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Orienteering NZ Compass Point – School Championship Grades Special Edition – April 2016
By ONZ Online Coordinator - Roger Woodroofe - Tue 12 Apr 2016 9:14pm
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Consultation Document on School Championships Age/Course combinations for Long Distance Events

Junior Development Committee


A revision of courses grades for schools orienteering championships is proposed. This is rationalised on purpose of the championships, increasing experience and training opportunities for juniors, and the success of Year 7/8 championships in recent years. No changes to the grades for sprint or relay competitions are proposed.


Schools orienteering championships have two purposes to:

  1. Find the best orienteer in each age group for boys and girls; and
  2. Build participation in the sport within college-age participants.

The championships must achieve these goals whilst creating enjoyable and safe competitions.

Broadly speaking, secondary schools orienteers fall into two categories, those who:

  1. Have started their orienteering as novices at secondary school age; and
  2. Are established orienteers having started in the sport through the club competitions and year 7/8 championships.

This disparity of experienced and novice orienteers presents challenges to course/age group combinations.

Current grade combinations (table 1) are set at difficulties below those of national age group competitions to support participation and safety for the less experienced and novice secondary school orienteers.

Table 1:  Current school championships and Orienteering New Zealand age group competition grades

School age group Typical age School championships courses (Championship, standard grades) ONZ age grade championship courses
(A grade, B grade)
Year 7/8 11-12 Yellow, white Yellow, white
Junior 13-14 Yellow, white Orange, yellow
Intermediate 15-16 Orange, yellow Red, orange
Senior 17-18 Red, orange Red, orange


Here are the school age/grade details for 2016:
Senior: Born 1999 or earlier; Intermediate: Born 2000 or 2001; Junior:  Born 2002 or later;
Yr 7 & 8: In year 7 or 8 at school.

School relays are run at the standard grade course difficulties.

Reasons for considering change

There is a growth in participation in secondary school orienteering from experienced athletes.

  • There were approximately 50 participants in the year 7/8 championships in each of the North Island, South Island and national schools orienteering championships in 2015.  In all of these competitions, the vast majority of the 50 year 7/8 runners participated at championship (yellow) grade. These athletes will enter secondary school competition with substantial experience.
  • Regional junior training camps are now operational around the country, and have raised the standard of junior club runners and are progressively supporting school participants.

To achieve the major goal of a school championship – to identify the best orienteer in each age group – these athletes need to run courses that challenge their orienteering ability.

Participants who have gone through year 7/8 championships will be running yellow courses in school championships for 3-4 years if they stay in their age group under the current system.

There is substantial anecdotal evidence that experienced orienteers are disillusioned with the simplicity of the school championship grades.

Whilst there is a growth in experienced participants at school championships, there is still recruitment of novice orienteers at all age groups in secondary school orienteering.

It is essential that courses are available in schools championships that are at an appropriate level for novice orienteers.  These courses ensure enjoyment of courses, safety of participants, and retention of athletes within the sport.


Several options for new grade/difficulty combinations have been considered.  Our preferred option is shown below (Table 2).  A course combination table that would support this proposal is found in Appendix 1.  Championship course standards are detailed in Appendix 2. A selection of alternative options considered are outlined in Appendix 3.

Table 2:  Proposed new competition grades for school championships

School age group Typical age Championship Grade course Standard Grade course
Year 7/8 11-12 Yellow White
Junior 13-14 Short orange White
Intermediate 15-16 Long orange Long Yellow
Senior 17-18 Red Orange


Relays remain at the standard grade course difficulty.

These grade/course difficulty combinations are to be implemented for all schools championships in 2017.


The impact of changes will be reviewed by the Junior Development Committee following the NZ Secondary School Orienteering Championships in 2017 to identify any substantial deficiencies.  Full review will be undertaken at the end of 2018 to provide 2 years of data to inform the review process.

The Junior Development Committee will work with organisers of the 2017 championships to ensure information provided to schools about the grades is clear on expectations for placing athletes at the appropriate standard.


The junior and intermediate championship courses will be more difficult than found in the current system.  These courses will provide a suitable challenge to experienced orienteers to identify the best orienteer in the age group.

The standard courses at junior and intermediate are kept to the same difficulty as the current standard courses to continue to support participation, enjoyment and safety in these grades.

The proposed course combination is expected to simplify communication with schools to ensure athletes are placed in the correct grade.  The standard grade is the grade expected grade for all athletes, and supports those newer to the sport.  The standard grade should no longer be seen as the course for the less competent athlete; it is the expected point of entry for new orienteers.  The new championship grades are for more experienced orienteers.

Suggested course planning guidelines for the junior and intermediate orange courses are provided in Appendix 2.


In addition to general response on the proposal, we would welcome feedback on the following questions:

  1. Are there risks you anticipate will likely occur if we adopt the new proposed course/grade combinations?
  2. Are there opportunities missed in this document for improvement of schools’ orienteering championships?
  3. Do you see value in having a novice grade available (white for intermediate, yellow for senior?  If implemented, novice grade athletes would most likely be excluded from points calculations.
  4. Would any of the alternative grade/course combinations (Appendix 3) or other options be preferable to the present system of the grade/course combinations proposed in Table 2?

Next steps

Feedback requested to the Junior Development Committee c/o Paul Teesdale-Spittle (t-s@xtra.co.nz) by 1 June 2016. If feedback leads to any substantial change from either the current regulations or the revision proposed in this document, a further brief consultation may be undertaken. Final decision following review of feedback by end of July 2016.

Consultation groups

Clubs, schools regional coordinators, NZ Secondary School Sports Council, schools coaches and coordinators where known.

Responses are sought on the proposal by 1 June 2016 to the Junior Development Committee (c/o Paul Teesdale-Spittle, t-s@xtra.co.nz).


Appendix 1:  The course combinations that would support the proposed grades

Long Distance
Course # Difficulty Championship Standard
1 Red Long SB
2 Red Medium SG
3 Orange long IB SB
4 Orange long IG SG
5 Orange Short JB
6 Orange Short JG
7 Yellow Long IB
8 Yellow Long IG
9 Yellow Short 7/8B
10 Yellow Short 7/8G
11 White JB, JG

7/8B, 7/8G


Where possible separate courses for senior standard and intermediate championship should be offered to reduce the course loading and start time windows.

Comparison to current school competition course combinations

Course Difficulty Championship Standard
1 Red long SB
2 Red medium SG
3 Orange SB
4 Orange IB SG
5 Orange IG
6 Yellow longer IB, IG
7 Yellow JB, 7/8B
8 Yellow JG, 7/8G
9 White JB, 7/8B, JG, 7/8G


Appendix 2:  Suggested technical difficulty descriptions for intermediate and junior orange courses

It is recommended that the short orange course for the junior championship grade be set at the easier end of the spectrum of orange courses, and the long orange course for the intermediate championship grade be set at the harder end.  The following guidelines may be useful for course planners and controllers.

Junior championship
The course shall have simple route choice. There shall be prominent attack points near the control sites and/or catching features less than 20 m behind. Control sites may be point features but the control markers should be visible from the attack point or the direction of entry for compass legs. Exit from the control shall not be the same as the entry (doglegs are not permitted). Contour features can be used as control sites, but contour use should not be required for detailed navigation. Compass use should be limited to making shortcuts between linear features or to controls with strong catching features within 20 m behind.  Limited distance estimation should be required.

Intermediate championship
Navigation should feature route choice. There shall be attack points near the control sites and/or catching features less than 100 m behind. Control sites may be fairly small point features and the control markers need not necessarily be visible from the attack point or the direction of entry for compass legs. Where controls are in areas rich in detail, they should be on the more prominent features. Exit from the control shall not be the same as the entry (doglegs are not permitted). Rough compass use to navigate long legs with a catching feature within 100 m, and more accurate compass use on short legs is expected. Controls may require rough distance estimation. Contour use for navigation shall be limited to distinct features such as hills, ridges, obvious reentrants and spurs.

Appendix 3:  Other age/grade combinations considered

Option 1

School age group Typical age Championship Grade course Standard Grade course Novice Grade course
Year 7/8 11-12 Yellow White N/A
Junior 13-14 Orange short Yellow White
Intermediate 15-16 Red short Orange short Yellow Long
Senior 17-18 Red Long Orange long Yellow Long

Matches ONZ grades, includes novice grades for new college orienteers.  Rejected as including different courses for boys/girls there would be too many course combinations required, adding to the workload of running the championships.

Option 2

School age group Typical age Championship Grade course Standard Grade course Novice Grade course
Year 7/8 11-12 Yellow short White N/A
Junior 13-14 Orange short Yellow White
Intermediate 15-16 Orange long Yellow long White
Senior 17-18 Red Orange Long Yellow Long

A variation of current proposal, but with no differentiation of orange level across junior and intermediate grades.

Option 3:  A blank table for any new ideas.

School age group Typical age Championship Grade course Standard Grade course
Year 7/8 11-12
Junior 13-14
Intermediate 15-16
Senior 17-18



We welcome other considered options.

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