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Teachers Told Not To Correct Student Work With Red Pen

A school in Harrow in north west London has angered teachers and MPs by telling staff not to use red ink when marking homework

A ruling to prevent teachers from marking in red pen sounds extreme, but since when is protecting the emotional state of ones students extreme?

Whilst I mark in red, I also realise that splashing red across the page can be harmful to a child’s confidence. After all, the point of corrections is to help the student become aware of a mistake and help them to overcome the skill error, not to reinforce weakness or make them feel inferior.

That is why I believe in marking work in front of the child. If something they have written doesn’t make sense, get them to read it over to you and work with them in correcting the error. If there is a spelling mistake, sound out the word together and assist in respelling the word correctly. This cooperative approach to correcting work demonstrates to the student that the mistakes are easily corrected and have no bearing on the student’s ability. Instead of seeing red and feeling despondent, the student should feel empowered and become more aware with the processes for troubleshooting and self-correcting.

I don’t see the banning of the red correction pen sufficient in itself, but I certainly wouldn’t rubbish it as political correctness gone wrong:

Teachers have been told not to use red link to mark homework to avoid upsetting pupils.

The edict has been condemned as ‘absolutely political correctness gone wild’ which risks leaving students in the dark about where they have gone wrong.

Ministers have been forced to distance themselves from the bizarre policy, insisting no government rules exist on what colour pens teachers use.

The policy would appear to be at odds with the back to basics approach of Education Secretary Michael Gove who has insisted teachers must mark pupils down for poor spelling and grammar.

He has warned that in the past too little has been done to focus on core skills to ensure young people are confident in key writing skills.

Tory MP Bob Blackman revealed his anger after being told a secondary school in his Harrow East constituency had banned teachers from using red ink.

He told MailOnline: ‘A teacher contacted me and said I cannot believe I have been instructed by my head to mark children’s homework in particular colours and not to use certain colours.

‘It is all about not wanting to discourage youngsters if their work is marked wrong.

‘It sounds to me like some petty edict which is nonsense. It is absolutely political correctness gone wild.

‘My take on all this is to say children need to understand the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.’

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2 Responses to “Teachers Told Not To Correct Student Work With Red Pen”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    If the purpose in marking your students’ work is to help them to learn I believe it is sufficient to mark only that which is correct with a tick. To mark incorrect examples with a cross has an implication of finality, which is all very well if your purpose is to sort and to grade. By ticking the correct examples and returning the work, perhaps with a few oral comments is to affirm to the student his ability to perform the skill in some instances and to provide him with the opportunity to complete the work correctly. The student might get 20 out of 40 sums right. Having marked the work by ticking correct examples it may be possible for the teacher to see a pattern to the errors indicating a need for a further teaching point, thus enabling the student to return to the work with increased confidence.

    The colour of ink used also carries a message. Red is associated with stopping, while green carries the message that it is safe to proceed. Personally I mark work in whatever colour I have to hand but prefer only to tick that which is correct giving the child the permission to proceed until she is able to complete the whole exercise correctly.

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