journey times or increase transport costs. In addition, the proposals should not result in too many children being prevented from walking or cycling to school because routes are unsuitable.

The route finding tools provided by services like Google maps can provide a quick and easy estimate of these distances/journey times. Just click on one of the pins, then select either a To here or From here link and put in the details of the anticipated replacement school.


Hmm, I wonder if there is a list of the schools whose catchment area will cover the proposed closed schools?

PS I also put together a calendar of the planned consultation evenings, which can be embedded on a website either as a calendar, or showing locations of the events on a map: Displaying Google Calendar Events on a Map

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Posted by ajh59 at January 21, 2008 09:58 AM