Need to know: The GCSE national reference test

TES is reporting that on Thursday Ofqual will be publishing results for the second year of its national reference test. What is the test and why is it important? Here’s what you need to know.

The national reference test (NRT) was introduced in 2017 to provide extra information to help the awarding of GCSEs. It was sat for the second time in the spring of 2018.
The test was designed to provide evidence on changes in performance standards over time in English language and mathematics in England at the end of Year 11. It is currently run by the National Foundation for Educational Research under a contract with Ofqual.
Each year, a random sample of around 350 schools are selected and 60 pupils at each school take a test booklet in mathematics or English (30 for each subject).
The results are analysed at a national level, with no results published for individual schools or pupils. The outcomes have no direct consequences for the sampled students or schools.
Essentially, the idea behind the test is to provide an independent gauge of whether there have been genuine improvements in pupil performance that would justify an increase in the GCSE pass rate nationally.
At the start of May, Ofqual expects to receive a statistical analysis of the NRT results and their reliability. It will convene a panel, including representation from the main exam boards, to scrutinise the analysis.
The decision about whether and how to use the data in the GCSEs will then be Ofqual’s to make.

Read more Need to know: The GCSE national reference test

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