Gibb consults on forcing pupils to take National Reference Tests

A consultation has been launched into whether or not year 11 pupils will be forced to sit the National Reference Tests (NRTs).

From March 2017 the NRT will be taken by pupils in 300 schools each year to monitor the expected performance of the cohort about to sit their GCSEs. Results of the NRT will guide how GCSE grades are increased or decreased for that particular year group.

The consultation launched today asks respondents to answer questions such as whether the NRT should be mandatory or if, and when, headteachers should be allowed to withdraw a pupil from taking the test.

In each selected school, 30 year 11 pupils will sit an English test and another 30 will take a maths exam. Each test will take an hour.

In a statement to Parliament, schools minister Nick Gibb said the legislation would apply to all maintained schools, but would only apply to “most” academies and free schools.

He said: “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.”

It is not yet known how many academies could avoid the assessments because of their funding agreements.

Ofqual will pilot the tests for the first time next March and last month wrote to leaders of 600 schools across the country asking them to take part in the trial.

The exams watchdog said in October that headteachers will have the final say on excluding any pupil from testing at this stage.

Mr Gibb added: “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 NRTs have already been road-tested by more than 4,000 pupils in 175 schools.

The tests will be externally administered in each school by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

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