Many of you may have heard about the recent change for Proficiency codes, with DfE no longer requiring schools to make pupils take an EAL assessment and to report on this data. We caught up with Terri Cawser, Assistant Service Lead at Pupil & School Support (Birmingham Local Authority) to ask for her insight into what the new changes meant for schools.
It was announced in June, that there is no longer a requirement for schools to report on the level of proficiency in English of pupils for whom English is not their first language. This was a measure first introduced as a requirement of the school census in 2016 and, at the time, was billed as a way to for the DfE to use data to inform policy on this high needs group; to support schools to distinguish between EAL pupils who lack a basic command of the English language and those who are bilingual; and to allow the DfE to use this data, along with attainment and destination data to measure whether the individual pupils or education settings they attend, face additional educational challenges. It contained criteria on a 5 point scale ranging from A. New to English through B. Early Acquisition, C. Developing Competence, D. Competent and finally E. Fluent.
For many schools and settings the introduction of this measure was welcomed. It finally allowed them to clearly demonstrate and celebrate the range of bilingual learners within their setting. It also allowed them to really demonstrate the different levels of EAL support and provision that needed to be in place for different groups of bilingual learners.
This criteria also made the answer to the question “how long is a pupil EAL for?” very clear – forever!
The removal of the need to report on the proficiency in English of a pupil should not stop schools and settings from assessing this.
There is still a need to understand the progress of bilingual learners within a school or setting. There remains the need to ensure that provision is carefully matched to the needs of all individual learners. There continues to be a need to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding of teachers on how to assess and teach pupils with differing levels of proficiency in English in order to achieve the best outcomes. Just because teachers don’t have to report pupils’ English proficiency anymore, doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be an EAL assessment anymore.
The only real change that the removal of the requirement within the school census should have is the purpose of the EAL assessment.
No longer is the purpose of an EAL assessment linked to the need to report the information. The focus now should return to being what it always should have been – assessment to inform provision and achieve the best outcomes for the children and young people in our schools and settings for whom English is an additional language.
We’d like to thank Terri Cawser for supplying the text for this blog! Terri Cawser is one of the Assistant Service Leads at Pupil and School Support in Birmingham, a team of 40 teachers who support all mainstream maintained, free schools and academies in the local authority. As well as being responsible for service development at PSS she also leads on EAL for the service. Terri has spent her whole teaching career working in inner city Birmingham schools and has seen the changing profile of EAL first hand providing her with the knowledge and experience to support schools in meeting the needs of their EAL pupils.
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