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Languages Ladder

The National Languages Strategy for England (2002) included in its long term objectives a commitment to deliver a national recognition system for language learning by 2005.

The system is intended to complement existing national qualification frameworks and  provides a 'ladder of recognition' from beginner (Breakthrough) to postgraduate or native equivalent (Mastery). There are 6 levels, with three steps within each of the first five levels, two within the final one. It is intended for use by both children and adults.

Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing skills are assessed separately, and the Languages Ladder includes the use of 'can do' statements. For example, for Speaking:

  • Breakthrough grade 1:  I can say and repeat single words and short simple phrases.
  • At Mastery, grade 17: I can communicate effortlessly and confidently in most situations, showing a command of language which enables me to express finer shades of meaning.

Descriptors align with the National Qualifications Framework, National Curriculum levels, national examinations (Entry Level, GCSE, A Level) and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. You can find see the table of equivalences here: 

Mapping of qualification levels

NQF NC Levels General Qualifications Language Ladder Stages CEF  
Entry Level 1, 2, 3 Entry 1, 2, 3 Breakthrough: 1-3 A1
Level 1 4 -6 Foundation GCSE Preliminary: 4-6 A2
Level 2 7- EP Higher GCSE Intermediate: 7-9 B1
Level 3   AS/A/AEA Advanced: 10-12 B2
Level 4-6   BA Hons Proficiency: 13-15 C1
Levels 7 & 8   Masters &
Mastery: 16&17 C2

NQF = National Qualifications Framework
NC = National Curriculum
CEF = Common European Framework

Asset Languages have developed an assessment scheme for the Languages Ladder, with 25 languages available for assessment. Depending on the stage the learner has reached, there may be external or teacher assessment. Details, including teacher assessment materials and external assessment requirements can be found on the website. 

For example of the Languages Ladder in use on the CILT website, please visit 14-19 within the Seconday section.

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