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Primary schools in Northern Ireland continue to rank among the best in the world in maths

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A major international survey of pupil achievement in mathematics and science shows that pupils aged nine – ten in Northern Ireland continue to perform very well in maths.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) carried out the research for the Department of Education. Achievement in science was found to be not as high, but is still above the international average.

Data from the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) reveal that only five of the 50 countries taking part in the mathematics assessments outperformed Northern Ireland.

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “The report shows that primary schools here have maintained a strong performance in the subject as demonstrated in the previous TIMSS study in 2011.

“It also highlights that primary schools in Northern Ireland have highly qualified principals and teachers who are committed to continued professional development. The level of participation in professional development activities for mathematics was higher in Northern Ireland than that seen internationally.”

Continuing the Minister said the findings reflect those of the Chief Inspector’s report (2014-16) published on 16 November 2016 which found that in 89% of primary schools inspected, achievements and standards in mathematics and numeracy were good or better.

The Minister said he was very encouraged by the findings of this study which show local children have a positive attitude towards educational achievement both at home and school.

He said: “The vast majority of children have parents with a positive attitude towards mathematics and science.

“In addition, our principals and teachers were reported to have some of the highest levels of emphasis on academic success. A positive attitude towards learning is also fostered by our pupils with the majority reporting that they enjoy learning maths and science.”

Most children in Northern Ireland attend schools with an environment that is conducive to learning according to the study. Schools which have few disciplinary problems are safe and orderly places of learning where pupils report relatively low levels of bullying. These positive aspects of the school learning environment have remained unchanged since the 2011 TIMSS study.

Carole Willis, Chief Executive of NFER commented: “TIMSS provides a valuable way for nations to benchmark the performance of their education systems, and Northern Ireland has continued to perform well in this latest round. NFER has been involved in running TIMSS since it first began in 1995, and brings a unique combination of expertise in education systems and robust research. The insights we provide through TIMSS on students, their teachers and schools will help policymakers and schools in Northern Ireland to build on their strengths and address areas where its performance could be improved further.”

The full national reports for TIMSS can be found at: https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/TMSS01

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