Taking part in our research

Field Trial of National Reference Tests Autumn 2015

Project code: OFMT

What are the purposes and aims of the project?

NFER has been asked by Ofqual to develop, administer and analyse the Ofqual National Reference Tests (NRTs) on their behalf. These tests will provide evidence on the changes in performance standards over time in GCSE English Language and Mathematics in England at the end of Key Stage 4. The Tests will provide an independent check on standards over time not tied to any one Awarding Organisation and based on a robust and representative sample of students who will, in the relevant year, take their GCSEs.

How have schools been selected to take part?

Selected schools are part of representative samples randomly selected to participate in the Field Trial for either the English or Mathematics NRT. If your school has been selected for trialling we will have written to your Headteacher and informed your local authority should your school be LA maintained.

Participation in this Field Trial is voluntary, although we would encourage all sampled schools to take part in these important trials as they help us to assess whether the test questions and the combinations of tests will function appropriately in preparation for the Preliminary National Reference Test due to take place in March 2016.

Is my school eligible to take part?

Students that will take a GCSE in summer 2016 in the selected subject for the NRT are eligible to be included in the Field Trial. For schools participating in the English NRT, students should either be taking GCSE English or GCSE English Language in summer 2016 and for schools participating in the mathematics NRT, students should be taking GCSE mathematics in summer 2016.

If your students are not taking a GCSE relevant to the subject of the NRT or you are only taking the IGCSE, unfortunately your school will not be able to take part.

What does taking part involve?

If your school has been selected to take part and your students meet the eligibility requirements, we will ask a class or teaching group of year 11 students to sit the tests. These are students who will be in year 11 from September 2015. We will randomly select the class or teaching group from the list of classes and groups that you provide on your reply form.

We will arrange for one of our team of test administrators to visit your school to administer the test with the selected students. The date of the trialling will be arranged at your convenience in the period 28 September – 09 October 2015. All of our test administrators are trained teachers and have enhanced DBS checks. We will inform your school of their name prior to testing and they will make direct contact with your school nearer the time to make the necessary arrangements.

Each school will be asked to trial the tests in one subject only. The tests will take the following form in each subject:

The tests should be accessible to the majority of students who are due to sit their GCSEs in English or mathematics in summer 2016 and will be carefully designed to be student-friendly. Students would be asked to make their best attempt at the whole test.

What are the arrangements for students with special requirements?

NFER will be applying access arrangements similar to those used at GCSE so if students are going to be supported in their GCSEs by a scribe or reader or given any other support, the school may use this approach in this trial. We will not be able to provide Braille or Modified Large Print versions of the test for the Field Trial, but these will be available for the live testing in future years. We will be able to provide enlarged tests if this is required.

How will my school benefit from taking part?

We recognise that taking part will take time in your school and so we will pay each participating school for one day’s supply cover in recognition of this. We will also provide some feedback about the Field Trial. Participating students will receive a pen to use in the test and to keep and they will also be entered for a prize draw for taking part with a prize of an iPad mini. Once students have completed the test they will receive a certificate thanking them for their contribution to the development of the test.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected?

The results from this trial will not be used for school accountability or performance tables. They will not be provided to Ofsted or local authorities and no individual school or student will be identified in any report. All data collected will be held in strict confidence by NFER and Ofqual, and no individual school or child will be identified in any report arising from the research.

Who can you contact for more information?

Our aim is that your experience of taking part in the Field Trial is a positive one and we are on hand to support you throughout all stages of the trial period. Please feel free to contact our team on 01753 637352 or via email at NRTkeystage4@nfer.ac.uk if you have any queries.

Further information about the National Reference Test is available on the Ofqual website.