Bilingual assessment service

Learn about the bilingual assessment service and how to get its assistance.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Principals and tumuaki
  • Educators, teachers and kaiako
  • ESOL staff
  • Learning support coordinators and SENCOs
  • RTLBs
  • Boards
  • Parents, caregivers and whānau

About the bilingual assessment service

If you have an English language learner (ELL) who has been in the school system for at least 2 terms with extra support through ESOL funding and is still not making progress, one of your next steps might be to contact the bilingual assessment service.

A bilingual assessment adds to your understanding of a student’s functioning and achievement in their first language. It collects information about what might be impacting on learning (for example, social and emotional health).

Over 75 Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) around the country are trained to do these assessments. They each work with a bilingual support person to recommend ways to help support students.

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

The bilingual assessment service is funded by the Ministry of Education.

There is no cost to your school.

But before accessing the bilingual assessment service (BAS), consider ESOL funding and follow that process.

ESOL funding

Who qualifies for the service?

A BAS referral may be considered if you notice a cluster of the following factors.

The student:

  • is not making expected gains in English language acquisition even with ESOL-funded support
  • has an unclear educational history or there is evidence of disrupted or no schooling before coming to New Zealand
  • is withdrawn or seems depressed
  • participates to little or no extent in class
  • is disruptive, aggressive or behaves erratically
  • does not complete any or much work.

Who does not 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.
  • English language learners where the history of needs and support is already understood (so a BAS is not needed to inform teaching and support approaches).

How to refer a student to the BAS

You make a request for a bilingual assessment through the RTLB service by completing and submitting the referral to BAS application form [PDF, 522 KB].

Attach supporting evidence to this form. To gather this information, you may need to observe the student over a period of time and note your concerns about their learning and behaviour.

The types of information the RTLB service would like to receive are:

  • 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. For example, 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.

Once approved by the RTLB cluster and the Ministry ESOL Refugee and Migrant team, 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 involves the student and whānau to:

  • gather basic information about them, their family and their experiences
  • understand their confidence in first language
  • understand comprehension and production of written and spoken English text
  • understand social and emotional state, including attitudes.

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.

Possible results of a bilingual assessment

The assessment may indicate that the student:

  • is progressing normally for a student acquiring a new language
  • has unexpected linguistic difficulties that are affecting learning progress
  • is experiencing cultural and social trauma or adjustment difficulties at school and/or at home that are affecting English acquisition and learning progress
  • has needs in their first language and cultural contexts, which also affect learning and English acquisition
  • has existing delay or disability  which affect all aspects of their  learning including  linguistic progress in their current contexts
  • has not received adequate or appropriate 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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