Revised methodology for the English language proficiency (ELP) funding model

This report was originally published 15 October 2021.

Image: Revised methodology for the ELP funding model

Summary

Students who are learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) need support to develop proficiency in academic and conversational English in order to access the school curriculum and engage effectively in learning. The equity loading for English language proficiency (ELP) provides schools with a teaching allocation (full-time equivalent) and/or flexible funding to provide specialist English language support to meet the needs of these students.

EAL/D students are a diverse cohort. They may enrol in school at any time and in any scholastic year. They may be Australian or overseas born and have varying levels of proficiency in English, from very limited to more developed English language skills. On average, it takes EAL/D students 5 to 7 years with specialist EAL/D teaching support to master the academic English language required for success at school. EAL/D students from refugee backgrounds who have experienced trauma and interrupted or limited prior schooling may take up to 11 years to do so. For this reason, and in recognition of the importance of the development of academic English language proficiency in the achievement of successful schooling outcomes, ELP equity loading resources are available to support students as long as they are assessed as learning English at any one of the 4 phases of English language proficiency.

Generally speaking, the lower the English language level proficiency of an EAL/D student and the older they are at the time of enrolment in an Australian school, the greater the risk they will not develop sufficient English proficiency to succeed at school. This is due to the length of time it takes for students to acquire academic English and the increasing English language demands of the curriculum as students move through scholastic years and stages of learning into more specialised courses of study. Students from refugee backgrounds, in particular those with low levels of English language proficiency and who first enrol in the higher scholastic years, are at greater risk of not developing sufficient academic English by the time they complete their schooling. This may be due to previous experiences such as trauma and interrupted schooling.

The current methodology used to allocate ELP is weighted in line with EAL/D students’ needs. The current model takes into account each student’s English language proficiency level, length of time (LoT) in an Australian school and refugee status, and aggregates this data across all students in the school to derive the total funding amount for each school. The English language proficiency levels used to determine funding are those assessed by teachers using the national EAL/D learning progression – Beginning (lowest language proficiency phase); Emerging; Developing; or Consolidating (highest language proficiency phase) – and are reported through the annual EAL/D census. The 4 phases in the EAL/D learning progression represent broad levels of ELP used for the purposes of system identification and reporting of EAL/D learners.

The current methodology was developed in 2014. It applies an 8:4:2:1 weighting for students at the Beginning, Emerging, Developing and Consolidating phases respectively, based on educational disadvantage determined through an analysis of 2014 NAPLAN results. It also applies higher weightings for refugee students at 1.3:1 (refugee to non-refugee students) and moderates needs by a student’s LoT calculated as 1 divided by the number of years a student is enrolled in Australian schools. The LoT moderation is applied multiplicatively with ELP phase and refugee status weightings to derive the final weighting for each student.

This methodology was reviewed over 2019 and 2020 to ensure that the ELP was being allocated as equitably as possible to best meet the needs of EAL/D students at each ELP phase and stage of learning. The review considered additional data to test if the patterns of relative disadvantage across ELP phases still hold true as well as multiple years of ELP phase data across 4 language modes (listening, speaking, reading and writing) to estimate the rates of students’ English language acquisition and relative educational disadvantage. It also analysed evidence to suggest that the current LoT moderation was adversely impacting on the equitable distribution of funding across scholastic years and phases.

The review confirmed that, in general, more recent arrivals had a greater level of educational disadvantage compared with students at the same grade, same ELP phase and same refugee status who had been in Australian schools for longer. However, the review found no evidence that supported either the magnitude of the current LoT moderation or how it is applied. It found that the current LoT moderation does not consider the positive relationship between scholastic grade and LoT resulting in a steep decline in weighting from primary to secondary years. This means that students in higher grades are currently receiving much lower levels of funding than those in lower grades even if they have been assessed at the same ELP phase and come from similar backgrounds.

The steepness in the decline of LoT weighting from Kindergarten and Year 1 to Year 2, and beyond, is currently resulting in about half of the total ELP funding being allocated to support EAL/D students in Kindergarten and Year 1 even though they only comprise about 25% of the total EAL/D student population. In addition, since Beginning students on average are enrolled in Australian schools for fewer years than their counterparts, EAL/D students at the Beginning phase are currently receiving about 40% of the total ELP funding despite comprising only 10% of the total EAL/D population.

In order to more accurately estimate the educational risks of EAL/D students, the review confirmed the need for:

  • an updated evidence base for the relativity of funding across the 4 ELP phases using the past 6 years of data
  • consideration of a new risk factor on the rate of progress for different types of EAL/D students
  • the collection of evidence for a new way of moderation for more recent arrivals.

The review proposes new methodology based on available data which takes into account 2 risk factors – the risk of an EAL/D student achieving at or below National Minimum Standard (NMS) in NAPLAN reading or writing tests; and the risk of not progressing to or beyond the Consolidating phase (ELP phase).

Using this evidence base, new and more nuanced weightings have been developed for 3 key components of the ELP funding model:

  • ELP phase by scholastic year
  • refugee status
  • length of time enrolled in Australian schools relative to that expected of the student’s grade.

These weightings aim to deliver more equitable and transparent distribution of ELP funding across schools and different EAL/D student groups.

It should be noted that the review also revealed that more investigation into the best model of support for EAL/D students in schools for specific purposes (SSPs) was required. Further investigation into the best ways to support EAL/D students with special needs is being undertaken.

Implications for schools

The results of this review may also be used to inform school-based decisions about the targeted use of funds to support EAL/D students.

Using the findings of this review, schools may decide to prioritise resources for EAL/D students who are at the highest risk of not meeting NAPLAN minimum standards and not progressing to the Consolidating phase of English language proficiency. This review has identified that in general, these students were those who were in the early phases of English language proficiency who enrolled in an Australian school later than their age-equivalent cohort. Students with the highest risk were newly arrived older students in the higher grades. In addition, these risks were amplified for students from refugee backgrounds

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