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Are the days of the red pen numbered?

03 July 2015 By Sherie Hardy, Assistant Buyer - Stationery

Red Cross

The red pen is facing a number of competitors in the marker’s stationery drawer. Does this mean its days as the favourite colour for marking work are about to come to an end?

Red is often perceived as a colour of negativity. Therefore, it’s no wonder that education professionals have questioned the psychology of its use in marking work. Can it really be used to express positive and encouraging views, or are pupils just demotivated at the sight of it?

When I was at school, red was the only colour of choice. What’s more, there wasn’t any specific guidance on colour in marking work. After speaking with a number of people in teaching, I’ve discovered the universal trend seemed to be that teachers would use red whilst students were encouraged to mark any comments in blue.

However in recent years a new initiative has emerged. This has seen an increasing number of alternative colours introduced into the mix under something called the ‘rainbow marking scheme’. 

Developed to give students a more positive and constructive view of feedback, the wider colour choice aims to help pupils identify progress and achievement quickly. The scheme also encourages the involvement of pupils in the feedback process, whereby they use the use the range of colours to assess their own work. 

For stationery lovers out there this is great news, as it means using lots of different items including rainbow pens, highlighters, stamps and stickers!

However, as before, there doesn’t seem to be any clear guidance on which colours to use and why. Some schools have developed their own versions of the scheme to give some consistency about what the colours mean. Whilst there are a number of colours (and names for them!) now out there being used, a few of the key replacements for red include: 

Rainbow Marking Scheme Colours

As it’s non-compulsory, the scheme has divided views in the teaching profession. Some have embraced the wider colour choice, whilst others have opted to continue using the traditional red pen, not convinced that colour has such a dramatic effect. After all, in some cultures, red is a colour associated with positivity and luck. 

So regardless of the perceived competition, it looks like ‘Good Old Red’ (as we like to call it!) may continue to be around for a little while yet…

Are you a champion of rainbow or red? Comment below to tell us why.

Categories: Education

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