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Student Development

Student development across the dimensions

Students do not all necessarily learn at uniform rates, and their progress in reading, writing, speaking and listening may not necessarily correlate across the stages outlined above. In particular, students in Prep are likely to take longer to move through the Reading and Writing dimensions than students in Year 2.

Students learning to write English script for the first time may proceed more slowly in learning to read and write English than those who begin their English language learning with some knowledge of Roman scripts.

Students who begin schooling in Australia with little or no literacy in their first language are likely to learn to speak English more quickly than they learn to read and write it.

In the secondary years, some students may have more experience in speaking English than in reading and writing it when they enter school; others may have learnt written English but not had much experience in speaking it or in hearing it spoken.

See Differentiation between stages for suggestions on how to differentiate tasks appropriate to different stages.


It takes time to develop full control over a second language. The rate of ESL learning is influenced by a range of factors including:

ESL students are likely to take around 5 to 7 years to learn English for academic purposes to the same level as students who have been learning English all their lives.

For many students, development is also likely to be influenced by their migration experiences, particularly those who have had refugee or refugee-like experiences, and who may have suffered trauma. Because of these individual differences, the time it takes students to move through the stages of the ESL standards is not prescribed.

It is important to note that students are likely to move more quickly through the beginning stages, which describe early learning, than through the later stages. This is deliberate, in order to capture and to acknowledge important early development. For example, a student’s pathway through the B Stages could be represented by the diagram below:

Diagram describing the pathway from stage B1 to B3


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