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VIEWS & OPINION


The power of maps as learning tools in class


Comment by


MALCOLM SWANSTON, author, cartographer, fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and creator of themaparchive.com


My experience as a cartographer goes back 40 years, when I first started creating thematic historical maps for publications such as The Times Atlas of World History. I worked extensively with American and British publishers, producing historical atlases on a wide range of subjects, from the US Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War to Earth history, the Vikings and the history of New York City. I have benefitted from working with many academics and institutions around the world.


I was joined by my son Alexander Swanston 12 years ago. He’s an author and mapmaker in his own right, and brings the ideas and insights of a new generation. Together we have curated my huge collection of original maps, which we have digitally re-mastered and brought together online.


A map can explain complex issues – one map is worth a thousand words, providing a clear visual experience that brings history to life. I hope that, by making my maps available online, I will be providing an invaluable teaching aid as well as a rich resource for teachers.


Our website is designed to provide answers to the fundamental questions ‘where?’ and ‘when?’. Our collection of historical maps covers a range of academic disciplines – from history, politics and international relations to religion, classics and cultural studies. It covers the range of the school curriculum and much more, and is an ever-growing resource that will stimulate both inquisitive and informed minds. It provides a highly visual approach to learning about complex issues, which has been proven to be highly effective. Each map that appears on the website is accompanied by a concise, clear explanatory text that aims to put the map in context, and to explain any questions that might arise from the map. The text has been created by professional copywriters and approved by our research and editorial team.


Our website boasts a powerful search facility: maps can be located through broad thematic, chronological and geographical categories or through a highly efficient search engine. Maps can be downloaded as high-res jpegs –ideal for handouts, lectures, presentations, essays and historical projects.


The maparchive.com is aimed directly at the educational market and subscriptions are available for schools and universities, which will give both students and teachers unlimited access to our resource. This will allow them to pursue targeted, curriculum-related learning objectives, or to roam freely through world history, making their own connections and comparisons.


Our archive will continue to grow, exploring every aspect of world history, and it is the users who will determine the direction of development. I welcome a dialogue with all my customers, and I’m always keen to hear about special areas of historical interest that can be explored cartographically.


I’ve always believed that understanding the past prepares the student to face the challenges of the future, and to have a firm grip on the affairs of the modern world. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. Now themaparchive.com will not only provide a visual immediacy to the historical narrative through its unique map collection, but will also give new meaning to those lessons of history. The maps are designed to provide a fascinating and enlightening journey for students and teachers alike.


January 2018


Package vocational and academic


qualifications together for university success


Comment by RYAN KELSALL, Principal, Impington Village College


Data shows that, over 10 years, 30% more BTEC students failed to complete their degree course than those students who entered university with the equivalent A Level tariff scores. The assumption drawn from this finding is that BTEC students are less well prepared for university than A Level students. However, I believe this simplistic view not only undermines the worth of BTEC qualifications but also the academic potential of those students who choose to follow a vocational route. It is a fact that BTECs alone don’t provide students with many of the skills useful in succeeding at university – critical thinking, time management, collaboration, and so on, but the International Baccalaureate (IB) has shown that if you combine vocational and academic qualifications, and add ‘soft skill’ learning, then students with a vocational passion or talent can, and do, succeed equally well in their degree courses. This is the secret and the beauty of the IB Career-related Programme (CP) which enables students to avoid the old binary choice of academic or vocational, and provides an intelligent blend of the two. It is also a fact that mixed qualification university applications are becoming more common, and universities admissions teams are slowly, but increasingly accepting and accommodating of students presenting with a mix of qualifications – this year the Russell Group’s University of Southampton was the latest to formally recognise the CP.


In a recent discussion at the UCL Institute of Education, the former headmaster of Eton College said that he believes the academic-vocational divide will not be closed until students are obliged to study at least one vocational subject. But he also said that he would never impose vocational courses on his students for fear that university admissions tutors would not respond favourably. From my own experience and successes, and those of other headteachers, this view is rapidly becoming outdated as universities see the benefits of mixed qualification applications.


One of the major benefits of the CP we see in our school is the flexibility it provides; some of our students are more academically able and approach the vocational elements of the programme as a way to gain direct industry insight and add valuable workplace skills to their academic qualifications; while other CP students are more focussed on work-based learning. Students who start university with the CP or equivalent blend of qualifications and skills are not only equally likely to succeed as A Level counterparts but, in my opinion, they are more likely to succeed. This is partly due to the core, which gives students experience in a foreign language, different cultures, running a community project, and also creating a reflective project, which is similar to a dissertation or individual project at university. It encourages students to think about ethics, and develop an appreciation of identity; key skills such as responsibility and resilience; and an understanding of the complexity of the modern world.


I believe the onus should be on schools and colleges to help their BTEC students acquire complementary qualifications and skills, while pursuing their chosen vocational route. This will help to close the attainment gap and also have a significant impact on social mobility, allowing students from communities where university wouldn’t usually be considered an option access to higher education, apprenticeships and the workplace. This choice will, in itself, help to raise aspirations.


www.education-today.co.uk 23


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