Performance in maths by 16 year-olds shows a statistically significant downward change compared to 2020 according to the latest results of the National Reference Test (NRT).
Results in maths show that the increases in performance since 2017 have reversed, and performance is now closer to the level seen in 2017 - the first year that the reformed 9 to 1 GCSEs were awarded. Ofqual says this is not surprising given the disruption to students’ education caused by the pandemic.
What is surprising is that results in English show no significant difference from previous years. It is thought that this could be because while disruption in schools meant that students had less practice in maths, they will have continued to use written and spoken English in and out of school as well as in other subjects.
More than 8,000 students from 216 schools took part in the fifth annual National Reference Test in April and May 2021. The tests are designed to provide evidence about the performance of 16-year-old students in English language and maths. In years when exams are taken, the NRT provides an additional source of evidence for exam boards when setting grade boundaries in GCSE English language and maths. In 2021 exams were cancelled, so NRT evidence could not be used as normal but still provides important evidence of student performance.
The NRT in 2020 was unaffected by the pandemic, having taken place prior to the school closures in March 2020.