The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study was conducted in 2016. NFER was commissioned by the Department of Education to undertake the survey in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland pupils aged 9 – 10, that is Primary 6 pupils, took part in the survey.

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 mathematics and science.

What was involved for schools?

School participation was very important to ensure that we gathered enough representative data in Northern Ireland to make the results of the study reliable. If your school was selected to participate in the study, you will have received an invitation letter and information pack.

  • Selected schools assigned a school contact for the survey, who communicated with NFER
  • A convenient date for the survey was arranged. The survey session took about two-and–a-half hours
  • Schools did not need to administer or collect the tests and questionnaires themselves. A trained PIRLS administrator brought everything to the school and ran the session on the day of the assessment
  • All marking was also done by the NFER
  • The principal and class teacher also each received a questionnaire which took 30–40 minutes to complete and provided important background information to help us understand what makes successful learners

Now the study is complete, we will be providing you with information collected from the pupil questionnaire, for instance on attitudes to reading, to help you build a profile for your 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.

All pupils and schools who took part will have received a certificate to recognise their participation. As a recognition of the additional organisation which may have had to be done by the school, you will also have been paid for one day of teacher supply cover.

What happened to the data?

The NFER adheres strictly to the Data Protection Act and, to ensure confidentiality, no information concerning individual pupils, teachers or schools will be identified in any report.

  • The Department of Education will not be advised which schools have been selected to participate in the study
  • Neither the NFER nor the Department of Education will pass on the results of schools’ performance to anyone
  • Although the final data will be available on the IEA website, all schools and pupils will be anonymised
  • NFER sent the data to the international PIRLS team for analysis. All published data will be anonymous.