Steps to take when concerned about progress of EAL pupils

Record reasons

Record clearly the reasons for the concern and who has the concerns.

A sample form for recording concerns - please note that this is just a suggested format for internal school use only. Please do not send the form to EMTAS.

Collect information

Collect background information on the pupil using an interpreter as required. This should include:

  • information on the child’s family
  • educational and linguistic background and attainment levels
  • relevant medical information
  • attendance record
  • community links. 
Collect evidence

Collect evidence/information on the following:

  • the steps that have already been taken in meeting the needs of the pupil, including teaching strategies and strategies used to support pupils learning EAL
  • the pupil’s strengths and areas in need of development
  • the pupil’s current levels of achievement in English Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. EMTAS recommends that you use an EAL-specific assessment tool such as the Bell Foundation’s EAL Assessment Framework to do this. Download the Bell Foundation framework for free.
  • the pupil’s rate of progress over time in English and other curriculum areas. Include information gained from using the Bell Foundation’s EAL Assessment Framework (or other EAL-specific framework) together with the perceptions of teaching staff, pupil, parents and any other agencies involved.
  • samples of work.
Consider proficiency

Consider the pupil’s level of proficiency in their first language. This should include literacy skills in first language for those pupils who have received schooling in their country of origin before moving to the U.K. Contact EMTAS if help is needed with this. Poorly developed speaking and listening skills in first language can be a sign of speech, language and communication difficulties or a developmental language delay.


Analyse the evidence/information collected.

Consider other factors

Carefully consider whether the pupil’s lack of progress can be explained by other factors. Consider whether

  • the pupil’s academic English is adequate to meet the language demands of the curriculum
  • the pupil has a problem with vision, hearing, physical development or general health
  • the pupil has a record of poor attendance and/or extended absences from school
  • the pupil has been receiving appropriate EAL support or whether it may have been stopped too soon
  • the pupil is demonstrating features of emotional and/or behavioural difficulties that interfere with his/her learning
  • the pupil has difficulty accessing the curriculum due to the lack of or insufficient EAL support
  • conversational fluency in English may have misled teachers into setting tasks and activities that are too academic for the pupil’s level of language proficiency
  • there are environmental factors relating to the learning environment that may be hindering learning – such as bullying or racism either inside or outside of school, culture shock, trauma related to experiences such as war, family separation, bereavement, problems in the home or difficult family circumstances.
Examine school practices

It is important to keep in mind that slower than expected rates of progress in bilingual pupils are not always as a result of problems within the child. Sometimes the school is not providing the necessary supportive inclusive environment, or sometimes the appropriate teaching or support strategies for EAL are not being used by staff.

Schools need to critically examine their own practice to ensure that the pupil is receiving appropriate support. Eg inappropriately placing newly arrived pupils in bottom sets can have an adverse effect on their progress.

Decide needs and provision

Make a decision about the pupil’s needs and what provision is appropriate. Either:

  • pupil assessed as having EAL needs only
  • no firm decision – investigate further, set new targets, monitor carefully, review and evaluate action taken. Consider asking for advice from EMTAS
  • pupil identified as having SEND – requires SEND intervention. Continued EAL support may also be necessary.