Google Analytics

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Not Seeing Pink

In the news this week, a discussion about teachers’ use of multicolour marking, with a flurry of fractious articles about the madness of systems employing up to six different pens or highlighters, sparked off by the current Secretary of State for Education, the fatuous Nicky Morgan, who in decrying these methods said something sensible just for once.

Some teachers have revealed they are barred from marking in red and must now instead use pink, a much gentler colour supposedly less likely to give children a sense of failure. One teacher said he was required to give feedback by drawing pink boxes which had to contain positive encouragement in green and progressive guidance in pink. Others described so called “deep” or “rainbow” marking systems employing coloured pens and highlighters, in which yellow, pink, green, orange, blue and purple each have a precise function in sustaining a dialogue of feedback and response between marker and learner. If you are sufficiently self-flagellating to want to see the intricacy of one such scheme (or perhaps an ambitious teacher seeking advancement through the micro-management of others’ working practices), you can download this fourteen page document from Thameside with which, one presumes, all teachers in the school must be familiar and fluent.

Well, I am no better qualified than Ms Morgan to pass an opinion on what would seem to be an onerous detraction from the real task in hand, instigated purely to impress OFSTED, but I would like to make one contribution.

I am reminded of a member of the administrative staff in my last job, who helpfully went through lengthy sets of minutes and specification documents highlighting in pink all the points that required my attention. I had no idea at all she was doing this until one day, after around three years, I missed something important.

You see, I can’t see pink highlighting. Not for me the glorious kaleidoscope of autumn colours: the glow of rowan berries in the late evening sun. Red and green look nearly the same. Orange is bright green (or should that be red?). And purple just looks blue.

Apparently, tyrannical technicolour marking prevails over inclusivity.


  1. That is the problem with inspection. Ofsted visits the first school and finds something they like. They visit the second school and recommend that they implement the good practice from the first school. They find something they like at the second school and then visit the third school where they recommend implementing the things they liked at both the first and second schools. They find something they like at the third school and then go on to a fourth and so on and so on. Quite quickly the inspection regime becomes an onerous time consuming burden which no one can stop. This happened in Local Government with the Audit Commission and the only way to stop it was to eventually close it down!

    1. Devising and implementing these irritating practices is also a good career move. Rather than allowing people to use their professional judgement in their jobs, you become a leader of improvement, innovation and change (change is always good!), resulting in promotion to tell other people what to do rather than having to do it yourself. I really do recommend taking a look at the Thameside document referred to above before is disappears up its own backside. How much lost teaching time did it take to put together? In HE I saw this kind of thing time and time again, and then, several years later, along came later dynamic innovators who advanced their careers by improving things back to how they had been before.


I welcome comments and hope to respond within a day or two, but vision issues are making this increasingly difficult. Please note: comments on posts over a month old will not appear until they have been moderated.