How are schools chosen to participate in TIMSS?

TIMSS sets high participation targets in order to ensure that data is of good quality and that valid comparisons between countries can be made. Around 150 schools are randomly selected to represent Northern Ireland by the international team who runs the study. The schools are then invited by NFER to participate. The international team also specifies which class(es) and pupils should participate. In total, a sample of 4,500 pupils is required for the main study.

What is involved for schools?

The study will take place on a convenient date for selected schools during the period 7 May to 7 June 2019. The whole session will take around two and a half hours.

Participating schools need to:

  • provide NFER with a convenient date for the study to take place
  • provide a list of Year 6 class(es) and their class teacher or teachers responsible for mathematics and/or science
  • provide pupil information when NFER informs them of the selected class(es)
  • arrange for a member of staff to act as the TIMSS School Co-ordinator
  • inform the sampled pupils and their parents (NFER will provide the necessary information and materials)
  • complete Principal and teacher questionnaires.

NFER will support schools throughout their participation and our aim is to ensure that the burden on schools is as low as possible. For instance, a trained NFER TIMSS administrator with teaching experience will deliver the study in schools. Our administrators will bring everything to the school and run the session and all marking will be done by NFER.

How does my school benefit from taking part?

  • The opportunity to tell us about your school and to be a part of a study that directly influences policy making in Northern Ireland and around the world.
  • The opportunity for pupils to represent Northern Ireland in an important global study.
  • Certificates to celebrate the participation of each pupil and school.
  • As a recognition of the additional organisation which may have to be done by the School Co-ordinator, schools will receive one day of teacher supply cover.
  • Schools will also receive a report with information collected from the pupil questionnaire, for instance, on attitudes to mathematics. This will include comparative national information, which schools reported that they find this useful for self-evaluation.

What is involved for pupils?

Pupils will be asked to complete one paper-based booklet containing mathematics and science questions, there will be no need for any special preparation or studying. Following the assessment, pupils will be asked to complete a questionnaire containing questions on their background, attitudes towards school and experiences. The whole session will last around two and a half hours.

The study will take place at school during normal school hours. There is no need for any pupil to do any preparation for any part of the study. 

The contributions of pupils and teachers are what make TIMSS a success, and we are very grateful to all the pupils and teachers who take part – thank you! Pupil and teacher contributions are highly valued and of great importance to the Department of Education and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

Who is carrying out the study?

TIMSS 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 2015 TIMSS cycles in Northern Ireland.

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

How NFER will look after the data

NFER take data protection very seriously and comply with the Data Protection Act 2018. Any personal information NFER collect will be held securely. The Department of Education will receive the names of the schools and pupils that have been selected to take part in TIMSS to help with recruitment and the administration of the study. However, they will not receive the feedback that is provided to schools after the study, nor any school or pupil response data that allows individual school’s or participant’s responses to be identified. The information collected is used to compare how well pupils learn mathematics and science around the world. No school, teacher or pupil is named or can be identified in any of the reports or any information which is published.

Please view the TIMSS 2019 privacy notice for further details about the information we collect and how we use it. A child-friendly  privacy notice for pupils is also available.

See FAQs for schools for more information.