What is School Orienteering?

25th Jan 2021

What is school orienteering?

School orienteering is a combination of physical activity (walking and running), map reading, and problem-solving. Participants have to use a map to navigate between a series of ‘control points’ that are marked on the map. There are a great many alternative routes that can be followed by participants, even on a simple orienteering map with a relatively small number of ‘control points’. This is particularly the case when four-digit number and letter references are included on ‘control point markers’, offering the potential to include multiple combinations of control points to create a substantial range of different routes.

Where can you do orienteering?

Although school orienteering is often associated with the ‘Great Outdoors’, the school and its surrounding grounds are an excellent place to introduce orienteering, and many introductory and follow-up activities can take place within e.g. the school hall or classroom.

Why introduce orienteering to your school?

Orienteering in school is a great way to get children active and outdoors, to the benefit of both their physical and mental wellbeing, whilst helping schools to achieve national targets for the amount of time children are physically active. As well as the physical challenge of walking or running between points on a route, children develop map reading skills, such as using a compass, directional language, and interpreting map symbols and keys. Orienteering also involves problem-solving, as children e.g. work out the quickest way to navigate a route and also helps them to develop communication and team-working skills. Orienteering activities can be adapted to support learning across the curriculum, offering fresh and engaging ways for children to extend and embed their learning in a range of different subjects. Finally, orienteering can be utilised to support active play at break times and lunchtimes and for after school clubs.

What you will need to get started with orienteering in your school:

An orienteering map: Orienteering maps are usually simpler than e.g. Ordnance Survey maps. They use specific colours to denote different types of terrain and have a ‘key’ of simple symbols to represent objects or landscape features. They also have a symbol to indicate the direction of ‘magnetic north’ to enable participants to use a compass to help with navigation around a route. A series of ‘control points’ or ‘markers’ are marked on the map, which can be used to indicate different routes to be followed by navigating around the mapped area. For most schools, their orienteering map will be a map of the school grounds.

Control points or markers: These are specific points within the area of the orienteering map that have a physical marker displayed in a prominent position. For simple orienteering maps, such as those based on school grounds, control point markers can include numbers, letters, or other symbols that participants can record to show that they have visited that point.

Staff training: Whilst no specialist knowledge or experience is needed for a school to introduce orienteering, an initial training session will not only give all staff the confidence to introduce orienteering successfully and sustainably across the whole school, but will also enable them to explore the potential to utilise orienteering to support learning across the whole curriculum.

Enrich Education: Our School Orienteering and Outdoor Learning packages provide the infrastructure, resources and knowledge to support physical activity across the whole curriculum. Our bespoke school orienteering course design, multiple maps, trails and installation are complemented by our ‘School Orienteering and Outdoor Learning Hub’ which provides personalised access to 200+ orienteering and cross-curricular outdoor learning lesson plans and resources, supported by our unique 1st4Sport endorsed ‘Cross-Curricular Outdoor Learning’ training modules for further details please visit School Orienteering page.

PE and sport premium, 2021/22: The recent government commitment to maintain the £320 million PE and Sports Premium, together with the agreement for schools to carry over any unspent grant, offers a fantastic opportunity for schools to introduce orienteering for 2021/22. Orienteering fits perfectly with the main objectives of the grant, including:

  • extending the range of sports and physical activities offered at the school
  • providing new ways to involve and engage the least active pupils
  • encouraging active play during break times, lunch times and through extra-curricular activities
  • embedding physical activity within the school day, with active lessons and active teaching
  • providing staff with professional development to help them teach PE and sport more effectively

Other considerations: As with any physical activity, it is important to take health and safety into account when planning orienteering activities for children. A good source for advice and support on health and safety in all areas of school PE and sport is the Association for Physical Education (see below).

Useful links:

British Orienteering has a wealth of information and resources about orienteering:

Association for Physical Education



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Mrs Julia Ashton • Head Teacher St Mary's Blackbrook Catholic Primary School (St Helens)

"Last year, during sports week, we had a Quidditch workshop. It was brilliant. It was something completely different that really motivated and inspired the children to get active. The workshop ran brilliantly involving all the differing needs of the class. I have already booked for next year….it was so good! "

Mrs Justine Kellett • Head Teacher Queen’s Park C.E/U.R.C Primary School (St Helens)

"The Outdoor Learning twilight was a great success, expertly delivered by Joe. All staff joined in and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Joe was able to show how each activity could be adapted for all children from EYFS to Y6. A fabulous resource! Thank you."

Mrs Jan Cunningham • Head Teacher St Andrew the Apostle Catholic Primary School (Knowsley)

"I had been looking to develop our outdoor environment as a way to engage the children in skills that are generally lacking in many children these days. I arranged a training session with Enrich Education as well as the installation of our orienteering course. The children have all used the course and it has been great to see children who may not appear confident in a formal classroom environment really flourish in the outdoor world. Our recent Ofsted visit by an HMI was particularly complimentary about the schools attitude towards meeting the needs of all learners. Great guys, well organised and there to help all the way. We even had a slight change to our course which was attended to immediately."

Mr Danny MacAreavy • Head Teacher St John Bosco Catholic Primary School (Sefton)

"Quidditch has brought a new element of sport to our school, we are always looking for innovative and creative ways to engage the children in sport especially when utilising our sports premium funding and this experience has done that, it has been fantastic and delivered in such a quality way by Enrich Education. "

John Casson • Head Teacher Hope Primary School (Knowsley)

"The Outdoor Learning was a fantastic, fun experience both for children and staff. It covers more than one area of the curriculum in a engaging and active way, which is always a good thing!! Well worth doing and the staff who deliver it are brilliant!"

Mrs Jeanette Grundy • Head Teacher St Leo's and Southmead Catholic Nursery & Primary School (Knowsley)