NALDIC’s Response to New Research on English Proficiency Assessment

Last month Oxford University, The Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy published a research study that used data collected as a part of the now rescinded requirement for school to assess and report English language proficiency in the school census. The report demonstrated the value of collecting these data on both micro and macro levels, for individual planning, informing school policy and setting national strategies. NALDIC’s response was published at the time of the release of the report in October and is reproduce below.

National data on English language proficiency helps to improve student outcomes. The DfE was wrong to scrap the requirement to assess and report it.

NALDIC’s response to Strand and Hessel (2018)

NALDIC welcomes the publication of a new report by the University of Oxford with The Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy, demonstrating the importance of Proficiency in English (PiE) assessment data for pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) (Strand and Hessel 2018). The report shows clearly that assessment of English language is crucial to understanding about EAL learners’ developmental trajectories, and therefore helps teachers and policy makers to plan appropriate provision for this significant group of learners. This study is notable in the U.K. context because it used assessment data based on the DfE’s recently scrapped Proficiency in English (PiE) stages. In the light of these findings, NALDIC renews its assertion that the DfE was wrong to remove the requirement to assess and report English proficiency for the school census, and urges reassessment of this decision as a matter of priority.

In the 2016/17 School Census, teachers were asked to rate their EAL pupils’ Proficiency in English (PiE) on a 5-point measure. In the Summer of 2018, the DfE quietly withdrew this statutory requirement. This removal occurred despite the concerted efforts of NALDIC and others to convince the DfE that this would be a retrograde step. The report, English as an Additional Language, proficiency in English and pupils’ educational achievement: An analysis of Local Authority data by Steve Strand and Annina Hessel of the University of Oxford published on 11 October, presents a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between EAL children’s English proficiency as rated by the PiE stages, and their educational achievement. It thus demonstrates empirically why removal of the requirement to report was indeed a backwards step. Assessment of English proficiency empowers teachers to understand, and therefore to better meet, the learning needs of their EAL learners. These data allow policy makers to identify trends and therefore to target resources, training, and support more effectively.

The Strand and Hessel report serves as an impetus for NALDIC to re-double its efforts to educate the DfE about the potential for information captured by the PiE stages to address important questions about EAL pupils’ educational attainment. As Strand and Hessel note, there remain numerous unanswered questions, and specifically questions we cannot even address without information about children’s English proficiency. NALDIC will continue to advocate for the return of the requirement to report PiE stages, and encourages schools to continue using them despite changes to DfE policy. NALDIC will also continue to offer support and guidance to teachers and policy makers on how to use this information to guide practice, policy and research. The Strand and Hessel report has unambiguously demonstrated the importance of assessing and reporting English proficiency for these purposes.

17th October 2018

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