What is PIRLS?

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), is a study which takes place every five years in around 60 countries. It looks at the reading abilities of 9-10 year olds worldwide and asks pupils in each country to answer a set of reading comprehension questions and complete a questionnaire. Schools and teachers are also asked to complete a questionnaire. The results are used by our Government and governments from around the world to compare the strengths and weaknesses of their education systems to other countries and improve their education systems.

Due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, the PIRLS 2021 Main Study is taking place in England in May – June 2022, rather than in 2021 as originally planned.

See here for more information on the study.

How are pupils selected to take part?

Schools are randomly selected to take part in PIRLS by the study organiser, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) to represent the range of schools in England. A Year 5 class is then randomly selected to participate.

We would like to thank those pupils randomly selected to take part in the study for their participation in this important project: without their engagement, our data is unlikely to be considered good enough to analyse or to provide valid evidence. 

What will happen on the day of the study?

The study will take part within the normal school day. On the day of the study, we will ask your child’s class to read some stories and then answer some questions about them. We will also ask them to fill out a short questionnaire.

If you would like to see some examples of the kinds of reading passages and questions which are included in the PIRLS study, they can be found here or you can see an example of the pupil questionnaire here.

Does my child need to prepare?

Your child does not need to do any preparation to take part in the study and their results will not affect their school work.

We ask pupils to bring a book with them so that they can read quietly if they finish the study early.

How are my child’s results used?

The purpose of the study is to produce statistics on children’s learning and development, in order to learn more about how best to support children in learning to read.  The Department for Education (DfE) has commissioned Pearson UK and their partners at Oxford University to carry out the study in England. We will collect information on what your child has learnt about reading from their answers to the PIRLS assessment questions. We will also ask them contextual information, such as questions about their home life and interest in reading. All data from the study will be pseudonymised, meaning pupil, teacher and school details will be removed and replaced with a code so that no individual school or pupil can be identified. It will then be combined with responses from other pupils taking part in England and compared with results of pupils around the world.

The PIRLS data collected from your child’s school will be analysed alongside that of other schools in the country and in other participating nations. Findings of each country are published in an international report by the IEA, and a national report will be written by academics at the OUCEA in 2023. The results of individual schools or pupils will not be published.

Data privacy & how we use personal data

The privacy and data security of the young people and schools we work with is very important to us and no individual pupil, parent, carer or school will be identified or identifiable in any reporting. 

All data from the study will be pseudonymised and combined with responses from other pupils taking part nationally and compared with results of pupils around the world. If there are any questions your child does not wish to answer they may leave them blank.

You can view more information on data privacy and the full privacy notice here.

What have we learned from PIRLS?

Results from the previous cycle of PIRLS, which took place in 2016, were
released on 5th December 2017. You may like to view:

A two-page summary of the key findings

A video by OUCEA researchers summarising the findings

Other recent analysis by OUCEA using data from PIRLS 2016.

Contact us

If you have any queries on any aspect of the study, please do not hesitate to contact the PIRLS Support Team.