Orienteering focuses on the use and interpretation of maps in outdoor environments. The compass may be used as an aid to navigation.

Orienteering activities in school programs range from simple exercises using a map in the school or base-camp grounds, through to the use of maps in parklands and the full use of contour maps in the bush.

Note on rogaining: these guidelines, whilst relevant to the sport of rogaining, do not specifically address the potential activity-specific issues in rogaining.


General description of orienteering environments

Orienteering can occur in a range of outdoor environments and provide valuable opportunities to explore comparisons of landscapes. When preparing for orienteering, consider ways to minimise the environmental impact of the activity.


Due to the unique nature of each location, a specific assessment of suitability should be made prior to the trip.

Your choice of location should be based upon the recent and first hand knowledge of at least one member of the planning and supervising staff. Where this is impractical, planning and supervising staff should be thoroughly familiar with the general characteristics and conditions found in similar locations, and have consulted with people who can supply recent and first-hand knowledge of the locations being considered.

When assessing the suitability of a location, consider:

  • the potential to support your educational objectives
  • the level of access to the resources, services and facilities that you need or would like to use. These might include campsites, water, walking trails, toilets, shelter from extreme weather, or interpretive information
  • the level of access to communications and external assistance, in the event of an emergency, or extreme weather conditions. The more effectively remote your location is, then the more self-contained and self-reliant your group must be
  • the potential exposure to environmental hazards and difficulties
  • the activity ability and fitness of students.

Contact with relevant authorities should be made in order to access up-to-date management information and to determine any access and permit requirements.

These authorities may include:

Groups need to be aware that extreme weather conditions may develop prior to or during the proposed trip. Staff should be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate the activity at any time.


Your communication strategy should enable you to receive weather forecasts and warnings, communicate with the school, and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency.

  • Choose communication equipment based on current communication technology.
  • Develop a communication strategy for the group during the program and to enable communication with outside parties including the school and emergency services.
  • Be aware of the limitations of your communication strategy.

Students should be briefed on the communication strategy that will be used during the activity so that they can be informed of changes to the program. The use of check-in points, buddy-systems, check-in/out times and course time limits are useful elements of a communication strategy in orienteering.


Check the weather forecast for the location in the days leading up to the program and on the day the program commences. If the program extends overnight, monitor and assess the weather throughout and based on that information access daily weather forecasts and warnings.

Weather conditions can change rapidly. Monitor and assess the weather throughout the activity and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at any time.

Orienteering should not continue in the event of severe weather. On days of total fire ban orienteering should only proceed after careful consideration of the risks posed by the activity environment and prevailing conditions.

Weather Warning telephone services:

  • Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings: 1300 659 217
  • Full State Telephone Weather Service: 1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
  • Coastal Waters Telephone Service: 1900 969 930 (call charge applies)
  • Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667

These telephone numbers may be useful to have available on your program.

Web links:


The transportation of groups to and from activity locations must be carefully considered.

Vehicles used to transport students must comply with VicRoads registration requirements.

  • Drivers must comply with all licensing requirements.
  • Equipment carried inside vehicles must be securely stowed.
  • Students must be supervised by a minimum of one adult, in addition to the bus driver, during travel.

See: VicRoads

Drivers of vehicles with up to and including 12 seats (including the driver) require a current drivers licence.

Drivers of vehicles with 13 or more seats (including the driver) require a current licence appropriate for the vehicle and must:

In circumstances where a teacher or staff member is to drive a vehicle transporting students, the program should allow for them to have adequate rest prior to driving consistent with the national driving hours regulations.

For orienteering held in remote areas, at least one standby vehicle needs to be located at the site.

Hazardous areas

Buses with a capacity greater than 12 seats entering prescribed hazardous areas during the declared snow season must have an annual hazardous areas inspection and a current certificate. The driver must also hold a current Hazardous Areas Authority. The driver must also carry the required equipment for hazardous areas. Information about Victorian Hazardous Areas requirements can be obtained from VicRoads, including information specific to Bus travel in snow fields


Commencement briefing

Students should be briefed at the commencement of the activity on:

  • course boundaries
  • what the markers/controls look like
  • reporting to the finish line by a given time, even if the course is not completed
  • the safety bearing that will take them to an easily identifiable geographic feature such as a major track or fence line, that can be used as a handrail to guide them to the finish line
  • the need for regular hydration
  • what to do in an emergency (for example, injury, snake bite, if lost), including where staff are located or what to do if an evacuation of the area is necessary
  • rules of ‘fair play’ such as not removing or damaging controls and not calling out when at controls
  • care of the environment, including respect for wildlife, plants, trees etc.

For orienteering courses in larger areas and more remote bushland, students should participate in pairs for safety reasons, so that if one student needs help the partner can remain with the student but alert another pair to seek help.

The assembly start/finish area of the orienteering activity needs to be accessible by vehicle.

Course design

The activity boundaries should be clearly defined and communicated to students and staff, with points at which vehicle access is possible for emergency situations.

The way in which orienteering courses are designed and laid out can help to ensure students are never far from the start/finish. For example, a ‘cloverleaf design’ is a common orienteering layout.

The degree of difficulty of the course should be considered so that all students can be challenged at their various levels of ability and fitness.

Student skills

Prior to their involvement in orienteering activities students must possess the relevant levels of skill and fitness for the orienteering course.

Students should be introduced to map reading using basic symbols and features in a familiar environment, such as the school grounds, before progressing to courses with less-defined boundaries.

Start with simple courses that have controls at large distinct features (for example, track junctions or hill tops) and on handrail features (roads, fences, creeks). Only when students have demonstrated navigation and contour map interpretation skills and are confident in their use should they progress to orienteering in larger or more remote areas. Student preparation should be documented for the more challenging type of bush orienteering activities. Complete the Documentation of student preparation, pre-requisite skills/knowledge (doc - 139kb) with documented student preparation, prerequisite skills and knowledge.


Equipment must be in a safe condition and suitable for the activity.

Map and compass

The map should be carried in a waterproof sleeve. The compass should be checked before use and carried in the hand with a wrist string or carried round the neck and tucked into shirt when orienteering.


A whistle may be useful for participants in bushland environments.

First aid kits

First aid kits appropriate to the location and level of training must be carried.


Clothing is the individual’s primary protection against severe and variable weather conditions. Clothing lists need to be appropriate for the activity, the environment and the season.

To protect against sunburn use broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body, applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.


Staff and students must be easily identifiable.

Staff must determine the most suitable system/s of identification, based on the assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken and the age and number of students.



Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the program. All staff members must be endorsed by the principal.

All staff members must comply with current Departmental police check requirements or the Working with Children Check

A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department  or the school council must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity.

Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the instructor, the teacher present must understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted. This teacher must confer with the designated instructor about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility. If the teacher is not the designated instructor he/she is to act on the advice of the designated instructor on technical safety issues.

Any staff members with a known medical condition that might compromise the group’s risk management plan should make accompanying staff aware of this condition. Issues of confidentiality and privacy will be involved in any such disclosure.

Experience and qualifications

Staff involved in the planning and conduct of the activity should have sufficient knowledge and experience of the activity and the activity environment to operate in all foreseeable conditions.

The designated instructor/s must hold one of the following:

  • Level O, ‘Orientation to Orienteering’ a qualification from Victorian Orienteering Association (school ground and parkland environments) OR
  • Level I, NCAS (Teachers/Instructors Course) a qualification from Victorian Orienteering Association (Bush and remote bushland environments)
  • equivalent documented training and experience from another training provider or education institution
  • equivalent documented experience in lieu of certification/accreditation.

Equivalent experience should include:

  • ability to interpret maps including topographic maps
  • ability to use a compass to navigate
  • ability to apply map and compass skills to navigation in a range of outdoor environments
  • previous experience in the activity location or similar terrain.

The designated assistant to the instructor must:

  • be able to assume a supervisory role during the activity
  • have the ability to participate competently in emergency response procedures
  • have conferred with the instructor to establish the emergency response and supervision responsibilities.

Documentation of staff qualifications and experience (doc - 151kb) can be used to document staff qualifications/experience in lieu of qualifications.


Supervision is the critical factor in managing risk in the outdoors.

A minimum of two staff members must be present for each activity, one with responsibility for activity instruction and the other able to assist the instructor.

The following table shows the minimum staff-to-student ratios that must be used for orienteering.

(Note: Students not directly involved in orienteering, must be supervised separately with a minimum staff student ratio of 1 to 10.)

ActivityStaff numbersStudent numbers

School grounds



1 - 30*

31 - 60

Outdoor environments with well-defined boundaries



1 - 40

41 - 60

Outdoor environments with less defined boundaries



1 - 20

21 - 30

*This is the only activity that allows one teacher to supervise students as it is being offered in the school grounds.

It may be necessary to increase the number of staff allocated based on:

  • age, maturity and gender of students
  • ability and experience of students
  • individual needs
  • dynamics of the student group
  • experience, qualifications and skills of staff
  • location conditions.

Reasons for increasing staff allocations must be documented.

As staff are responsible for student safety at all times, even when students may be out of sight, it is important that students are adequately skilled to undertake the activity. In the early stages of learning, it may be necessary to have roving staff and, at times, staff stationed at some control sites.

The teacher in charge is responsible for the supervision strategy, which must be endorsed by the principal as part of the excursion approval process. Staff members will supervise students according to that strategy.

Informed consent

The school must receive informed consent from parents or guardians that their child may participate in adventure activities.

Informed consent should be based on an understanding of:

  • the educational purpose of the activity
  • the nature and details of the activity
  • the supervision strategy
  • any other information deemed relevant by the school or by parents/ guardians.

Informed consent must be given in writing, including signatures, by parents or guardians.

First aid training

At least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current (within 3 years) level two first aid qualification, a current (within 12 months) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification and have a first aid kit applicable to the level of training.

Staff members must consider carefully the nature and location of the excursion as well as the medical history of the students to determine the level of first aid training required by staff.  For example, if any student in the group has a history of anaphylaxis and may require the use of an epi-pen, appropriately trained staff must be present.  See: Excursion Support – First Aid

Common risks

Sample RisksSample Controls

Lost students

Students taught how to use the safety bearing to take them to an easily identifiable geographic feature.

Finishing time for the activity to be explained to students.

Students to carry a watch.

Students to be briefed on procedure if they are lost.

Ability and fitness of students

Select a venue appropriate to the skill level of all students in the group.

Poisonous bite

Briefing on response to poisonous bites.

Review of the location for the potential for poisonous bites.

Exposure to cold or hot temperatures

Pre-activity safety briefing on clothing and food required.

Clothing to be checked at commencement as appropriate to the activity and able to accommodate likely weather changes.

Monitoring of weather conditions throughout the activity and being prepared to cancel modify or relocate the activity as required.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation

Broad spectrum sunscreen available for student use throughout the day.

All students to wear hats.


Orienteering resources
Other activity resources