What is the purpose of PIRLS?
The study aims to assess achievement in reading amongst pupils in countries world-wide. PIRLS provides the opportunity to compare achievement internationally and to learn from different countries’ experiences. PIRLS is not solely focused on reading achievement. It also collects information about characteristics of schools, teachers, pupils and their homes to examine the learning environment in which pupils learn and teachers teach. This information can be used to identify factors that influence academic achievement and pupils’ attitudes towards learning and to provide educational policymakers, school leaders, teachers and researchers with powerful insights in order to make recommendations aimed at improving teaching and learning reading literacy.

Who is carrying out the study?
PIRLS is being delivered in Northern Ireland by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) on behalf of the Department of Education. NFER also delivered the 2011 and 2016 PIRLS cycles in Northern Ireland.

The study is coordinated internationally by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).


Why is it important that my child takes part?
PIRLS provides children with the opportunity to tell us about their school and experiences and to represent Northern Ireland in an important global study that informs policy in their country and around the world.


What will be involved for my child?
The study is administered during normal school hours.  Pupils will be asked to complete one paper-based booklet containing reading texts and questions. Following the assessment, pupils will be asked to complete a questionnaire containing questions on their background, attitudes towards school and experiences. For example, pupils in PIRLS 2016 were, among other things, asked to state how much they liked reading and how much they felt they belonged to the school. There will be no need for any special preparation.

Ordinarily, a trained PIRLS study administrator will visit your child’s school and conduct the study. We will work closely with your child’s school to ensure the administration adheres to Government guidance and any local measures the school may have in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic during the study.


What will happen to my child’s data?
NFER and the Department of Education will ensure that the study complies with both the General Data Protection Regulation (2018) and the Data Protection Act (2018).

  • As data controller, DE decides how and what data will be processed as part of the study. As data processor, NFER follows DE’s instructions on how personal data should be handled.
  • Neither NFER nor the Department of Education will pass on the results of pupils’ performance to anyone.
  • The responses to the study from pupils, parents and schools are treated in strict confidence and no school or individual will be identified in any of the PIRLS reports.

NFER will send the data to the international PIRLS team for analysis. The final data will be available on the IEA website, and all schools and pupil data will be anonymised.

What will it involve for me?  
Parents/guardians are also asked to complete a short questionnaire about your child’s early learning experiences, what you do together at home and your views about things related to your child’s school. Your child’s school will give you information about the questionnaire. Any information you provide will help schools to be a better place for everyone. You can choose whether to complete your questionnaire on paper or online.

Your questionnaire responses will be linked to your child’s data.  No parents’ names are ever recorded and you can choose whether or not you wish to respond to any question. 

Please view the Parent and Pupil privacy notices for further details about the information we collect and how we use it.

See FAQs for parents for more information.