Ofqual's National Reference Test (NRT) was taken in more than 300 secondary schools between 20 February and 3 March. Ofqual requested any feedback from our members on the arrangements that were made for the test and its administration at the school on the day.
Members who had been involved in the NRT reported to NAHT that NFER had been extremely helpful in the administration of the test and that everything had been very well organised, from the communication, selection of students and the administering of the actual test in school. Ofqual was pleased to know that our member schools appreciated the way in which NFER conducted the tests.
However, the main area of concern from our members has been that the students involved didn't feel any benefit. Some students wanted to have some form of feedback and experience some benefit from taking the test. This could, and does, impact on students' motivation, and some members have questioned whether this will affect the reliability of the findings.
Ofqual has responded that providing feedback to students and schools is difficult. The problem is that the test materials must remain confidential because they are re-used each year. That is how performance can be compared between years, unlike GCSEs, where a new exam paper is used each year. This is why feedback cannot be provided to students on how they responded to specific questions. Also, each student only takes about a quarter of the complete test so students cannot be given a complete picture of how they performed across all parts of the GCSE curriculum. Ofqual has asked students to complete a short survey after they have finished the test. Some of the questions in the survey are designed to help to understand students' motivation and Ofqual plan to track this over several years.
NAHT members reported that the inconvenience to the school in being involved in the NRT had been minimal but highlighted some logistical difficulties in finding two spaces for the Maths and English tests to run simultaneously. Ofqual has confirmed that schools should have been given the option whether to run the two tests at the same time, either in one room or two, or at different times (or days). Where both subjects are taken at the same time, NFER sends two of its test administrators to the school so the option to use separate rooms is readily accommodated. Some schools do run both tests in a main hall at the same time but also provide a smaller room for those students who need access arrangements to be available and so the second administrator invigilates the smaller group. It is, however, certainly possible for the Maths and English tests to be taken at different times. Ofqual will check with NFER to make sure that their guidance to schools clearly sets out all the timing options that are available.
NAHT will continue to engage with Ofqual regarding the NRT process this year and any changes which may be planned for the future, and ensure members are kept informed.