Results from PIRLS 2011 in Northern Ireland


In 2011, Northern Ireland participated in PIRLS for the first time. Over 3500 pupils took part in the survey from over 130 schools.

How were schools and pupils chosen to participate in PIRLS 2016?

  • 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 was stratified by region and deprivation level.

What did pupils do?

  • Pupils answered one test booklet containing two reading passages and related questions
  • They answered some questions on their background and on their attitudes and experiences
  • The survey took place at their schools, during normal school hours
  • There was no need for any special preparation or studying.

The most important findings for Northern Ireland from PIRLS 2011 were:

Attainment in reading

  • PIRLS, Northern Ireland was outperformed by only four of the 45 participating countries. The mean score for reading was not significantly different from that of a further four countries, and was significantly higher than all other countries participating in PIRLS 2011
  • NI was the highest ranking English speaking country
  • Pupils in Northern Ireland performed comparatively better on PIRLS reading than on PISA reading
  • Girls in Northern Ireland scored significantly more highly than boys on PIRLS; this is common in reading assessments and in line with international patterns
  • In Northern Ireland, and internationally, the pupils who most like reading also had higher average achievement scores
  • The proportion of pupils in Northern Ireland who Like Reading was similar to the international mean, although the proportion of pupils who Do Not Like Reading was higher
  • Almost one fifth of pupils in Northern Ireland reached the ‘Advanced’ International Benchmark in reading, the second highest proportion internationally. Only, three per cent of pupils failed to reach the ‘Low’ International Benchmark
  • Pupils in Northern Ireland scored significantly more highly, relative to the international average reading score, on Literary purposes and less well on Informational purposes
  • Pupils in Northern Ireland scored higher on the Interpreting, Integrating and Evaluating scale, and lower on the Retrieving and Straightforward Inferencing scale.

Pupils’ engagement

  • The proportion of pupils in Northern Ireland who Like Reading was similar to the international mean, although the proportion of pupils who Do Not Like Reading was higher
  • Pupils in Northern Ireland who were categorised as Motivated or Somewhat Motivated readers were higher achieving than those who were Not Motivated
  • In Northern Ireland, and internationally, the pupils who most like reading also had higher average achievement scores
  • There was a positive association between reading confidence and reading achievement within most countries
  • Northern Ireland had fewer pupils reported as Engaged in reading lessons than the international mean
  • In Northern Ireland, a relatively high percentage of pupils were taught by teachers who were classified as using the listed engagement practices in most lessons.

School resources

  • In terms of teaching space, teaching materials and supplies, teachers in Northern Ireland rated their working conditions relatively highly compared with international averages.
  • 97 per cent of pupils had a class library, often of 50 books or more
  • For reading, Northern Ireland had among the highest levels of computer provision among all participating countries. The majority of Year 6 pupils in Northern Ireland attended schools in which a computer was available for every one or two pupils

School learning environment

  • The vast majority of pupils in Northern Ireland attended schools which were categorised as safe and orderly (teacher reports) and had hardly any, or minor, problems of discipline and safety (principal reports). These factors appeared to relate to higher pupil attainment
  • In relation to teachers’ educational emphasis during training, for teachers of reading, the most common specialism was English/language. Compared with international averages, teachers in Northern Ireland reported a lower emphasis on specialisms such as Language, Pedagogy/Teaching Reading and Reading Theory during their formal education and training.

The curriculum and learning activities

  • Teaching time for reading was higher than the international average
  • Computers were available to the majority of Year 6 pupils, but no obvious patterns emerged regarding computer availability and average achievement in PIRLS
  • Internationally, the average achievement of pupils in schools where the teaching of a range of reading skills was emphasised earlier was higher than that of pupils in schools where these skills were emphasised later. However, in Northern Ireland, average achievement was similar regardless of the age at which these reading skills were first emphasised.

Characteristics of pupils and their homes

  • Pupils with access to more home resources for learning had higher average achievement in reading
  • The proportion of pupils whose teachers reported lack of sleep as a limiting factor was greater in Northern Ireland than the international average for all subjects.

 

Results from PIRLS 2011 in England

 

In 2011, NFER also conducted the PIRLS survey in England as well as Northern Ireland. 129 schools took part in the survey.

The most important findings for England from PIRLS 2011 were...

Attainment in reading

  • England’s average achievement was significantly higher than thirty-one countries, and significantly lower than just five countries
  • The highest attaining pupils were among the best readers in the survey, but the lower attaining readers did less well than the weakest readers in some other countries
  • England had one of the largest proportions of pupils reaching the Advanced International Benchmark (18 per cent). There were significantly higher proportions at each benchmark in England compared with 2006
  • Girls performed significantly better than boys in PIRLS in England. The difference between the attainment of boys and girls was greater in England than in most other countries and has remained stable across all three PIRLS surveys
  • Pupils in England performed equally well on the two reading purpose scales: reading for literary purposes and reading to acquire and use information
  • Performance on both purpose scales was significantly higher in England in 2011 than in 2006
  • The scale score for England on both reading process scales was significantly higher in 2011 than in 2006.

Pupils’ engagement

  • Over a quarter of pupils in England gave responses that showed they enjoyed reading. In England and in all other countries, pupils who reported the most enjoyment in reading also attained the highest scores
  • Two-thirds of pupils in England reported high levels of motivation to read. Internationally, pupils in countries with the highest average reading performance reported the lowest levels of motivation to read
  • It appears that pupils’ enjoyment of, and motivation for, reading were similar to and possibly higher than the levels seen in 2001 and 2006
  • In England, teachers’ reported use of strategies intended to engage pupils in their learning was high compared to other countries.

School resources

  • England’s schools had the highest computer provision of all participating countries
  • Teachers in England reported making use of a wide range of different materials for teaching reading, but by far the most widely used resource was A variety of children’s books. They also reported the lowest use of workbooks and worksheets among all participating countries
  • Compared with the international average, schools in England were more likely to have class libraries with more than 50 books
  • England was one of the countries where pupils were most likely to be given class time to use their class library at least once a week and to borrow books from it.

School learning environment

  • Teachers in England reported high levels of collaboration to improve teaching
  • Headteachers and teachers in England reported among the highest levels of emphasis on academic success
  • The vast majority of pupils in England had teachers who reported that their schools were safe and orderly and three-quarters of pupils attended schools where the headteacher reported hardly any problems of discipline or safety.

The curriculum and learning activities

  • England had the highest proportion of pupils in schools where the teaching of a range of reading skills was emphasised at or before the academic year in which they turned eight (Year 3 in England)
  • The percentage of pupils in England whose teachers reported they practised a range of comprehension skills and strategies on at least a weekly basis was close to or above the international mean
  • Internationally, the average achievement scores were the same regardless of whether or not computers were available for use in reading lessons. Average achievement in England was similar for pupils who did and who did not have access to a computer for reading lessons.

Characteristics of pupils and their homes

  • Pupils in England reported having among the most books at home of all participating countries. Pupils in England who reported a larger number of books at home had higher mean achievement scores than pupils who reported fewer books at home
  • The average achievement of pupils in England was higher for pupils who reported spending more time reading outside of school than those who spent less time reading outside of school. This pattern was not seen clearly in the international data
  • Compared with 2006, fewer pupils in 2011 reported Never or almost never reading for fun out of school. Over half of pupils in PIRLS 2011 reported reading for half an hour or more every day out of school
  • The average achievement for pupils in England who reported having their own television, mobile phone or DVD player was lower in each case than those who did not possess these items.