As of autumn 2016, UK schools are required to test and collect the English language proficiency levels of their EAL pupils for the school census (DfE 2016). As research on EAL and educational achievement outlines, the current EAL flag gives limited indication of a child’s proficiency in English and does not distinguish, for example, between pupils who lack a basic command of the English language and those who are bilingual and have mastered English sufficiently to access the curriculum.
Schools in England will now follow a five-point Proficiency in English scale which is currently used in Wales, however, there remains no one tool or recommended framework for assessing an EAL learner’s proficiency in the English language when they arrive at a new school or as they progress through the school. In addition, there is a lack of time and resource within UK schools but also a more general lack of EAL assessment expertise which needs to be addressed.
Evidence based approach
Research by the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University on School Approaches to the Education of EAL Students made a series of recommendations regarding assessment which can be found in the report’s Executive Summary. These findings have informed The Bell Foundation’s Assessment project, which has developed an EAL Assessment Framework and tool for use in UK schools.