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Supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) at transition to school - Assessment for Learning - Initial assessment at school

​Initial assessment provides detailed information about each child’s educational background, experiences and level of proficiency in English in order to provide appropriate programs and support to the child.

The initial assessment is complemented by information gathered from the transition statements provided by the early childhood service.

Home language assessment

Wherever possible, the initial assessment should also include a home language assessment. The information can be gathered informally over several weeks through observation of the children as they play and interact with others in the classroom.

Schools use a socio-linguistic profile and conduct a family interview with an interpreter. At these early stages of development these need to be teacher- or MEA-directed tasks and also need to have an aspect of parent interview to elicit relevant contextual information. For example:

  • Which language is used for what purpose?
  • When the child goes shopping who do they go with? Which language is used? By whom?
  • What does the child know how to say or do in that language (e.g. count, use money, interact with shopkeeper)?

English language assessment in schools

Teachers in the early years of school assess children’s abilities in reading, writing, listening and speaking in English. This is carried out in a one-on-one interview between the teacher and the child.

For further information, visit English Online Interview.

Allow time for children to settle in

Testing children in the early weeks of school does not always provide a real indication of their ability.

Some children require more time to settle in and often feel insecure in their new surroundings. This may incline the teacher to assume that the child has little or no understanding of English when, in fact, their responses to testing stems from insecurity, fear of failure, inadequate understanding of the task, or lack of exposure to the new language.

Reverting to silence at school

It is not unusual for a child who is shy and who may have experienced a silent period at preschool, to once again revert to silence when starting school. This is a coping mechanism for children who are timid and reluctant to use English even if they understand and can speak some English.

The apparent regression to an earlier stage is most likely due to differences between the early childhood environment and the school setting, to loss of friends, and to lack of familiarity with school routines.

Given time and support, this silent period does not last long and eventually the learner gains confidence, makes new friends and becomes familiar with the school environment and teachers. Children then attempt English conversations.

It is important to recognise that learning still continues even though the learner does not take an active part or contribute with spoken English.