Bilingual Assessment Service (BAS)

You may be concerned about an English language Learner (ELL) in your school who is not progressing as expected. If a student has been in the school system for two terms, with extra support through ESOL funding and still does not progress, you may be able to apply for the Bilingual Assessment Service (BAS).

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako
  • ESOL Staff
  • Learning Support Coordinators and SENCOs
  • RTLBs
  • Boards
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Learn about the Bilingual Assessment Service and how to obtain its assistance.

About the bilingual assessment service (BAS)

Before accessing the BAS, consider ESOL funding and follow that process.

A bilingual assessment evaluates a student’s functioning and achievement in their first language and collects information which might be affecting the child’s performances at school (for example: social and emotional health).

  • Over 75 Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (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 students.
  • 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?

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 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  • is withdrawn or seems depressed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 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.

Referring a student to the BAS

To refer a student to the BAS, you need to work through the RTLB service.

You need to 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.

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
  • assess their 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.

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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