Department for Education withdraw requirement for schools to assess English language proficiency

Statement published following the Department for Education's decision to withdraw the requirement for schools to collect Proficiency in English data.

Following the new 'School Census 2018 to 2019' guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE) this morning which states that ‘The collection of data item <ProficiencyInEnglish> (N00196) is no longer required by the department and, as such, it is removed from the school census collection from spring 2019 onwards’, Diana Sutton, Director, The Bell Foundation has released the following statement:

“The Bell Foundation is disappointed to hear that the Department for Education has withdrawn the requirement for schools to report on the English language proficiency of learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL) from the January 2019 School Census onwards.  Schools Census data, published by the DfE today, shows that learners with EAL account for 21.2% of primary school pupils and 16.6% of secondary school pupils, a figure that continues to rise. Research commissioned by The Bell Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy and the Education Endowment Foundation demonstrates, it is ‘Proficiency in the English language [that] is the major factor influencing the degree of support an individual student will require, and schools will need to be able to assess this need accurately.’ (Strand, Malmberg and Hall (2015)). It is important that schools need more robust assessment of their EAL learners, not less.

The recent Education Policy Institute report, with The Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy, finds that EAL learners are an extremely heterogeneous group.  The level of English proficiency, the age at which they arrived in the English school system, their first language, and their prior educational and life experiences all differ greatly and all impact on their attainment. The Foundation highly recommends that schools continue to assess learners with EAL in order to achieve the best outcomes, even if they are not required to report on it.  Valid and reliable assessment allows teachers to establish the EAL learner’s current proficiency in English language alongside other background information to inform individually tailored targets and support strategies for teaching and learning, ultimately allowing learners to develop their language skills and fully access the curriculum.” Diana Sutton, Director, The Bell Foundation

The Bell Foundation’s EAL Assessment Framework for Schools and Support Strategies won the Local Innovation category at the British Council’s ELTons Awards 2018.  Schools can download the Framework for free.


For further information please contact Julia Shervington, Communications Manager, The Bell Foundation at or call 01223 275501.