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A word of warning before anyone starts using electoral maps from the net with their classes - they can take an incredibly long time to download and this is often best done in advance. But there is a wealth of information out there for geographers. At index you can investigate a series of large, clear maps comparing election results from 1983, 1987, 1992 and 1997. These provide a useful starting point for discussion on the advantages of displaying data on choropleth maps, which show the graded levels of party support. Comparing results for two elections would familiarise students with regions or constituencies by cross-referencing between maps, most usefully by picking out and enlarging specific regions. Removing name labels from the 1997 map would reduce the clutter.

For AS or A-level students, differences in voting patterns between rural and urban constituencies can initiate discussions on themes such as urban deprivation or rural issues. The 1997 Changes map is particularly interesting and cn stimulate significant debate on the issues that can lead to a large swing in the popular vote. provides more detail, right down to the level of an individual county. The site is attractive and easy tonavigate, although at 27 minutes to download some information, it would be impossible to use the site itself within a lesson. It's also necessary to download a VRML viewer to interrogate the 3D maps that are of limited use.

The individual constituency profiles bring the data down to the level at which you can analyse reasons behind voting patterns. A matching exercise between maps and analysis could provide an interesting way of exploring Britain's regional differences.

At key stage 3 these and later maps can be used to collect, record and present evidence on the changes which have taken place in the political map of Britain. The maps could effectively be used on overhead transparencies to allow pupils to present to the class.

Naomi Peirce is deputy head of the Sele School, Hertford

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