Pathways and Transitions

Teachers plan for, assess and report on EAL students’ language learning using the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL (the EAL curriculum). The EAL curriculum provides three pathways: Pathway A (Foundation – Year 2), Pathway B (Year 3 – Year 8) and Pathway C (Year 7 – 10). Students progress along and between these pathways as they are learning English. When they are ready, students transition to the English curriculum.
These resources are designed to support teachers to understand student progression and make judgements about EAL student transition across the EAL levels and pathways, or their transition from the EAL curriculum to the English curriculum.

Progression along the EAL pathways

The rate of progress for individual students along the pathways of the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL is not prescribed. EAL students are a diverse cohort with different experiences of formal schooling and exposure to English. Some EAL students have age-equivalent schooling and limited or no exposure to English. Some have limited schooling in any language or have experienced interrupted schooling. Others enter school with some exposure to spoken and/or written English. These prior experiences impact the rate at which students acquire English and learn content. Students are expected to make progress in their learning. Teachers can use the VCAA’s language and learning interview and the sociolinguistic profiling resource on the TEAL website to better understand EAL students’ backgrounds and prior learning experiences that may impact on their capacity to learn.

See: VCAA Language and learning interview
See: TEAL Knowing your students

The length of time that a student is assessed against the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL is not prescribed either. It takes time for an EAL student to develop full control over English. Research has shown that it can take an average of up to two years for an EAL student to become fluent in everyday conversational language. It can take between five to seven years with EAL support for them to develop academic language proficiency that is required for success at school (Cummins, 1991). It may take up to 11 years for students who have had disrupted or no prior schooling and who have limited literacy in their first language to develop full control over English (Thomas & Collier, 1997).
Teachers of EAL students exercise professional judgement about each student’s language proficiency when determining their initial entry into the pathways and levels of the EAL curriculum and when deciding whether students move to other levels or are ready to transition to the English curriculum.

Progression stories

  • Sample progressions through the EAL pathways – six stories, each showing an example of a student’s  progression in learning English. Each student’s progression depends on their individual circumstances, and the support and opportunities they’re given.

Pathways and transitions stories

Five hypothetical pathways and transitions stories reflect the five situations in which teachers need to decide whether students are ready to transition from one pathway to the next, or from the EAL curriculum to the English curriculum. The stories describe the unique life and schooling experiences that impact on EAL students’ progress and how the decision is made at key transition points to move students across the EAL pathways or to the English curriculum.

Yasmin – Pathway A to Pathway B
Farah – Pathway B to Pathway C
Naoto – Pathway A to the English curriculum  
Albert – Pathway B to the English curriculum
Nikka – Pathway C to the English curriculum

Pathways and transition stories: At a glance – an annotated example to support teachers read and understand the stories

Pathways and transition stories: At a glance – plain language statement

Information specific to each pathway


General considerations for transitioning from the EAL to the English curriculum

Once an EAL student has reached the achievement standards of their respective A, B or C
pathways in all three language modes of Speaking and Listening, Reading and Viewing and Writing, they can be transferred to the Victorian Curriculum F-10 English for assessment and reporting purposes.  

In determining when to transition EAL students to the English standards, teachers and schools should consider the extent to which an EAL student’s language proficiency is beginning to approximate year-level expectations and how much language support they need to access the curriculum content.

Questions that may be used in discussions and making decisions about student transition include:

  • Is the student consistently achieving the standard of the final level for their pathway (A, B or C) in all three modes of the EAL curriculum?


  • Is the student equally capable, across all three modes, of meeting the learning expectations of the English curriculum, at the level taught to their mainstream peers, and without substantial language support?


  • Is the student sufficiently proficient in understanding and using the academic language of the learning areas to participate in learning activities across all areas?


  • Will the student continue to need EAL support to understand and use the academic English in subsequent years, when the cognitive and linguistic demands of the curriculum increase?


  • Does the student have the option of EAL or English at VCE? What is the best option for the student?

Overlap between the pathways

The EAL curriculum is a continuum structured as three pathways: Pathway A (Foundation – Year 2), Pathway B (Year 3 – Year 8) and Pathway C (Year 7 – 10).
This expansion of Pathway B is designed to offer schools some flexibility in determining the most appropriate developmental pathway for each EAL student.
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) advice is that Pathway B aligns most closely with Years 3 to 8. The Department’s advice to government schools is that there may be situations when it is also appropriate for a Year 2 student to be placed onto Pathway B towards the end of Year 2 in preference to being transitioned to English.
The following examples demonstrate how schools can use this flexibility to make assessment and reporting decisions:

  • A Year 2 student who has reached the achievement standard in one mode of Pathway A could be transferred to Pathway B for all three modes if they are not yet ready to be assessed against the English standards.

The student should be assessed in all three modes before they move off Pathway A. This means that even if the student is performing at the same level as their non-EAL peers in one mode, they will remain on the EAL curriculum until they have reached the achievement standards in all three modes. As the cognitive and linguistic demands of the curriculum increase significantly in Year 3, EAL students should continue to receive the support they need rather than being transferred to the English standards too early.

  • A Year 6 student in a P-10 or P-12 college may continue on Pathway B into Year 7 if there is some continuity with the same teacher and/or class that will benefit the student.

For example, a newly arrived student who has experienced interruptions to their schooling and who is still in the beginning stages of learning English as an additional language may benefit from the continuity and familiarity of the same class. The school may decide that it is developmentally appropriate to keep this student on Pathway B rather than move them on to Pathway C.

The situation in which a student would remain on Pathway B when they commence secondary schooling would not be typical. It would relate to a student remaining on Pathway B, not commencing it in Year 7 or 8.

  • In most situations, a Year 6 EAL student enrolling in a secondary school, or moving from a primary to a secondary setting, will begin on Pathway C. If the student has limited literacy in their home language, and limited literacy in English, he or she will be assessed as CL. If the student has been educated to an age equivalent level in their home language and is beginning to learn English as an additional language, he or she will start at C1.
  • Note, a student who arrives in Year 6 may be eligible to study EAL in Year 12. For queries relating to VCE EAL eligibility, contact the VCAA.   


Cummins, J. (1991) Interdependence of first and second language proficiency in bilingual children in Bialystok, G. (1991) Language processing in bilingual children. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Thomas, W.P. and Collier, V. (1997) School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students. National Clearing House for Bilingual Education: Washington DC.