Bilingual Assessment Service (BAS)

You may be concerned about an English language learner (ELL) in your school who is not progressing as expected or shows signs of unusual behaviour.

If you haven't already considered ESOL-funded support for this student, please follow that process first.

If a student has been in the New Zealand school system for at least two terms and you have already provided extra support through ESOL funding and are still concerned about the student, you may be able to apply for a bilingual assessment.

A bilingual assessment will assess a student’s functioning and achievement in their first language, and collect information about social and emotional health, and other factors which might be affecting their performance at school.

The Bilingual Assessment Service (BAS) is delivered by the Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs). Over 75 RTLBs around the country are trained to do these assessments. They work with a bilingual support person, and will recommend ways to help support the student.

A bilingual assessment can distinguish between language learning needs, additional special learning needs and social/emotional needs, through dual assessment in the student's first language and English.

The BAS is funded by the Ministry of Education; there is no cost to your school.

Who qualifies for the BAS?

You may want to consider a BAS referral if you notice a cluster of the following factors. The student:

  • is not making expected gains in English language acquisition for their age and stage, even with ESOL-funded support
  • has an unclear educational history or there is evidence of disrupted or no schooling before coming to New Zealand 
  • has known physical and/or cognitive disabilities or limitations before coming to New Zealand, and is likely to have additional learning needs 
  • is withdrawn or seems depressed
  • participates to little or no extent in class
  • is disruptive or aggressive, or behaves erratically
  • does not complete any or much work.

Who doesn't qualify:

  • International fee-paying students – although schools may contract private services with costs being covered through fees 
  • New Zealand-born students - although they may be considered if they have spent long periods of time out of New Zealand.

Contact your local Refugee and Migrant Education Co-ordinator for more information. 

Referring a student to the BAS

To refer a student to the BAS you need to work through the RTLB service. Please complete and submit the Referral to Bilingual Assessment Service application form [PDF, 522 KB]. Note: save the form to your desktop before completing as this is not an online form and information will be lost.

You need to attach supporting evidence to the form. To gather this information you may need to observe the student over a period of time, noting your concerns about their learning and behaviour. This is the type of information you need to supply.

  • The student's education before arriving in New Zealand – how many years they attended, the type of school (rural, city) and whether they attended regularly.
  • Support already provided to the student – such as through ESOL funding, teacher's aide support, translation, counselling, individual learning plan, access to computer-based learning.
  • Social interaction – how the student interacts with their peers, both in and outside the classroom.
  • Physical disabilities or other factors that might affect the student’s learning.

Send the application to your liaison RTLB. They will check that all the required information is there and send it on to the RTLB bilingual assessor and/or cluster manager.

The RTLB bilingual assessor will arrange the bilingual assessment. This may be several weeks after you made the referral.

How the bilingual assessment works

The assessment is done with the student to:

  • gather basic information about them, their family and their experiences
  • assess their confidence in first language listening and speaking
  • assess levels of comprehension and production of written and spoken English text, and social and emotional state, including attitudes to self, school and circumstances.

The student is assessed using their first language for:

  • sound/letter knowledge
  • spoken vocabulary
  • retention of spoken language and structural strengths and gaps (ROL)
  • reading proficiency/competency – sound/word knowledge, basic word recognition, fluency, comprehension, recall, reread, writing proficiency/competency, written vocabulary, dictation, free writing, editing.

The student is also assessed in English to identify language strengths and gaps.

Possible results of a bilingual assessment

The assessment may indicate that the student:

  • is cognitively within the ‘norm’ for their age and progressing normally for a student acquiring a new language
  • is cognitively within the 'norm' for their age but has unexpected linguistic difficulties that are affecting learning progress
  • is cognitively within the ‘norm’ for their age but is experiencing cultural and social trauma or adjustment difficulties at school and/or at home that are affecting English acquisition and learning progress
  • is struggling and delayed cognitively and linguistically in their first language and cultural contexts, which is also affecting learning and English acquisition
  • has existing special needs, which affect all aspects of their learning and linguistic progress in current contexts
  • is failing to progress at a normal rate because they are receiving inadequate or inappropriate programming and support.

The RTLB assessor prepares a report that summarises the information gathered from the assessment and recommends ways to meet the student's learning needs. This is sent to your school via your liaison RTLB.

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