The decision has not been welcomed by all, with some suggesting that new exams will only serve to put more pressure on the current education system. Results from the NRT will only be used to measure changes in performance nationally and these will be published. Ofqual said there will be no results for individual students or schools, adding that the test reflects the content and style of the new English language and maths GCSEs.Jill Stokoe, education policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “It is good news that the NRTs could in future allow GCSE grades to rise in line with a genuine improvement in pupils’ performance. “However, we are concerned that the NRTs will not apply to independent schools, meaning the sample of pupils who will take the test will not be nationally representative and the data will not accurately support the grades awarded at GCSE.” Anxious studentsHowever, leading head teachers warned the new tests shouldn’t add to the burden to already-overly anxious students.Mike Buchanan, chair of the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) said: “We hope the NRT will avoid the risk of mimicking GCSE too closely as this is likely to cause pupils taking the two exams close together to be distracted and over-anxious.”There is also a risk that teachers will feel under even greater pressure to prepare them for both. The whole point of a reference test is to be an anonymised, stress-free and valid measure of attainment of each annual cohort of pupils.”Suzanne O’Farrell, curriculum and assessment specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We welcome this test as it has the potential to resolve a catch-22 situation. “The system for awarding GCSE grades is based on past experience of attainment and means grades are effectively capped.”It is therefore difficult to reflect genuine improvements in pupil performance and this is unfair on young people and schools.” GCSE grades could rise as the exams regulator announced a new national test to prove whether standards in school are actually improving, it has emerged.Ofqual has said the first National Reference Test (NRT) will be taken by about 18,000 pupils next year in February and March next year. Each year a sample of students will take the same test so it will show, over time, if there is any change in how students perform at a national level.’Exam boards currently have limited evidence’Ofqual said exam boards currently have limited evidence of how performance can change from year to year, so the test has the potential to provide additional information to inform their awarding of GCSEs. About one in 40 students in year 11 in England will take the one-hour test annually, and the first test will be held between February 20 and March 3 next year. The announcement follows consideration by Ofqual’s board of the outcomes of a trial test held in March.The watchdog said 300 schools, which have been selected to take part later this month, will be contacted. Up to 30 students will take the test in English and another 30 students will take the maths test in each of these schools. Students will be selected so that the test results will be nationally representative. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.