PIRLS in Northern Ireland

In 2016, PIRLS was administered in Northern Ireland for the second time and gathered information about how achievement in reading has developed since the 2011 survey.

Northern Ireland was one of 45 countries that participated in PIRLS 2011 and 61 countries participated in 2016. To ensure that data from PIRLS could be used to analyse trends over time, the structure of the survey in 2016 was similar to that used previously.

The main data collection took place in spring/summer 2016 and the international data and report were released in December 2017, at the same time as the national report for Northern Ireland.

In order to ensure that data was of good enough quality and that valid comparisons between countries could be made, PIRLS set high participation targets. Schools and pupils were carefully selected to be representative of the country as a whole and, therefore, could not be substituted. We are very grateful to all schools, principals, teachers, pupils and parents in Northern Ireland who took part in the survey.

How are schools and pupils chosen to participate in PIRLS?

  • Schools were randomly selected by an international team which runs the survey.
  • The international team also specified which class(es) and pupils should participate.
  • The sample covered all regions and all economic backgrounds.

What did schools need to do?

  • Arrange a member of staff to act as the PIRLS school contact.
  • Provide a list of Year 6 classes and their reading literacy teachers and provide some pupil information for selected classes.
  • Arrange a convenient date for the survey to take place. The survey session took about two-and-a-half hours.
  • Inform the pupils and their parents. NFER provided all the information and materials necessary for this.
  • Complete principal and teacher questionnaires.

Schools did not need to administer or collect pupils' tests or questionnaires. A PIRLS administrator brought everything to the school and ran the session.

All marking was carried out by NFER.

What did pupils need to do?

  • Pupils answered one test booklet containing two reading passages and related questions.
  • The assessment was paper based and included multiple-choice and open-ended questions.
  • There was no need for any special preparation or studying.
  • Pupils also answered some questions on their attitudes and experiences and some general background factors.
  • The survey took place at their school, during normal school hours.

What benefits are there for the school?

  • Schools receive a summary of results for their school, including information on pupil attitudes to reading. It can help build a profile for a school, compared to other schools in Northern Ireland. Feedback from schools involved in previous international studies indicated that they found this information both interesting and useful for the purpose of self-evaluation and whole school planning.
  • All pupils and schools who took part will be given a certificate to recognise their participation.
  • As a recognition of the additional organisation undertaken by the school, schools were paid for one day of teacher supply cover.