Orienteering in schools

Why should your school enjoy orienteering?

Orienteering is basically exploring combined with running, which makes it a lot of fun! It’s a very social activity and it can be competitive or non-competitive, depending on what you want. It shows you amazing places other people will never see and it’s a personal challenge with lots to think about as well as do.

It’s exciting to be let loose with a map and find your own way. As well as map reading, it’s a great way to encourage decision-making, responsibility, knowing and recognising your environment, problem-solving, team-work, and self-confidence. As an outdoor group activity, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be – no tech is necessary.

World Orienteering Day

Each year the International Orienteering Federation holds World Orienteering Day – a day for as many young people as possible to participate in orienteering activities. Hundreds of thousands of young people across the world take part, in around 80 countries. The SOA helps schools and groups join in by sharing activities; read more here if you’d like to get involved.

The Scottish Schools Orienteering Association (SSOA)

The SSOA encourages schools to embrace orienteering through their formal and informal curriculum, as a great outdoor school activity. It also organises an annual Schools Festival where pupils enjoy the basics of orienteering, and supports teams in the World Schools Orienteering Championships. You can read more on the SSOA website.

Scottish Schools Festival

Orienteer approaching control point on the Scottish Schools Festival in the great outdoors
The Scottish Schools Festival attracts children from across Scotland

The annual Scottish Schools Festival is aimed at pupils who have already been introduced to orienteering through their school.  In 2020 this fun event will take place on Thursday 4th June. Schools from across Scotland take part on courses which are designed to ensure all pupils who have grasped the basic skills of orienteering will do well. This means it’s particularly suited to schools who already teach orienteering as part of the Curriculum for Excellence, and the courses will be easier than their usual colour or regional standard. Read more about course colours and levels here.

The focus of the Festival is very much on participating, and skills improvement, rather than competing. If you would like your school to attend next year’s Festival, please contact Blair Young: info@ssoa.org.uk.

How to introduce orienteering into your school

Children of all ages enjoy orienteering
Orienteering is great for school children of all ages

Orienteering really is a fantastic in-school as well as out-of-school outdoor group activity. We want to support schools as much as possible to introduce orienteering but don’t worry: high-tech, complicated equipment is unnecessary.

We focus on people rather than kit and and recommend an approach which invests in school staff . If you’re enthusiastic, we can give you practical experience and an understanding of orienteering techniques and progression.

This helps sustain activities over a longer time period, and enables closer links to related aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence: maths, geography, ICT, language and communication etc. We have therefore designed a one-day bespoke training course for teachers, below.

Introducing Orienteering courses

We run a one-day Introducing Orienteering course, specifically designed for teachers and outdoor youth leaders to learn the basic skills of orienteering through indoor and outdoor activities, and how to bring a variety of subjects to life through the medium of orienteering. It enjoyable, active learning experience, and you’ll receive a set of resources that you can use immediately for a series of progressive sessions. No prior knowledge is required, and all physical activity is at whatever level you choose.

Download the flyer below, view our IntrO courses, or contact us to enquire about future dates or requesting your own course.

Mapping your school

Some schools wish to map their campus to enable courses to be a regular part of PE, and change the courses on a regular basis. The maps can also be used in other lessons as part of delivering the Curriculum for Excellence. This is fantastic, but do ask the question: do we really need to map our school? There is much you can do without a map, with other simple resources you already have available in school.

If you do wish to, we recommend you work with a professional orienteering mapper such as Deeside Orienteering & Leisure Maps, and Stirling Surveys. Do contact them direct in the first instance, or contact us if you have further queries. Depending on the size and complexity of the site, a rough cost estimate is £200-400, plus travel expenses of the mapper.

Further resources

We have a further teaching materials and activities in our Resource bank – browse the For Teachers section.

A wee bit of inspiration

To get a better idea about orienteering, and to help inspire young people, have a look below at some of the short videos and image galleries we have collected. There are more in the Resources section.


Here are a couple of excellent little videos with top orienteers showing why people enjoy it – the range of landscapes and personal challenge!