National Reference Test 2021: Performance Across Content Areas

NFER authors: Bethan Burge, Louise Benson, Alex Cutbill, Sarah Gibb, David Thomas and Cito author: Jasper Wouda

12 December 2022


The second report, National Reference Test 2021: Performance Across Content Areas, describes whether the different content areas of the English and mathematics curriculum have been differentially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The analysis explored whether the results of the NRT can provide insights into curriculum areas that were more difficult to learn at a distance, were given a lower priority than others or required more explicit teaching of concepts and/or skills.

Key Findings

  • There was no evidence of any clear differences across the English curriculum areas, suggesting that performance on the NRT in 2021 was comparable to that of 2020 across all areas of the English curriculum assessed in the NRT.
  • Performance fell by a similar amount for all areas of the curriculum in mathematics between 2020 and 2021,suggesting that the disruption to teaching and learning caused by the pandemic did not have differential impact across the curriculum.
  • The absence of a clear pattern in changes in performance at the curriculum level for English and mathematics is perhaps unsurprising given that the extent of Covid-19 pandemic-related disruption was variable at the school, class and even student level.