Thursday, 27 February 2014

Museum of British Folklore

Reclaim the Forgotten
Cherish the Neglected
Treasure the Abandoned
Encourage the Overlooked
Adore the Unfashionable
Re-invent the Unwanted
Champion the Unloved
Value the Rejected

If this museum gets the go-ahead I'd be pleased to work as the Education Officer :)


Museum of British Folklore from Tom Chick on Vimeo.

Great Storm of 1987

Reminded of a programme I helped make for Teachers TV - my ideas and treatment.... and script suggestions

Innovative Geography Teaching Grants 2014

Delighted to say that I've been awarded one of just two of these awards handed out this year, given out by the Royal Geographical Society, to work on a collaboration jointly with Dr. Benjamin Hennig from the University of Oxford on a project related to the Census of 2011.

Ben is the genius who created the Worldmapper cartograms, and creates maps at Views of the World.
He is now working at one of the finest Geography departments in the world, and it is a real privilege to get the chance to work with him.
Our project is called LondonMapper: exploring a World city through Census Data

The Census 2011 produced billions of pieces of data, and by focussing on London past, present and future we will explore ideas related to London and its place in the world, and guide students on an exploration through the Census data and present them with some decisions that need to be made, which will shape London's future...

Our work will connect with, and expand on the nascent LondonMapper project.

Look out for more new maps like this one



Some more interesting London-based news coming in the next month or so too....

Sailing in the wake of Hugh Miller

I've been reading quite a bit about a man called Hugh Miller in the last few weeks.
He was a geologist and storyteller and had a fascinating life.

Now you have a chance to sail through the Scottish Highlands on a voyage of discovery...

The voyage is being organised by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

The Geological Societies of Glasgow and Edinburgh are offering unique opportunity for young Earth scientists to follow the journey of Hugh Miller in "The Cruise of the Betsey".

On 6 September 2014 Leader, a wonderful old Brixham Trawler built in 1892 (www.trinitysailing.org/vessels/leader/), will set sail from Oban heading north for the Small Isles in a one-week voyage in homage to Hugh Miller and his Hebridean tours, described in his classic book "The Cruise of the Betsey". The boat sleeps 19 people including 4 crew members, and will be filled with an inter-generational mix of geologists, geographers, artists, writers, ecologists, storytellers and historians (including a Gaelic speaker). The voyage will take the form of a mobile conference during which each participant will apply their own talents and interests in celebration of the achievements of Hugh Miller, and the landscapes, seascapes and cultural history of the Hebrides. The reward for the successful applicants will be to broaden and deepen their appreciation of Hebridean geodiversity, but also to gain new and probably unexpected perspectives on the geology, landscape and people of this beautiful sea-bound realm.

The Geological Societies of Glasgow and Edinburgh will fund up to four berths on the boat for young people (aged 16-30) studying Earth science, who have a research interest in the area or in a subject related to Hugh Miller, and a passion for sharing and communicating geology, landscape and/or Hebridean culture to a diverse audience.

Dates: Saturday 6 to Friday 12 September 2014; you will need to be in Oban ready for embarkation on the morning of Saturday 6th.

Costs: £500 per berth (including all food during the voyage) plus travel costs to/from Oban. 


Grants from the two Geological Societies will meet most of these costs but you may be expected to make a modest contribution.

How to apply: Email Simon Cuthbert, Honorary Secretary, Geological Society of Glasgow for more details at simon.cuthbert@uws.ac.uk by 31 March 2014.


iAPS Session

A gorgeous sunny day in Ely yesterday with the cathedral looking stunning. Spent the day in the Old Palace, which is the school's main 6th form block.
With my colleagues Claire and Kate, I was helping to present a day for local teachers. We explored some ideas for narratives in Geography teaching, explored the changes in the new curriculum and Common Entrance exam, and also spent the afternoon exploring the ideas behind the new Global Learning Programme and also took a preliminary WALK THE WORLD walk around Ely.

Don't forget the RGS resources on the GLP and also a page on the GA website.

Thanks to my colleagues for their part in the day, and for the teachers who took the time to come along and offer their thoughts and energy.


Keep an eye out for the next meeting, which is likely to be in the Summer term all being well, with a focus on technology, such as GIS.

Teachers from the local area around Ely and beyond welcome to come along as always...

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Pole of Cold article...

At the start of the year, I wrote some materials to go with the Pole of Cold expedition, which is now on its return journey from Siberia, and currently in Finland.

This is an interesting illustrated article about the journey.

I hope to write some further updates if time permits once the journey is over...

Here is the link to the RGS-IBG page.


Saturday, 22 February 2014

Portuguese Trip 7 - Images

Images by me and Jaime Araujo (usually if I'm in them...)

Thanks for the hospitality from everyone I met!

Portuguese Trip 6 - Lisboa and back in time...

We headed towards Lisbon, and took the 'new' Vasco de Gama bridge over the Tagus towards the city. We were heading towards an area called the Park of Nations which hosted the world Expo in 1998.

I visited the Expo with my wife for our honeymoon. We had three days in the Expo and the main memory was the blistering heat each day...

It was really interesting to see how the park had changed in the fifteen years since: one of the main changes being the addition of tens of thousands of flats and houses. Some of the signs were still there, and also the wavy pavement designs representing the oceans, as well as the fountains and statues and the main buildings. We parked up and had a wander before I was dropped back at the airport.
It was good to see Gil, the mascot was still around in the Park, although its paint was peeling a little with the age...

Portuguese Trip 5 - Evora

On the final day, the sun shone from first thing - although it was a chilly start to the day. We went to say goodbye to the directors of the schools which we will hopefully connect with, and then had to make the return trip west to Lisbon and the airport.

The plan was to visit Evora.
This has UNESCO World Heritage designation.
I was involved in creating resources for the Google World Wonders site some years ago, although what I created has still not been fully shared on the site, which is a little disappointing as it was creative stuff, which I was pleased with when I finished it.

Out in the sun with Natalia (from Sofia) and Jaime to drive half an hour through a landscape which was full of cork oaks and park up on the outskirts of Evora.
Visited the Capela dos Ossos, lined with skulls and bones from the graveyard, various churches, although one of them had a funeral about to start, so we left; and also visited the temple of Diana and had a beer in the main square. We ate in a local restaurant, and then headed back to the car.

We then had a drive on the main highway at speed through a hillier landscape than I'd been used to in recent days, as we headed towards Lisbon.

Image: Alan Parkinson

Friday, 21 February 2014

Portuguese Trip 4 - Horses getting 'friendly'...

After breakfast on the second day of my project orientation visit to the Alentejo region of Portugal, it was out to visit some schools in the region. I wandered around the small town of Vidigueira first.
Like many of the towns, often only a few kilometres from each other, it had an impressive range of municipal facilities, and also two schools next to each other for different age groups. We had a coffee and chat in Jaime's school, and then headed on windy roads through endless olive groves and slopes planted with vines towards Serpa. On the outskirts of the town was one of the schools that we are going to work with on the proposed project. It was a vocational school where students learn all the processes involved with growing, processing and selling farm products. They also learn how to look after horses and many of the students have their own horses which are kept at the school, and which they use to learn how to teach riding, and other uses of horses on farms and businesses.

The tutor, who was connected with the Portuguese equestrian team offered to let us watch a class which he was giving to a group of students. We said yes, and headed out into the yard to see a group of students washing the rear-end of a female horse and as the tutor started talking, it was clear they were preparing it for something in particular. Having washed it, and tied its tail up with cloth, they led it down to another area of the yard. Shortly after, a very 'excited' stallion was led out and proceeded to play piggy back with the female horse... not something that's featured in a lot of my lessons previously :)

Lunch was accompanied by a cold Sagres, and then a trip out on the lake of Alqueva, which was mentioned in the previous post.

Another really interesting day exploring the potential of the connections that the European Teacher Academy project will be able to develop if it is successful in getting funding. The final day tomorrow, which is a return trip to Lisbon via the historic city of Evora.

Images: Alan Parkinson

Portuguese Trip 3 - Tourism in the Alentejo

On the second day of my visit, we were off to see some schools which would be involved in the proposed European project.

We visited two schools in Vidigueira and Serpa. We saw the multimedia suite where students were involved in learning the techniques needed for filming and broadcast and post-production and editing. We also visited an equestrian school, where students learned the various techniques involved in agri-business (more on that in a future post). The whole landscape was one which had benefitted from a recent development.

One of the places that was planned for us to visit, was this development: a relatively new addition to the Alentejano landscape called the Lago de Alqueva.


This would make a useful new tourism case study, and while there, I tried to collect a range of material which would help me create this as an example of a multi-purpose scheme, which was also changing the fortunes of an entire region.

The lake was formed when two barrages were built across the Guadiana River.

The lake that grew behind the first of the dams took eight years to fill to the maximum safe level, and as it did so, it drowned a number of settlements, one of which now has a 'museum' dedicated to it.


Some areas on the shore of the lake were also the first area in the world to receive the designation of 'Starlight Tourism' also called 'Dark Sky' tourism. There are some areas in the UK which also now have this designation, and I heard someone talking about that some years ago when I attended Teachmeet Beyond.
This is an area which is free from light pollution, and enables the sky to be seen clearly. There are apparently special trips on the lake to help facilitate this, which sound like they would be quite special.

Over 100 million Euros is being invested as part of the Turismo2015 project, and it will be interesting to see what impact this has in the region.

We experienced something of this, thanks to Nixon who runs a company offering boat trips on the lake. He gave us a taste of what this was like, and we headed down to the marina to board one of his boats. We had a tour around part of the lake close to the barrage, which has the phrase 'On a clear day you can see forever' featuring in huge letters on it.

I am going to write up the area and develop some resources which will form a proposed case study for a GCSE textbook which I am going to help to write later this year.

Portuguese Trip 2

After the lecture, and some very interesting conversations and questions, we moved into the social aspect of the evening. We headed back toward Cuba, and to the Herdade do Rocim.

We had a tour of the premises, the sun had just set behind the hill but we could see the 70 hectares of vineyards which surrounded the Adega.
We had a tour of the premises, which offers a range of options for visitors. Fortunately, an American party had just been through on a wine tasting session, and there was half a bottle of one of the vineyards finest wines sitting there that needed to be drunk.

We then went into the town of Cuba to have a meal, and met up with Luis, who I worked on the digitalearth project with, and had last seen in Helsinki.
If the project we were discussing gets funding, it will be good to have the chance to work with Luis again.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Portuguese Trip 1

After a period without heading abroad, I'm currently in Portugal on a visit to some schools in advance of a proposed EU project which will involve my school in the UK.
I flew out from Stansted airport: an early start, and a two hour flight to Lisbon.
From there, Jaime, my host for the trip, took me across the Tagus and through sun-soaked Portuguese countryside to the Alentejo region.
One of my first commitments was to give a talk at a school in Vidigueira.
Thanks to the teachers and other colleagues who came to listen to me talk about the curriculum and ideas for 'making' it, and bringing it to life in the classroom...
Here are the slides that I used for anyone who is interested.
Portugal CPD Lecture - February 2014
View more presentations or Upload your own.


Image: Jaime Araujo

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

New book published...

Author copies of my new book for Collins have just arrived.
Aimed at KS2/3 boys to get them reading, but also readable by all age groups and girls too...


New Digital Explorer media player

Jamie Buchanan Dunlop visited my school last week to kick off our Big Outdoors Day and then lead a number of workshops with Year 8 students on the theme of Polar exploration...
Here he is explaining how difficult it is to get into a sleeping bag, with the help of Mackenzie and Timi....


The Digital Explorer website now has a brand new media player app which allows you to explore their collection of video and images on a range of devices.

Drag clips into the toolbar and play them through.
Quite a few bits that I helped to create on there, which is always good to see...

Options time

With Options time around at the moment - although some schools have already done theirs - here's a reminder of a leaflet I wrote while working for the GA...

Monday, 17 February 2014

Science for Society course

This course has been running each July for a few years now, and always offers a tremendous chance for teachers to visit a number of key places for Geographers: the Ordnance Survey HQ and the Met Office in Exeter.
There are 20 places available, and the course is FREE.


There's also a range of fieldwork excursions and lectures...

You have until the end of May to apply for this year's course.

Read the selection criteria carefully...

Another reason to use Twitter...

This gut-wrenching story that could be the start of so much student thinking and reflection...
Will use this for our CONFLICT unit in Summer term...

As a Geographer, I'm also aware of the idea of the danger of a single story. This has been flagged up in a number of GA journals.
The image needed a little critical thinking and also some context.
Context is vital in the classroom, and this provided a more nuanced view of the image and the actual circumstances of little Marwan, who had not crossed the desert by himself but was temporarily separated from his family...

Game of Thrones

I'm about to head into a catch-up of the first three seasons of Game of Thrones, as the 4th season starts on Sky Atlantic. I don't have Sky, so this is my option for catching up with a lot of my colleagues...

I've got a large poster map for my classroom wall, and a proposed unit on mapping of fictional landscapes, which will also form part of my presentation at the SAGT conference later in the year.

There's also been a rise in tourism in Iceland and Northern Ireland: two of the key locations where the series is made.
(Thanks to Rebekah Chew for the tipoff here)

Iceland's tourist board says it's seen an increase in the number of people wanting to go on tours of locations where the show was shot.
While, the film industry in Northern Ireland says it's helped increase employment in the area. But it's also helped spread the country's cinematic reputation around the world.
Meanwhile I've got the first book on my Kindle, and am looking forward to reading ahead from where I stopped so that I didn't give away too much of what is to come...

"Winter is coming..."

Our Global neighbours..

Via OSOCIO
In German, but I think you'll get the message...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Change in city centres...

This story is something which I've been discussing recently.

There are 9000 betting shops in the UK, and the number has increased dramatically over the last five years, although competition has meant some have closed quite recently...

Until 2008, planning regulations meant that a new betting shop couldn't open in certain areas if there was already another one in the area - now they are sometimes found directly next to each other.

40000 people are employed in these shops, and around 3% of the population are 'regular' visitors to them.

A clustering of these shops was noticed by the delegates at my two recent GA courses, both of which were located in areas of cities just outside the CBD. They also noted that often the 'cash for gold' / 'cash converter' / pawn shop style premises are often found close to those... and considered the reasons for that
This could form the basis for an interesting fieldwork investigation in a local CBD, and also comparisons between cities. How does this reflect the changing nature of the city ?

A final comment is the growth of e-Cigarette stores - another new retail phenomenon which probably doesn't appear on the old RICEPOTS lists...
What with this and the disappearance of car tax discs the old order is being swept away.... :)

Image shared on Flickr by Flickr user Alan Stanton under Creative Commons license.
Many thanks for sharing :)

Assessment after levels...

Some holiday reading...
A question I've been asked a lot over the last few months is how we can assess without using levels, and this has some interesting ideas, which also challenges me as a teacher to think about what I do to assess the students I teach...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Pole of Cold...

...although my resources are already up on the website, the journey is still continuing...

Check out the POLE OF COLD website for the latest news. The team still has thousands of miles to drive..
I hope to add some further materials to the site in time, to take advantage of the many photos and other stories that the team are sharing from their time on the road...

New RGS resource on Development and beyond...

The RGS-IBG, along with the GA are involved in creating resources for the Global Learning 
Programme.
The RGS have just launched a new resource which explores ideas related to DEVELOPMENT.


It's a really nice piece of work, which includes a range of interactives exploring theories of development.
Some of these would be useful for older students particularly, but also relevant to younger ones...

Check out the CASE STUDIES section too.

Don't forget these other resources for POLE OF COLD too...

Where you Are

While in Foyles bookshop in St. Pancras earlier in the week, I was very tempted by an intriguing grey box, labelled 'Where you Are'...
It contained a range of maps, which were produced by 16 different people, and had obviously been created with a lot of care and attention.
The one thing that put me off buying it was the price of £35, which was perhaps justified given the 'bespoke' nature of the product and the time taken on it, but was hard to spend that sort of money on an impulse purchase.


Getting home, I did a little more exploring, and discovered the box has been created by a London based company called Visual Editions.
It contains a range of illustrated maps, and looks really good. I'll add it to my Wish List I think.

Check out the WHERE YOU ARE website too for more details and images....

Everything is Awesome

Went to see this with my son today - he has been looking forward to it for months, and was not disappointed.
It was a very weird movie and one with an interesting underlying message....
Go and see it and see what you think!
Just don't follow the instructions...


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Mapping the UK floods

Thanks to Ben Hennig for the reminder that the Environment Agency has made available a range of maps of flood risk which are currently rather more red or orange than people in those areas would like.

Here's the area around Staines upon Thames for example, which was featured on the BBC News this morning.

What's the situation where you are ?

Houses flooded graphic...


Where do you live ?
Are you in a risky area ?
Interesting graphic...

Image created by Environment Agency

ArcGIS for Schools - new reduction in price...

ArcGIS for Schools is now down to just £100 for an organisational subscription, which opens up a range of new options for users.
I note from a recent tweet that population pyramids are now available for subscribers - look forward to exploring those...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Tips for Conference

At the GA Secondary Phase Committee last weekend, we discussed some ideas for those colleagues who might be coming to the GA Conference for the first time.

Check them out here...

See you there...

In through the Out Door...

Thanks to my colleague Andrew Marshall for this image of me taken yesterday...
The context was that it was taken during the school's first Big Outdoors Day. I helped in a small way with the day, providing a 'passport' that all students received.
I ran a Mission:Explore workshop 4 times during the day, and we also had a visit from Digital Explorer Jamie Buchanan Dunlop.

Here's a few pictures that I took during the day...
A great opportunity for almost 400 students from various years to explore the outside...

Monday, 10 February 2014

In Charted Waters

Thanks to Jayne for telling me about a new set of animated maps which chart the exploration of the world's oceans over time.

From Marco Polo’s epic journey, to Captain Cook’s discovery of the Australian Mainland, the piece explores how those great pioneers who explored undiscovered shores developed our understanding of the world’s geography over thousands of years.

Would be useful for units exploring navigation and mapping...

Thought for the Day

'A person almost always burnishes his reputation by shutting up.' Garrison Keillor

Flooding is in the news...

Here's a resource that I helped write which might help you explore the wider issues...


Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Thorny Issue

Don't forget Louise Ellis' toolkit book and activities in the run up to Valentine's Day.
We shall be using this with Year 7 and 8 next week...



Crafty Explorers now open



The Geography Collective along with City Farmers and Explorer HQ have moved to the second stage of a Design Council competition for social enterprises called ‘Knee High’. The name refers to the age group which this project targets: pre-school children or those in Early Years.
The second phase of the competition has enabled the funding of a ‘pop-up shop’ or more accurately perhaps an activity centre which is located in the London Borough of Southwark, in an area called Nunhead, which is close to Peckham.

Nunhead Corner
26 Nunhead Lane
Southward
SE15 3QR

Dan Ellison and Helen Steer have worked amazingly hard to get the premises up and running in such a short time scale.

For five weeks, the shop is open the usual shop hours, and welcomes children of all ages, but particularly those who are young explorers and their parents.

The concept is really simple, and is beautifully executed.

The shop is decorated with the distinctive and rather wonderful art of Tom Morgan Jones, who also illustrated the Mission:Explore series of books, which are for sale.

Visitors to the shop are given a tray with a ‘workflow’ printed on it, and the crafty Fox logo of the Crafty Explorers. A lump of clay and some natural materials, which include senna pods, pine cones, feathers and other sculptural shapes can be added: some are free of charge and some are available for a cost, or appropriate donation.
There are also ‘boggly eyes’ which turn any piece of clay into a creature. 
Each crafty creation has its moment of glory as it is photographed, and added to the 'wall of fame'.

Once the creature has been named, parents and children are then given three challenges using a combination of stamps. The mat that was used to mould the clay on is folded to become a mission booklet, which is used to record the adventures.

At the rear of the shop, a huge map of the area drawn by Tom is used to show the visitors the open green spaces which are nearby. The site is ideal for this, as there are a number of parks, greens and other open spaces within easy walking distance of the ‘shop’. On returning, children are given a stamp and asked to put a sticker on the large map to show where they completed their missions.
Coffee and snacks are available to purchase at a very low cost, and you can enjoy the crafting or a hot drink, while sitting on the most awesome grass covered tables and chairs.

I visited on the first day of opening, and despite having had no real advertising, there was a steady stream of curious people through the doors.
For more details about what the Crafty Explorers get up to over the next five week, visit them at:



You can also follow what we get up to on Twitter @CraftyExplorers

Information Geographies


Some awesome data visualisation work from the Oxford Information Geographies website.
Take a look...

Glaciers giving up their secrets...

A couple of years ago, my book 'The Ice Man' was published, telling the story of Otzi the Ice Man, whose body was found high up in the Alps following the melting of a glacier which had covered his body for millennia.
The steady melting of ice cover in many locations around the world is revealing bodies that are sadly far younger than that...

The most recent discovery was reported this morning in the Telegraph, and tells the story of Jonathan Conville, who disappeared on the Matterhorn in 1979.

I wonder what other discoveries remain to be made as other ice masses melt away.

Finally, don't forget that Matt Podbury is developing a nice scheme based on my book.

Now listening...

Padlet for the Middle East

Jo Payne has created a PADLET to collect ideas for teaching about the Middle East.
You can contribute to this by visiting and editing the wall...




If you are creating or sharing ideas ready for the new Curriculum 2014 change, why not use the hashtag #geogcurr2014

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The end of a fieldwork technique...

When I was doing my 'A' level Geography, one of the things I did was wander around various car parks in Scarborough.
I was investigating the tax discs and noting where the cars that were parked there were taxed. The Post Office where the tax had been paid was stamped onto the disc at the time.
This technique has had to go through some changes after the arrival of postal discs which could be applied for online. This meant that the location wasn't printed on the disc.

There are also some issues with cars that were second hand of course - my car has a York registration as I bought it from there.

Now the tax disc is disappearing...

So, use the method while you can... it won't be (a)round for long....

Image shared on Flickr under Creative Commons License
Thanks to Brian Wotherspoon (Brian Digital) for sharing...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Pop in if you're passing..

Heading to Portugal over half term for some meetings and to give this seminar... which doesn't as yet, technically, quite, exist...
If you happen to be in Alentejo I'll save you a seat...


Latest Thinking Skills resource from Simon Jones...

Relevant to the current situation in large parts of the country...


GA Beermeet

Advance notice... put the date in the diary if you are heading for the GA Conference in April.
We will remind you nearer the time.
Ewan Laurie and I would like to invite you to join us for geo-conversation over a beer (or beverage of your preference)
Thanks to Richard Allaway for the poster, and Tom Morgan Jones for the illustration...
See you there...

Join 'The conversation' on building houses in the floodplain...

This is an excellent resource for the current times, when we have COBRA meetings (bonus points for those who tell me why they are called that)

The Conversation offers a perspective on news stories, and would be a useful resource for geographers preparing for assessments in the upper secondary school.

Here's an article from the website, which has an additional image which is really striking - visit now and check it out.
Thanks for permission to republish too.

The inconvenient truth: houses built on floodplains could flood

By Karen Potter, University of Liverpool
Ministers should be applauded for recognising that there’s simply no way we could tell the thousands of key workers and low income families, desperate for a decent home, that we can’t build any more new homes because of concerns about flood plains.

David Orr, National Housing Federation, BBC News, 2007.

For the past six weeks, Somerset has experienced its most significant flooding in decades that have at last required calling out the army.
While commentators fixate on dredging rivers, or more sustainably planting trees, or reintroducing beavers as the solution to prevent more homes from being flooded, those with longer memories may cast them back to 2007, when much of central and southwestern England was underwater from some of the worst flooding in living memory.
Communities Minister Eric Pickles might like to consider the inconvenient truth of his own words in 2007 while in opposition. Following the floods, he said in response to Labour’s housing strategy that: “if you build houses on flood plains it increases the likelihood that people will be flooded”.

A flood of water and bad ideas

As the still-beleaguered residents of the Somerset levels will recall, the floods of 2007 followed the wettest May, June and July since records began in 1766. The airwaves and newspapers were similarly awash with opinion in response to the government’s ambitious plans to build 3m new homes by 2020. Inevitably, it was said, so long as the proper defences were in place, some of these new homes would be built on floodplains.
The cost of 2007’s wettest-ever summer: 7,000 businesses and 48,000 homes were flooded in the South West, Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, prompting 120,000 household insurance claims, 27,000 commercial claims at a £3bn overall cost to insurers.
The subsequent inquiry led by Sir Michael Pitt published its review the following summer. It found that around 10% of properties in England were located on floodplains, with 11% of new homes since 2000 built in flood hazard areas, and 16,000 dwellings since 2006 built in high flood risk areas. Roughly a quarter of properties flooded in summer 2007 had been built in the last 25 years. This, the review pointed out, emphasised the vital importance of strong planning controls and well-informed planning decisions.


Sandbags do not a flood defence make. Tim Ireland/PA

Realising there needed to be a balance between development needs and flood risk, the idea of “environmental limits” was discussed within Defra. In putting “the green back into the Green Belt” as then environment secretary David Miliband said, this stressed the importance of the ecosystems approach.
For example, planting urban woodland improves biodiversity and wildlife, provides a degree of flood control, renewable wood to offset climate change, and attractive environments for exercise and recreation. Strips of planted green space alongside city river banks are cheaper than expensive concrete barriers, and provide a fall-back area, a “turquoise belt”, that could be flooded without great risk or expense, and also provide for leisure and biodiversity at the same time.

Recommendations made

Of the 90 recommendations in Pitt’s review, two clearly stated there should be a presumption against building in high risk areas. This was in accordance with the government’s planning policy on flood risk, known as PPS25.
The review also called for the effectiveness of PPS25 and the Environment Agency’s powers to challenge development to be kept under review, and strengthened if necessary. Another recommendation stated that Defra, the Environment Agency, and Natural England should establish through Catchment Flood Management Plans a programme that would find a way of working with, rather than against, natural processes.
These approaches, which included setting back river defences and relocating buildings if necessary, were considered particularly important in the face of the predicted increase in river flow levels. Flood risk had to be managed co-operatively between local authorities, the Environment Agency and developers, in a more sustainable way and also as a means to provide more attractive places to live. Newspaper editorials at the time called for there to be “no backsliding on commitments to be better prepared in future” and that there should be “no cherry-picking of the Pitt recommendations for quick political gain in the run-up to a general election.


Flood Risk Management - A Little More Complex Than Dredging. Tim Ireland

Recommendations ignored

But a general election later, in 2012 prime minister David Cameron is pledging to “cut through the dither” that is holding Britain in “paralysis” and has brought forward by contentious measures to relax rules on planning applications with an eye to boosting growth, and providing 75,000 new homes. The National Planning Policy Framework is proclaimed “simple”, and had reduced planning policy from more than 1,000 pages to under 100, said to pave the way for swifter, clearer decisions.
Otto Thoresen, director-general of the The Association of British Insurers, expressed immediate concern that the framework could lead to greater inappropriate development in flood risk areas, something that the current “rigorous planning system” was a bulwark against. The result, he predicted, would not be the “stimulation of the economy,” but “misery for people when their homes are flooded”.
The National Flood Forum’s chairman, Charles Tucker, similarly argued that the new framework “has, at a stroke, scrapped the carefully constructed raft of technical guidance, context and definitions built up over years” for flood protection.
Dredging as a solution was raised following the Cumbria floods of 2009, to which Professor Colin Thorne, fluvial geomorphologist at the University of Nottingham, responded that floods caused by a huge amounts of rainfall cannot be entirely prevented. Constantly dredging rivers and clearing vegetation to do so would be unsustainably expensive, financially, socially and in terms of biodiversity and habitat loss.
It is clear to see, reflecting back on the floods of 2007 (and those in 2005 and 2009), the lack of integration and disjointed policy across the two central government departments has still not been resolved seven years later. The fixation with dredging continues, and David Cameron has called for dredging to start as soon as possible, reversing previous statements that it would be little help.
Perhaps instead if the media turned their attention to dredging the Defra archives, they’d find the “inconvenient truth” of floodplain development – that houses built on floodplains could flood – a truth currently lying buried in the sediments of their own filing cabinets.
Karen Potter receives funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Welsh Government and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
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Monday, 3 February 2014

Tool for managing information screens in schools...

Does your school have a plasma screen somewhere in school, perhaps in the main hall, or the dining hall, or the school reception which is displaying information on school activities, and news on sporting fixtures, the canteen menu etc.

One issue with these screens in my experience is the problem with keeping them updated, and they rely on somebody being trained to use the particular software that is used to add information onto them. They tend to end up with out of date messages on them, or are left blank.
I was talking to a colleague at school last week and he has created a really neat solution to the problem of keeping these boards updated.

The Message Wall is a simple digital scrolling noticeboard, which can be set up quickly.

There's no so software to install - the screen contents can be edited in any browser. You can schedule notices to appear and expire at a given time and date. The screen can then be updated from any computer anywhere. 
The system can be tried free for 10 days and then prices start at less than £2.00 per month.

Thought it was worth sharing in case anyone reading this had a responsibility for, or interest in developing that sort of thing in their school, or perhaps their Geography department...