Taking part in our research

Trial of the National Reference Tests

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 additional information to support the awarding of GCSEs. The information from the tests will be considered each year by Ofqual prior to GCSEs being awarded. The NRTs will provide information on performance standards over time and will be based on a robust and representative sample of students who will take the tests shortly before taking their GCSEs.

How have schools been selected to take part?

Selected schools are part of representative samples randomly selected to participate in the Trial for both the English and 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 trial is voluntary, although we would encourage all sampled schools to take part in these important trials which act as a ‘dry run’ before the tests go live in Spring 2017.

Is my school eligible to take part?

Schools will be asked to take part in trials for both subjects. Students who will take GCSE English (this includes both GCSE English and GCSE English language) in Summer 2016 may be included in the trial of the English NRT. Similarly, students who will take GCSE Mathematics in Summer 2016 may be included in the Mathematics NRT. However, no student will be asked to take both tests. If your school will have no students taking GCSE English or Mathematics, it cannot take part in the trial.

What does taking part involve?

If your school has been selected to take part and your students meet the eligibility requirements, we will ask 25 of your year 11 students to sit the English test and a separate group of 25 students to sit the Mathematics tests.

We will need to collect some basic data about the eligible students and we will ask your school to provide this electronically via our secure School Portal. This will include only UPN, name, date of birth and gender.

Up to two of our team of test administrators will visit your school to administer the test with the selected students. The date of the trialing will be arranged at your convenience in the period 7 – 15 March 2016. All of our test administrators are trained teachers and have enhanced DBS checks. We will inform your school of their name(s) prior to testing and they will make direct contact with your school nearer the time to confirm the necessary arrangements.

Schools will be asked to take part in both subjects and each student will take a test for 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. Braille or Modified Enlarged Print versions of the test will be available for those students that require this. We will also be able to provide enlarged tests if this is required. However, translated versions will not be available.

How will my school benefit from taking part?

We recognise that taking part will take time and so we will provide each participating school with a cheque for one day’s supply cover in recognition of this. We will also provide some feedback about how students performed nationally in the NRT Trial. Participating students will be entered for a prize draw with a prize of an iPad Mini.

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 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 637383 or via email at NRTkeystage4@nfer.ac.uk if you have any queries.