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Is your English good enough to be a teacher?

Candidates need to have good English to be a teacher.

Providers assess English language ability through:

  • personal statements
  • communication at interview
  • qualifications like English GCSEs or English language tests

So far, our design work has focussed on asking candidates about their English GCSEs.

International candidates are less likely to have an English GCSE, so we needed to adapt the application form.

We’ve tried one design to help providers assess international candidates’ level of English, but research suggested that it was not quite right.

Our new design has a different focus: asking international candidates to give details about their English language qualifications.

This gives providers evidence-based information about candidates, no matter where they’re from.

Our new design

We ask candidates who are not British or Irish if they have any ‘English as a foreign language’ qualifications.

User needs

As an international candidate
I need to give details of any English language qualifications I have
So that I can demonstrate my proficiency of the English language

As a provider
I need to see an international candidate’s English language qualifications
So that I can make a decision about their application

Problems with this design

Showing the English as a foreign language question only to candidates who are not British or Irish means we’re treating candidates differently depending on where they’re from.

It may appear that we’re making assumptions about a candidate’s English proficiency based on their nationality.

The design also does not follow through in its logic. The logic suggests we should not show this question to candidates from any English speaking country - not just the UK and Ireland.

We could follow the Home Office’s approach to student visas, where nationals from English speaking countries do not have to prove their level of English when applying.

Finally, the question has the potential to deter candidates whose first language is not English from applying.

Other ways to address this design challenge

Bringing all English qualifications into one section

We could bring the English GCSE and English as a foreign language questions into one question.

This would not disrupt our existing designs very much.

For example:

English GCSE or equivalent, or other evidence of ability in English

What type of English qualification do you have? Select all that apply.

If you do not have an English qualification, ask your provider how to show your level of English.

[ ] GCSE

[ ] O level

[ ] Scottish National 5

[ ] English Language Test
For example, IELTS, LanguageCert International ESOL, TOEFL, Duolingo English Test, CPE, CAE

[ ] Other

This approach does not make assumptions about a candidate’s ability based on their background.

It also does not imply that one qualification is more valuable than another. International candidates may not even realise that their language qualification is equivalent to an English GCSE.

Asking candidates to indicate their own ability

We also considered asking candidates to indicate their own ability on a proficiency scale, but dismissed this idea.

We were concerned that candidates are not necessarily the best judge of their own ability.

It could also deter candidates from applying if they did not think their level was good enough.