https://data.blog.gov.uk/2011/03/25/application-developer-guest-post-locrating-com/

Application developer guest post - locrating.com

Welcome to the third in our series of guest blog posts written by Data.gov.uk community members who have developed applications using data available on Data.gov.uk. This week, Lewis Tandy writes about the Locrating application.

 

When my wife and I considered moving home we didn't know where we wanted to move to, but we definitely wanted to be near good schools for our two children.

Every time we found a potential area we spent hours each evening trawling the web gathering information on local schools. The process was very time consuming and quickly became very frustrating. We did find some websites that speeded it up a little, but often the data was unreliable; some schools were mysteriously missing and often links were broken and data out of date. The sites almost always required a postcode as a starting point, something we didn't have.

We decided that what we really needed was a site that showed schools on a map, which you could scroll around and most importantly showed, at a glance, some crucial information about the schools. We searched all night, but could find nothing out there that does this. So, being a software developer, I decide to write one for us.

The starting point was to obtain a license to use government data (a free click-use PSI license), which turned out to be a very easy process.  The next step was to build a tool to gather all the information from numerous websites.  I wrote a (Microsoft C# WPF) ‘screen-scraper’ application to do this.  The tool processes and merges all the data by school.  Then, once I had some data ready to display, I created a (Microsoft C# ASP.NET) web site using the Google Maps Javascript API. This sort of site, that pulls together data from disparate sources, is often referred to as a 'mash-up'. 

The result of all this work is locrating.com. The name locrating came from a friend, when I said I needed a web site name for locating things by their [Ofsted] rating, he said with a smile, 'what like locrating?'

Currently the site allows you to find a location of interest using either a postcode, place name or just by browsing around a map of the UK, zooming in and out or different areas.  You can then chose to see all schools or filter to just the schools of interest (e.g. primary schools and/or schools rated good or better by Ofsted).

Locrating screenshot1

The real benefit of the site is that at a glance you can see the location of all the local schools and crucially their most recent Oftsed rating; and you can scroll around hundreds of miles in mere minutes. It is the displaying of the Ofsted rating in the map marker that really sets locrating.com apart.  To the best of my knowledge there is nothing out there that does this.

Clicking on a school gives further information, such as school size, address, website etc. and links to further information, inspection reports and exam results. The beauty of all this is that I don't just link to the external sites’ home pages, forcing you to further search those sites for information, I actually link right to the data relating to the actual school. Even if a school has no rating it is still shown, as are independent schools, which are mostly not inspected by Ofsted; links to the Independent Schools Inspectorate are provided, making this a valuable tool for parents looking at both state and independent schools.

A further addition was Google Street View, allowing you to visually inspect an area, to see if it looks like somewhere you might want to live.

Locrating screenshot2

Finally, the latest information to be included is exam data, which I link to and further users can chose to view on the map as well. This again saves many hours of hunting down information and provides a very efficient way of comparing schools. For example, at a glance you can compare school’s GCSE results.

Locrating screenshot3

I have many more ideas for locrating.com, in particular introducing more types of rated data, so that it becomes more than just a tool to find schools. So, watch this space …  

1 comment

  1. Anonymous

    An excellent app Lucas.  Well Done!

    A.H.

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