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Free maps offer gives boost to action on geography


Ordnance Survey’s offer of a free map for every year 7 pupil in Great Britain has seen increased take-up this year, challenging fears of a decline in the popularity of geography as a school subject.

More than 9 out of 10 local authority schools will receive free maps, up 2% from last year, with nearly 700,000 children benefiting. It means that 4.4 million maps will have been distributed since the initiative began in 2002.

The figures were announced by the national mapping agency’s Director General and Chief Executive, Vanessa Lawrence, at a special House of Commons reception to celebrate the teaching and learning of geography.

“Feedback from pupils, parents and teachers shows that the maps are an invaluable extra resource for classroom exercises, homework, projects and fieldwork,” said Dr Lawrence. “Schools are making innovative use of the maps and pupils are gaining real confidence in map reading, which will serve them well throughout their lives.”

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, and the television presenter Michael Palin joined educationalists, geographers and MPs at the reception. The aim was to promote the Action Plan for Geography, a two-year programme of support for geography in English schools led jointly by the Geographical Association and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). Ordnance Survey’s free-maps-for-schools initiative reflects the action plan’s vision of ensuring pupils enjoy and succeed in geography.

Rita Gardner, Director of the Royal Geographical Society, said geography informed the social, economic and environmental processes that shape neighbourhood, regional and international development. As such, it was a vital subject involving issues around sustainability, diversity and climate change.

The free maps scheme is one of the biggest education initiatives of its kind in Britain. It enables every year Year 7 pupil to have a free OS Explorer Map of their local area. The map, worth £7.99, becomes the pupil’s personal property for use at home as well as school.

Millions of people use OS Explorer Maps for walking and other outdoor activities because of the remarkable amount of landscape detail they show – every hamlet, village and town along with tracks, paths, field walls and hill contours. They are published at a scale of 1:25,000, which means 4 cm on the map equals 1 km on the ground (2½ inches equals 1 mile). Each map covers at least 600 sq km (230 sq miles) of land.

Ordnance Survey is keen to make the free maps initiative as inclusive as possible. Teachers of children with visual impairment are being encouraged to download free extracts of the same 1: 25,000 scale information shown on the maps from the Get-a-map service on Ordnance Survey’s website – It is easy to save and enlarge the extracts for teaching purposes.

Notes for editors

Ordnance Survey’s free maps initiative is supported by an increasingly popular website called MapZone, which includes games and other learning resources –

The Action Plan for Geography includes an ambassadors’ programme and resources posted on the Geography Teaching Today website – The Action Plan for Geography is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

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