Profiles of Competence

What is the Profile of Competence?

The Profile of Competence is a set of descriptors of significant steps in the acquisition of English in the 3 skill areas, namely Listening and Talking, Reading, and Writing.  (Whilst these skill areas mirror the 3 lines of development for Literacy across Learning, the focus here is on the development of English language rather than a set of literacy skills.)  The Profile enables class, subject and support teachers to assess the receptive and expressive English language skills of bilingual pupils and provides a framework for:

Timescale for progression and factors affecting English language development

Research shows that progression from Stage 1 (New to English) to Stage 5 (Fluent – in social and academic English) can take from 5 to 10 years. The rate of progression is dependent on a range of factors including pupil motivation, age, level of competence in first (and other) languages, previous educational experience, general cognitive ability, personality and home educational values and support. In addition, progress is dependent on the school ethos, the knowledge and expertise of the staff in relation to the use of effective strategies of support and the maintenance of high expectations of pupil progress. Progress is also influenced by the pupil’s entry point to the Scottish school system.

As an approximate guide, a bilingual pupil who has no other additional support needs (emotional, social or learning) may take approximately:

  • 6 – 18 months to pass through Stage 1,
  • 6 – 18 months to pass through Stage 2
  • 2 – 3+ years to pass through Stage 3
  • 2 – 3+ years for Stage 4.

It is common for a newly arrived pupil to pass through a ‘silent period’, which may last for 6+ months.

If a pupil is making unusually slow progress, this may be an indication that the pupil has another additional support need and further holistic assessment may be necessary in order to identify the nature of the need and appropriate support.  Please seek advice from your EAL teacher.


The Profile of Competence should form part of the pupil’s record and move with them as they progress through their education.  It is a key document for transition.

Set-Up and Formats

Profiles should be set up and updated by schools in collaboration with an EAL teacher. This can be scheduled into the school’s ASL planning processes. Achievement of a descriptor should be based on evidence from formative and summative assessment.

How to complete the Profile of Competence

  • Photocopy or create an electronic copy of the Profile document for each learner.
  • Enter the pupil information at the top of each sheet.
  • Enter the date in the right-hand column when a descriptor has been achieved. If not achieved, leave blank.
  • Update the tracking grid twice a year (recommended).

There is a separate checklist available for use with Nursery-aged children.

The formats

You can download the Profile of Competence for Primary and Secondary below, as well as accompanying support strategies booklets.

Primary Profile of Competence

Secondary Profile of Competence

Support Strategies Booklet (Primary)

Support Strategies Booklet (Secondary)