Policy last updated

4 November 2021


  • Schools

November 2021



The purpose of this policy is to:

  • support the Department’s outdoor education schools in the planning and delivery of outdoor education
  • provide information about the benefits of outdoor education and how other Victorian government schools can access programs at the Department’s outdoor education schools.


Outdoor education engages students to develop positive relationships with self, others and with outdoor environments through interaction with the natural world. Distinct from outdoor learning, which is a broad term used to describe any learning outside the classroom, outdoor education usually involves residential or journey-based experiences to impart personal, social and critical thinking capabilities, physical skills, and subject-specific knowledge.

Outdoor education is reflected in the Victorian Curriculum:

  • Outdoor learning is included in F–10 Health and Physical Education in the content descriptions and also as a Focus area (Challenge and adventure activities).
  • At the VCE level, students can undertake VCE Outdoor and Environmental Studies.
  • For VCE VET students, the revised VCE VET Certificate II in Outdoor Recreation is in its first full year of delivery in 2021.

The Department funds and operates outdoor education schools, which are government schools that deliver residential outdoor education for government primary and secondary school students state-wide.

The outdoor education schools that are funded and operated by the Department are:

  • The Alpine School
  • Outdoor School
  • Rubicon Outdoor School
  • Somers School Camp
  • Blackwood Special Schools Outdoor Education Centre (a campus of Frankston Special Developmental School).

There are a range of planning and delivery requirements that are unique to outdoor education settings. Outdoor education schools must refer to the guidance for information and advice on:

  • curriculum planning and delivery
  • allocation of places
  • staff experience and qualifications.

All Victorian government schools are strongly encouraged to utilise the Department’s outdoor education schools to facilitate and enhance the delivery of outdoor education curriculum to their students. Further information about the outdoor education schools, how to access their programs and the benefit of outdoor education is contained in the Guidance tab.

Relevant legislation



This guidance contains the following sections:

  • Value of outdoor education
  • The Department’s outdoor education schools
  • Curriculum planning and delivery
  • Allocation of places
  • Staff experience and qualifications

Value of outdoor education

Value of outdoor education

There is substantial evidence to indicate that adequately planned and well taught outdoor education curricula can have a positive effect on student outcomes, including educational, interpersonal, social and critical thinking skills, as well as mental and physical health.

Quality outdoor education can:

  • enhance enquiry, critical thinking and reflection skills
  • make significant contributions to literacy and numeracy
  • increase students’ sense of confidence and efficacy
  • improve mental health and wellbeing and increase physical health in young people
  • improve environmental knowledge and an understanding of culture, heritage and place history
  • teach students to assess risk and make judgements about risk management.

The benefits of outdoor education also extend to teachers and include improved relationships with students and personal development in their teaching practice.

Research shows the benefits are compounded by residential outdoor education, which brings an intensity of experience, different and varied opportunities to experience success, a new context for relationships, and new ways of learning.

The 2015 independent evaluation of the Learning Away initiative in the UK found that well designed and delivered residentials can improve outcomes as follows:

  • Short and medium term: enhanced relationships, improved engagement and confidence in learning, and new and developing skills and understanding.
  • Longer-term: improved achievement, knowledge and skills, improved relationships, a greater sense of belonging, raised aspirations, and more successful transition experiences.

The Department’s outdoor education schools

The Department’s outdoor education schools

The Department funds and operates outdoor education schools, which are government schools that deliver residential outdoor education for students at Victorian government primary and secondary schools. These schools comprise the outdoor education schools that make up the Residential Outdoor Schools Association (ROSA) network (commonly known as the ROSA schools) and the Alpine School (also known as the Victorian School for Student Leadership).

The ROSA schools provide residential outdoor education for students at Victorian government primary and secondary schools at 7 campuses:

  • Outdoor School (Bogong Campus and 15 Mile Creek Campus)
  • Rubicon Outdoor School (Thornton Campus and Nayook Campus)
  • Somers School Camp (Somers Campus and Woorabinda Campus)
  • Blackwood Special Schools Outdoor Education Centre.

The Alpine School offers unique term-long residential education experiences for networks of Year 9 students from across the State. The program focuses on the development of leadership and interpersonal skills through outdoor activities and team learning projects sourced from students' home regions. There are 4 campuses:

  • Alpine School Campus (Dinner Plain)
  • Snowy River Campus (Marlo)
  • Gnurad-Gundidj campus (Glenormiston)
  • Haining Farm Campus (interim name) (Don Valley).

While the target cohorts and program offerings differ across the schools, they all enable Victorian government school students to access high-quality outdoor education curriculum that are delivered:

  • in line with the learning areas and capabilities in the Victorian Curriculum
  • using pedagogies and improvement approaches that are familiar for students because they’re being used by teachers at their home school (for example, Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO), high impact teaching strategies (HITS))
  • by qualified and highly experienced teachers working collaboratively with visiting teachers and students
  • in rich and unique learning settings that allow students to explore, discover, be challenged and have authentic learning experiences
  • in safe and secure outdoor learning environments where risk factors are known and addressed
  • in line with the minimum regulatory, accountability and compliance requirements that apply to all Victorian government schools
  • at a significantly subsidised cost (relative to the private market).

The Department’s outdoor education schools are staffed by highly qualified and experienced teachers who can deliver well-planned and well-constructed programs for government schools that target identified student learning needs. While the outdoor education schools differ in terms of their operating model and program offerings, each seeks to deliver high-quality outdoor experiential education curriculum for government school students that is aligned to the Victorian Curriculum.

The Department’s outdoor education schools make a significant contribution to the government education system by delivering quality outdoor education curriculum to around 16,000 students annually across the state. Victorian government schools are strongly encouraged to utilise the outdoor education schools to facilitate and enhance the delivery of outdoor education curriculum to their students.

Curriculum planning and delivery

Curriculum planning and delivery

The learning areas delivered by the Department’s outdoor education schools include Health and Physical Education, Humanities (Geography and History) and Science, as well as Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical and Intercultural Capabilities. Some schools also deliver the VCE subject Outdoor and Environmental Studies (Units 1 to 4) as well as supporting a small number of schools with the provision of VET Outdoor Recreation.

The following best-practice principles are recommended for the Department’s outdoor education schools in the planning and delivery of outdoor education, but may also be useful for other government schools:

  • To ensure the relevance, breadth and depth of learning, there should be careful and rigorous curriculum planning, including co-design with students and their classroom teachers, so that the learning intentions are clear, and students’ individual needs are addressed.
  • Both classroom teachers and outdoor educators should help students to understand how their outdoor education experience connects to and extends their in-school learning, so the benefits of the activities are not lost when students return to school.
  • There should be opportunities for the classroom teachers to attend the outdoor education school with their students, where possible, to help the students make connections with the home school curriculum and to better understand the students’ learning experiences.
  • The curriculum should be fully integrated with the Victorian Curriculum, with strong and clear curriculum links, so the contribution to the visiting school’s learning program is clear.
  • The curriculum at the outdoor education schools should be sequential with clearly aligned themes and specific learning outcomes.
  • There should be considered and consistent use of assessment and evaluation data, including student self-assessments, to seek evidence of student achievement and progress.
  • Outdoor education schools should provide the visiting school with:
    • information on student achievement and student growth as a result of outdoor education
    • general information about the outdoor education visit, such as the learning purpose, skills focus and types of activities undertaken, that could be passed on to parents.
  • There should be flexibility for the outdoor schools to determine the length of stay provided that students are being provided with high-quality, curriculum aligned outdoor education and it meets the needs of visiting schools.

Allocation of places

Allocation of places

The following principles are recommended for the Department’s outdoor education schools in determining access to their programs:

  • There should be continued flexibility for the outdoor schools to determine their overall allocation model (for example, single school cohort or network/mixed schools approach).
  • The Residential Outdoor Schools Association (ROSA) schools should use a consistent and transparent application and selection process, including aligned timelines and cross-communication between the ROSA schools to ensure equity of access.
  • The annual allocation process, including key dates, should be:
    • clearly outlined on each of the ROSA schools’ websites
    • communicated to all government schools via the Department’s school-wide communication channels.
  • The ROSA schools (except Blackwood) should prioritise the allocation of places on the following basis:
    • schools with cohorts of students who would benefit most from attendance and would not ordinarily be able to access such opportunities, including disadvantaged students, Koorie students, vulnerable students, students at key transition points
    • schools that have not previously attended (except for where there is an agreement in place for a school to attend over consecutive years)
    • schools that demonstrate a commitment to meeting the best practice principles around delivery, including joint planning, strong and clearly identified learning intentions, connections with the visiting school’s curriculum, and reinforcing the learning upon the students’ return to the classroom.
  • Any costs passed on to students should be kept to a minimum.

Staff experience and qualifications

Staff experience and qualifications

The Department’s outdoor education schools must ensure that the experience and qualifications of instructional staff are maintained in accordance with the relevant adventure activity guidelines. They must also follow the Department’s Excursions policy.


Reviewed 03 November 2021