National Reference Tests consultation launched

The NRT is designed to monitor the expected performance of a cohort of pupils about to sit their GCSEs, to act as a guide for how GCSE grades are increased or decreased for a particular year.

The tests are expected to start from March 2017, with 30 pupils in each selected school taking an English exam and another 30 taking a maths exam, both of which will be an hour in duration.

The consultation asks respondents to consider if the NRT should be mandatory and if/when headteachers should be allowed to withdraw pupils from taking the test.

Gibb said: “The NRT is the next step in the government’s reform agenda, which will deliver robust and rigorous qualifications for England’s students.

“Before 2010, pupils received successively higher grades at GCSE each year, but in international league tables England’s performance stagnated. Ofqual has halted this grade inflation through the use of comparable outcomes.

“Ofqual is now introducing the NRT which will indicate if GCSE results should change from year to year. Over time, this will provide an additional method of measuring real changes in national performance at GCSE which is distinct from the use of international comparisons such as the PISA study.”

The new legislation would apply to mentioned schools, but would only apply to ‘most’ academies and free schools.

Gibb explained: “The proposed legislation would apply to maintained schools. It would also apply to most academies and free schools through an existing provision in their funding agreement that requires them to comply with guidance issued by the Secretary of State in relation to assessments.

“It would not apply to independent schools although pupils at independent schools will also be asked to take the test to ensure that the sample of pupils that take the test is nationally representative.”

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