At CTC we work with ONE Codebase to deliver Young City Coders classes. These are after school activities to encourage young people to get into coding by trying Scratch, Python and other languages in a Coder Dojo like environment.
Inoapps generously gave us some funding to cover costs and donated old laptops (as did the James Hutton Institute) which we cleaned up and recycled into machines they could use.
All of which is great – and we have 20-25 kids each session starting to get into these coding languages.
But there is an issue – the bulk of our kids are overwhelmingly from west-end schools. And we have an aim to help kids in regeneration areas where opportunities are generally fewer.
So, that means identifying Aberdeen schools that fall in the regeneration areas and contacting the head teacher and having a discussion about what help they would like to see us provide. Simple?
Search for regeneration areas
Starting with the basics – what are the regeneration areas of Aberdeen? According to Google, the Aberdeen City Council website doesn’t tell us. Certainly not in the top five pages of results (and yes, I did go down that far).
Google’s top answer is from the Evening Express article which says that there are five regeneration areas: Middlefield, Woodside, Tillydrone, Torry and Seaton. From what I have heard that sounds like it might be about right – but surely there is an official source of this.
Further searching turns up a page from Pinacl Solutions who won a contract from ACC to provide wifi in the Northern regeneration areas of “Northfield, Middlefield, Woodside and Tillydrone.” Which raises the question of whether Northfield is or isn’t a sixth regeneration area.
The Citizens Advice Bureau Aberdeen has an article on support services for regeneration areas of “Cummings Park, Middlefield, Northfield, Seaton, Tillydrone, Torry, Woodside and Powis.” That adds two more to our list.
Other sites report there being an “Aberdeen City Centre regeneration area.” Is that a ninth?
Having a definitive and authoritative page from ACC would help. Going straight to their site and using the site’s own search function should help. I search for “regeneration areas” and then just “regeneration.”
I get two results: “Union Street Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme” and “Buy Back Scheme”. The latter page has not a single mention of regeneration despite the site throwing up a positive result. The former appears to be all about the built environment. So it is probably not a ninth one in the sense that the others are. Who knows?
So what are the regeneration areas – and how can I find which schools fall within them?
Community Planning Aberdeen
Someone suggested that I try the Community Planning Aberdeen site’. Its not having a site search wasn’t very helpful but using Google to restrict only results from that domain threw up a mass of PDFs.
After wading through half a dozen of these I could find no list or definition of the regeneration areas of the city are. Amending the query to a specific “five regeneration areas” or “eight….” didn’t work.
Trying “seven regeneration areas” did return this document with a line: “SHMU supports residents in the seven regeneration areas of the city.” So, if that is correct then it appears there are seven. What they are – and which of the eight (or nine) we’ve found so far is not included – is still unknown.
Wards, neighbourhoods, districts, areas, school catchment areas
And – do they map onto council wards or are they exact matches for other defined areas – such as neighbourhoods?
It turns out that there are 13 council wards in the city. I had to manually count them from this page. I got there via Google as search the ACC site for Council Wards doesn’t get you there.
I seem to remember there were 37(?) city neighbourhoods identified at one time. To find them I had to know that there were 37 as searching for “aberdeen neighbourhoods’ wasn’t specific enough to return any meaningful list or useful page.
And until we find our what the regeneration areas are, and we can work out which primary and secondary schools fall in those areas, we can’t do very much. Which means that the kids who would benefit from code clubs most don’t get our help.
I though this would be easy!
At the very minimum I could have used a web page with a list of regeneration areas and some jpg maps to show where they are. That’s not exactly hard to provide. And I’d make sure that the SEO was done in a way that it performed well on Google (oh and I’d sort the site’s own search). But that would do at a pinch. Sticking at that would miss so many opportunities, though.
Better would be a set of Shape Files or geojson (ideally presented on the almost empty open data platform) with polygons that I could download and overlay on a background map.
That done I could download a set of school boundaries (they do exist here – yay) and overlay those and workout the intersections between the two. Does the school boundary overlap a regeneration area? Yes? If so, it is on our target list to help.
Incidentally what has happened to the ACC online mapping portal? Not only does it not appear in any search results either, but all of the maps except the council boundary appear to have vanished, and there used to be dozens of them!
Lack of clarity helps no-one
A failure to publish information and data helps no-one. How can anyone know if their child’s school is in a regeneration area. How can a community group know if they are entitled to additional funding.
Without accurate boundary maps – and better still data – how can we match activities to physical areas (be they regeneration areas, wards, neighbourhoods, or catchment areas)?
How can we analyse investment, spending, attainment, street cleanliness, crime, poverty, number of planning applications, house values, RTAs per area if we can’t get the data?
For us this is a problem, but for the kids in the schools this is another opportunity denied.
Just as we highlighted in our previous post on recycling, the lack of open data is not an abstract problem. It deprives people of data and information and stifles opportunities for innovation. Our charity, and our many volunteers at events can do clever stuff with the data – build new services, apps, websites, and act as data intermediaries to help with data literacy.
Until there is a commitment nationally (and at a city level) to open data by default we will continue to highlight this as a failing by government.
The header image for this page is for a map of secondary school boundaries from ACC Open Data, on an Open Street Map background.