Steve Biddulph, the world famous family therapist and author of Raising Boys, The Secret of Happy Children and Raising Girls, has a colour vision deficiency. This is what he told us when we asked him for his thoughts about colour blindness in school.
“When I was little I had problems seeing the blackboard. I just thought it was normal and only found I needed glasses when we went for our medicals to emigrate to Australia. It’s the same with colour blindness – which is almost 20 times more common in boys than girls. It’s really important to diagnose this common disorder and take steps to help children deal with it.”
Information and advice for teachers
This section is designed to provide information on the effects of colour blindness in school and is designed primarily for use by teachers.
Here is the statement from the Minister for Education, Nicky Morgan – December 2014
“Schools and colleges must make reasonable adjustments where a child has an impairment or disability that affects their ability to take part in everyday activities.
A child with colour blindness may be considered to have a special educational need, if it means they need additional support and resources from their school.”
For detailed information on how to identify and support your colour blind students download our Advice Sheet by clicking Detailed Advice Sheet for Teachers.
There are also several articles on colour blindness and education which have been published in various educational magazines. You can find a selection of these in the Press section of this website and you can read about our #1ineveryclassroom campaign by following the link for information and videos. For further TV coverage of this campaign see our YouTube Channel #1ineveryclassroom playlist.
Why is colour blindness a problem in education?
Colour is used extensively schools to provide contrast, create interest, for marking, as a means of classification, to highlight teaching points and to provide a stimulating environment. For the 450,000 or so colour blind children in UK schools today this creates many problems and can hinder their learning, solely because they aren’t able to distinguish accurately between many colours (not just reds and greens -that’s a myth)!
As most teachers have never been given any training in how to identify and support colour blind students, teachers may not be aware that statistically speaking, there will be at least one colour blind child in every (mixed, maintained sector) classroom and the proportion will be much higher in all-boys schools.
Children are no longer screened for colour blindness on school entry and our studies show that approximately 80% of colour blind students are undiagnosed when they enter secondary school (Year 7). See British Journal of School Nursing Article May 2015.
The ATL Union recently conducted a survey of its Members and discovered a huge lack of knowledge amongst teachers. For this reason ATL voted at their Spring Conference 2015 to undertake more research into colour blindness in schools and to provide advice for Members. For more information on the ATL study see our Press Release
Since colour blind children are often not supported in the classroom, from an early age and before they even begin to learn to read and write most feel inadequate, some lose confidence and struggle to cope, some are put off school and some become unwilling to learn and can develop into disruptive pupils.
To compound problems online teaching resources, school textbooks and teaching aids like Numicon, Unifix and are not designed with colour blind students in mind.
It is extremely important that children aren’t put off learning in their early years yet the early years’ classroom is rich in colour and colour is extensively used as a teaching aid and for descriptive purposes. Colour blind pupils can exhibit a wide range of negative responses from their first days at pre-school to reading, colouring, worksheets and social activities including loss of interest and withdrawal of participation. This is because they feel ‘stupid’ as they can’t understand why they aren’t able to do the same tasks with the ease of their peers.
Colour blind children are unlikely to realise that they have a colour vision deficiency because they don’t know when they are missing information. They see in focus and how they see is completely normal for them – they don’t realise other people see differently but they are very much aware that they have problems with tasks that other people find easy. As they aren’t able to vocalise their problem they hold back in lessons where colour is used.
Colour blind students must constantly work harder than their colour normal peers to compensate for their lack of colour vision. They have to constantly translate varying shades and tones of ‘murky green’ into the ‘colour’ names their colour normal classmates instinctively and automatically recognise.
As they progress through school and on to further education colour blind students don’t find life any easier – they need to be able to interpret graphs and charts, conduct science experiments, play competitive sport and all of these activities are very difficult if information is being conveyed by colour alone.
A more detailed description of the main areas of schooling where colour blind children have difficulty is available by following the links below or to the right of this page.