Log in

Top Tips for School Leaders

Top Tips for School Leaders 

1. Develop an ESOL policy and review it regularly.

This document will set the direction and tone for the school-wide provision of support for English language learners (ELLs). See the example school policy written by Gaylene Price which models an example of a school ESOL policy. It contains a number of areas that a school should consider when writing a school policy document and the type of language which should be used. A school policy is the means by which a school indicates an intention to act in certain ways. It is based on the beliefs and values that are important to the community of the school. By agreeing on a policy and documenting it, a school indicates a willingness to identify certain needs and allocate certain resources to ensure that those needs are met.

Her policy can be found in the ESOL online, Getting Started section under Question 3  What can school leaders do to support English language learners?

2. Have specific, measurable goals and achievement targets for ELLs in your annual school plan.

3. Track and report student English Language learning progress

Track and report student progress on The English Language Learning Progressions. Primary schools will also report in relation to the reading, writing and mathematics National Standards. This information should be reported on to the Board of Trustees and to the MOE. Schools should also differentiate where possible, progress for different ethnic groups to ensure that all ELLs in your school are experiencing success. (You could also consider for migrant, refugee or international student sub- groups). Progress should be monitored regularly each six months. Ensure the same assessments are repeated to track progress over time. The data collected should be analysed and summarised. The information, as well as observations of the student should be used to make an ‘overall teacher judgment’ and record the student’s ‘best fit’ stage of English language on The English Language Learning Progressions. A Record of Progress should be kept which outlines the cumulative data across the student’s time at school as an ESOL funded student.  The aim is to ensure that every student is making accelerated language progress and is on track to catch-up with their cohort peers. Students should be continued to be monitored once they no longer receive ESOL funding to ensure that they continue to make progress. Report to parents regularly on the student’s language progress as well as in each curriculum learning area. If an ELL is not making expected progress then investigate whether there is an additional learning need. A first language assessment may be required. See MOE Bilingual assessment service.

4. Develop ESOL support programmes as necessary

Develop ESOL support programmes as necessary to ensure student achievement which are linked as closely as possible to the mainstream classroom programmes. An appropriate ESOL support programme will be developed by the ESOL leader in consultation with classroom teachers.

The English for Speakers of Other Languages folder contains the following handbooks which give advice on appropriate programmes and school support:

  • Refugee handbook for schools
  • Effective provision for international students
  • NESB Students: A Handbook for Schools
  • Progress Assessment Guidelines

See MOE ESOL funding page for guidance on applying for MOE ESOL funding and the current funding levels.

The ELLP professional support Module 6 – Using ELLP to support funding applications supports leaders and teachers in making a funding application.

5. Whenever possible employ fully registered teachers

Whenever possible employ fully registered teachers who also have TESOL qualifications to teach your ESOL support programmes for English language learners who qualify for MOE ESOL funding. If this is not possible then provide ESOL training for teacher aides working with ELLs. It is the best practice that any student who is far enough behind their age group peers that they need to participate in an accelerated learning programme, should be taught by the best-qualified teacher available. This includes English language support. Ideally anyone teaching a language support programme would be a qualified teacher and also have some form of TESOL qualification. There is a wide range of TESSOL qualifications available so when employing teachers please make sure you research the difference in their qualifications. If no ESOL qualified teacher is available then encourage the teacher employed in the ESOL specialist role to apply for a TESOL scholarship.  

If you do not have sufficient funding to support a fully qualified teacher and make the decision to use teacher aides then help them to receive appropriate ESOL training. The Ministry provides several teacher aide training programmes see Working with English Language Learners Handbook and DVD a 10-module professional development programme for teacher aides and bilingual tutors. Value your ESOL staff and provide sufficient resourcing and a suitable teaching environment for them to work.

6. Set expectations

Set an expectation that all classroom teachers will identify and state the key vocabulary and language structures to scaffold the teaching of all students, including new learners of English across all curriculum learning areas.

In all learning areas, ELLs should be working at an age appropriate curriculum level. Students from diverse language backgrounds need many and varied opportunities to use their new language (English) and link to their prior knowledge in small groups and in meaningful situations according to their needs. Tasks will need to be differentiated and learners scaffolded to success.  Collaborative learning tasks provide greater opportunities for ELLs to use English across all curriculum learning areas. Teachers should incorporate the ESOL principles and ESOL learning strategies into their planning and teaching programme. Provide opportunities for regular ESOL Professional Development for all staff as required.

See also: MOE ESOL resources such as Supporting English Language Learners in Primary Schools (SELLIPS)English language Intensive programme (ELIP) and the Making Language and Learning Work DVDs.

7. Value all languages and cultures 

The school will place equal importance on each child's home languages and cultural backgrounds so that children have a supportive and effective environment in which to learn. Teachers should plan to teach using a culturally responsive approach so students can build upon what they already know and bring to the classroom. This way everyone can contribute their own ideas and experiences to the learning and benefit from learning from others.  

The school physical environment should reflect a wide variety of cultures (bilingual labelling of displays, art displays from different cultures, children's own publications, resources, bilingual books inthe school library etc.)

ELLs need to be secure in using their first language(s) (L1) as it provides the pegs to hang the second language onto. Research has also shown the benefits of being bilingual. In any school situation the use of a student’s home language should be encouraged and fostered within classrooms and across the school. Support should also be provided to help students to continue to develop their first language literacy. Consider the provision of bilingual teacher aides and access to L1 tuition being available at school.

As necessary the school should provide interpreters when communicating with parents (and children) especially at critical times such as enrolment, parent interviews etc.

8. Develop robust enrolment procedures

Develop enrolment procedures which are clear about what information is required for each of these categories of students.

  • The enrolment process for students with permanent residence
  • The enrolment process for students who have refugee status
  • The enrolment process for students whose parents have work permits
  • The enrolment process for non-resident fee-paying students (Refer to Code of Practice for international students)

Ensure that the enrolment form has noted the ethnicity and languages spoken at home. Encourage the family to bring their own interpreter if necessary or arrange for an interpreter to be present.

Gaylene Price has provided clear information on the type of procedures and information required in this document.   

9. Develop Home-school-partnerships

Develop Home-school-partnerships (HSP) with your diverse community groups and ensure that two-way learning is taking place.

The research is clear that HSPs make a difference to student learning. Connecting with school is often more difficult for parents and families who speak a language other than English.  Also the culture of school in New Zealand might be very different from what they are familiar with. Schools need to reach out and help these families to build connect and to know how they can best support their child’s learning at home. Schools also need to learn from parents about the students home literacy practices, their culture and way of doing things.

The NZC Community Engagement page has information about developing an HSP.  

There are translated booklets and leaflets available for talking to parents about National Standards. See Supporting your child’s learning and How well is my child doing? 

The MOE also has a number of multilingual notices and forms that your school can use to communicate more effectively with the families of English language learners

10. Encourage and support students and their families to access continuous learning

Encourage and support students and their families to access continuous learning via the use of technology /ICT and community resources.

Often new migrants are highly motivated to learn English and parents want their children to succeed and do well. Schools should assist new learners of English and their families to access good English language and literacy material online. It is good practice to suggest suitable learning sites and resources and check-up on what they are doing online. There are many worthwhile programmes such as Studyladderwhere students can continue their own learning from home. This can increase acceleration of learning and reduce the summer learning loss.

If there is no access to a computer then libraries can be a great resource and often have free use of computers. Or send home reading material in both their first language and in English etc. Suggest other ways that parents can assist their child to participate in using English such as TV, movies, signs, a playdate etc.


  • In light of these tips what should my school be implementing?
  • What priority ranking would I place on each new action required?
  • Who can I get advice or help from?
  • Do my teachers need additional professional learning and development in teaching ELLs?

This can be provided through the Literacy and English language learning PLDcontracts to access this contact your regional MOE.