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New Ofqual test to affect 300 schools

New 'National Reference Test' to be introduced in 2017 to measure quality of teaching and end freeze on grade rises

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 02, 2016 | Teaching

Exam regulator Ofqual is to introduce a new pupil performance test next year, to measure whether there have been ‘genuine improvements’ in pupil performance to justify raising the overall GCSE pass rate. 

The ‘National Reference Test’ will be held in February and March 2017 following a development phase, which Sally Collier described as having gone “very smoothly”. 

According to the latest Ofqual blog, one in 40 students in year 11 in England and Wales will take the test each year, which will aim to provide a national representation. There will be no preparation required, nor will there be any ‘results’ for students. The outcome of the first tests is expected to be published in October 2017, with the subsequent years coinciding with GSCE results in August. 

Mike Buchanan, HMC Chair and Headmaster of Ashford School, said: “HMC supports the national reference test in principle. The current method of assessing attainment over time takes no account of the value that different schools add during the 11 to 16 years phase of education and can be skewed by changes to the primary school curriculum.  

“However, we hope the NRT will avoid the risk of mimicking GCSE too closely as this is likely to cause pupils taking the two exams close together to be distracted and over-anxious. There is also a risk that teachers will feel under even greater pressure to prepare them for both. The whole point of a reference test is to be an anonymised, stress-free and valid measure of attainment of each annual cohort of pupils.  

“It will also be important to ensure that the relatively small number of students taking the new test is taken into account if claims of increased national attainment are to be made.”

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