Press release: New National Reference Tests to launch in 2017

Ofqual is today (30 March 2015) announcing that it has selected the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to develop and deliver the new National Reference Tests. NFER is an independent provider of educational research services with many years’ experience in developing and delivering educational assessments.

Ofqual is introducing the new National Reference Tests to provide additional information to support the awarding of GCSEs. The purpose of the tests is to provide evidence on changes in performance standards over time in GCSE English language and mathematics in England at the end of Year 11. The tests will provide an anchor for GCSE standards and should enable us to see over several years if there is genuine change in how students perform.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual Chief Regulator said:

I am pleased that we have reached agreement with NFER to develop and introduce the new National Reference Tests. The tests will provide additional information that we expect to significantly advance our ability to detect genuine changes in performance and so improve awarding. We will act cautiously as we build our understanding of the information that the tests will provide and how this is used in GCSE awarding.

Carole Willis, chief executive of NFER said:

NFER is delighted to be working with Ofqual on designing and delivering the new National Reference Tests. This is an important development in providing robust independent research evidence for education and will add to the evidence on standards that NFER already provides, for example through international surveys. NFER was set up in 1948 to provide exactly this type of evidence base to inform national decision making.

Notes to Editors

The new tests will be developed over the next two years and the first National Reference Tests will be taken in March 2017. In future years, we and the exam boards will take into account the information from the tests when GCSEs are awarded.

Each year, we will ask a random sample of students at about 300 schools to take a test in maths or English. This will be in March, before they take their GCSEs. The test will take a student under an hour to complete. The results will be analysed only at the national level; there will be no results for individual schools or students.

Ofqual is working with organisations that represent schools and their leadership to prepare more detailed information for schools about the new tests ahead of their introduction.

Consistent with public sector procurement rules, Ofqual is publishing a Voluntary Transparency Notice through the Official Journal of the European Union, after which contract formalities will be completed.


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