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Making sense of the world with atlases

An atlas is a lot like a photograph, it offers a  snapshot of our world at one particular moment in time as a static, unchanging entity. As we all know, our world doesn't sit still. Disputed boundaries shift, countries change their names and rising sea levels swallow up entire islands… so how do you take a picture of a moving landscape without it being out-of-date as soon as you've taken it? This is the issue we faced when commissioning a series of maps to be drawn for our new TTS Teaching Atlases. Working with industry experts, we finally came to a consensus; and it's more political than you first imagine.

Posted on Tuesday 30th April 2019
Making sense of the World with Atlas'

The TTS Teaching Atlas is special because it fills a real need for non-specialist teachers about how to use an atlas and about the learning outcomes that can be achieved from using physical maps. You may remember being given an atlas in school and wondering what on earth to do with it! Our atlases encourage children not only to use the maps but also to interrogate why that particular content has been chosen. Why, if they look online, might other sources say something different?

Dig deeper and older children might conclude that maps can be political tools to reinforce a country’s dominance. If you are a school in Australia, is everything upside down? Are you still looking at the UK as the focus of the world? The answer is no – you would more than likely be looking at a Pacific-centric map, as below.


Being sensitive to the political nature of the product, we have worked closely with leading Geography Association and industry experts to show a countrywide agreed representation of our world, as well as making sure the atlases address the needs of the curriculum for geography education.

The author of the Lower Primary atlas is Dr Paula Owens who is a former Deputy Head. Paula worked as the curriculum development lead for the Geographical Association.

The Upper Primary author Ben Ballin is an educator, trainer and writer, specialising in primary geography, global learning and sustainable development.

The TTS Teaching Atlases are special because huge efforts have been made to ensure they truly support the National Curriculums across the UK – in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A downloadable framework is available so that teachers can clearly see the coverage.

Our specially designed Teaching Atlases fully support all areas of the UK geography curriculums. They include high-quality cartography with added content to support the development of key geographical knowledge through enquiry and independent investigation, mapping, fieldwork, extending vocabulary and supporting critical thinking skills.

  • High-quality cartography with added content to support the development of key geographical knowledge
  • Support the UK National Curriculums
  • Cross-curricular activities

The Lower Primary Teaching Atlas:

The Lower Primary Teaching Atlas

  • Suitable for supporting the lower primary geography curriculum
  • Features questions throughout to encourage the use of maps
  • Includes cross-curricular activities
  • ‘Challenge’ section with advanced questions for more able pupils

The Upper Primary Teaching Atlas:

The Upper Primary Teaching Atlas

  • Suitable for supporting the upper primary geography curriculum
  • ‘Big Questions’ throughout support children to critically investigate a range of topics through maps, debate, further research and utilising data and spatial tools
  • Includes cross-curricular activities
  • Supports the history curriculum, with dedicated pages throughout providing information on key historical events and civilisations, perfect for schools who plan their geography and history lessons together

Meet our subject experts:

Lower Primary author Paula Owens is a former Deputy Head who has taught across all primary ages. She is a consultant to the GA and to the RGS-IBG, Ordnance Survey Digimap for schools, BBC, CBeebies and LESSCO2 schools.

Upper Primary history consultant Alf Wilkinson started teaching history in 1973 and is the author of textbooks, journal articles and online teaching resources.
Upper Primary author Ben Ballin is an educator, trainer and writer, specialising in primary Geography, global learning and sustainable development. He has carried out work for many leading educational organisations.
Freelance cartographer Kim Farrington has a 1st class degree in Mapping Science.

For more information visit our website.

With thanks to Maddie Holtam, our TTS Geography Product Manager and our subject experts for writing this post.