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Did you know there is probably one colour blind child in every class in your school, or that you may have had a colour blind child in every class you have ever taught?

One of the very first things young children are taught the colours of the world around them. They learn that grass is green and the sky is blue, but if the colours don’t appear the same for all learners, that’s a problem for you as well as your colour blind pupils.

Colour blindness affects 1 in 12 boys (8%) and 1 in 200 girls. There are approximately 3 million colour blind people in the UK, and 450,000 are school children – that’s one in every classroom! In the September 2021 intake in UK schools approximately 27,000 colour blind pupils started school.


Normal Vision

play - deuteranopia


For colour normal students and teachers colour is an important and useful tool, but for colour blind learners it can cause big challenges – undermining confidence and their ability to learn, encouraging basic errors in the simplest work, making them slower to follow instructions and causing frustration and even anger.

When children start school they are asked to pick up the ‘green’ brick and describe the big ‘pink’ pig. They are asked to fill in colouring sheets and sing songs about the colours of the rainbow but if children don’t understand some of what their teachers are saying, they can’t learn to full capacity. This is a problem that can not only undermine their confidence but provide a faulty foundation for future learning.

Colour blind children can learn to identify colours through their hue and saturation but they still can’t actually see what everyone else sees. This means that colour blind pupils in EYFS at nursery or entering school in Reception must learn just what they are told is the colour of each everyday object they come across and try to memorise it. They are likely to focus on this ahead of other learning to ensure they don’t embarrass themselves in front of their new classmates.

To get a brief insight into how it feels to be a colour blind child starting out in primary school, also watch our #1ineveryclassroom cloud animation commissioned by 6 year old Marcus (he also sings the words).

We offer training sessions for teachers in Early Years’ settings and Primary schools in how to identify and support colour blind pupils. For more information see our Services for Schools  and Resources for Schools.

primary school

Normal Vision

primary school - deuteranopia


How to spot your colour blind learners

Whilst like all great teachers you will be keen to be able to identify and support your colour blind learners, you will have been thwarted. It’s unlikely you’ll have had any teacher training in CVD (colour vision deficiency), the Department for Education provides no information and advice, colour vision screening at school entry has been phased out (see article from the British Journal of School Nursing May 2015) and colour vision testing does not form part of the NHS eye test for children. All of this results in approximately 80% of CVD students being undiagnosed when they enter secondary school.

Luckily there are some classic signs to help you spot your colour blind students so we have listed a few here for you.

EYFS and Key Stage 1

  • inappropriate use of colour – commonly purple skies, yellow/green/grey faces, red leaves, brown grass etc
  • reluctance to help when tidying up if boxes are colour coded
  • disruptive behaviour/unwillingness/inability to play board games, matching games, some memory games, sequencing, games in PE
  • copying other children in colour situations where the child might consistently hold back and watch so he can borrow a colour from a friend routinely after the friend has used it, then copy exactly where that colour went
  • unexpected errors in worksheets which rely on colour

Colour blind learners can sometimes appear slow, distracted or disruptive – this may be because they need extra time to process information and can result in them missing some teaching points because they are still trying to understand the previous one.

In Key Stage 2 also look out for

  • inappropriate colour choices when completing worksheets, drawings and diagrams e.g. purple rivers/sky
  • presentation of work which seems ‘boring’ and lacking in colour formatting
  • unexpectedly poor results from worksheets or online homework programmes
  • holding back in sports e.g. when (i) team colours clash (ii) balls, beanbags, training cones, sports hall line markings etc. ‘disappear’ against their background (See #PrimaryColours for more information and factsheets).
  • reluctance to speak in discussions where colour is a main element e.g. maps in Geography, colour propaganda in History etc.
  • holding back in (i) Science – practicals/diagrams and (ii) History and Geography due to difficulty interpreting information in coloured pie/bar/line graphs
  • mistakes in use of colour names in language lessons

If you think a pupil might be colour blind, refer parents to an optometrist for a colour vision test.

How might you be inadvertently making life difficult for your colour blind pupils?

Do you

  • use a traffic light system for marking or for the children to indicate how difficult they thinks tasks are?
  • place pots of mixed unlabelled coloured pencil crayons on tables for groups of children to use together?
  • have coloured labels on library books to indicate different reading levels?
  • use games e.g. counting games with coloured counters?
  • use worksheets/software which rely on colour e.g. for maths – ‘write the number of red balls as a fraction’?
  • use books which highlight familiar sounds using colours?
  • highlight teaching points in red and green on the white board?

All of these common classroom practices can make school life difficult for colour blind children. Using colour blind vision simulations, our training sessions for teachers can demonstrate how all of the above common teaching techniques can be create challenges and have an impact upon how much information some learners are able to glean from some of your lessons.

Consider too how you use common educational products such as Unifix and Numicon and how you might help your colour blind student use these tools – perhaps you can refer to coloured resources using other descriptions instead e.g.shapes?


Normal Vision

Unifix deuteranopia


As a primary school teacher you’ll probably use the ‘traffic light’ system for marking, to help you understand how difficult your pupils might find different worksheets or to indicate expectations of good and not-so-good behaviour. However, for a traffic light system to be effective it relies upon all the children being able to tell the difference between red, green and orange.  Simple techniques can hep you to continue using colour for the benefit of your learners with normal colour vision whilst at the same time also ensuring information is equally accessible to colour blind learners.

A colour blind student won’t always be able to complete worksheets, give you feedback or follow your marking as they are unlikely to be able to see a difference between these colours.

coloured pencils

Normal Vision

coloured pencils - deuteranopia


This means your colour blind learners will need to ask for confirmation from someone else. Most children won’t want to draw attention to themselves, so if they don’t have the correct colour name marked on their pencil crayons or you don’t use a secondary label with your RAG marking system you won’t be able to have effective communication with your colour blind students.

For more information, arrange for a representative of Colour Blind Awareness to visit your setting and demonstrate what your own school and classroom look like to your colour blind students. You’ll also be able to experience first-hand how you might cope if you were colour blind.

In addition to our #1ineveryclassroom videos, pre-school teachers and infant teachers may want to take a look at the Chuggington episode which is good at demonstrating to colour blind children, their siblings and peers the problems of being colour blind. You, your students, your colleagues and all your learners might also be interested in the#1ineveryclassroom video playlist on our YouTube channel, especially the Newsround item.