The highly anticipated PIRLS results showed that England ranked fourth worldwide for primary reading ability. This ongoing success in PIRLS stems from the emphasis on phonics and is driven by gains for the least able students.
Despite the pandemic’s disruption, England’s score stayed consistent after strong improvements in 2011 and 2016. Placing fourth out of 43 countries that tested the regular 9-10-year-old cohort. The Covid-19 disruption complicates direct comparisons of countries’ performance between 2016 and 2021.
England’s 558 was significantly higher than the international average of 520 and the European average of 524.
The PIRLS rankings are normally conducted every five years. Which are widely considered the international benchmark for primary reading capability.
This success follows several measures to boost reading standards. Including implementing the Phonics Screening Check and the English Hubs programme. Schools Minister Nick Gibb visited a leading English Hub to commemorate England‘s performance. The Jerry Clay Academy in Wakefield, to participate in a literacy session and witness the growth in reading skills firsthand.
Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister, stated:
Raising literacy rates is crucial to our economic growth strategy and one of my five core priorities. Therefore, it’s excellent to see England climb fourth in the international reading ability rankings.
These findings also demonstrate a positive narrowing of the achievement gap between boys and girls, Between the highest and lowest-performing students.
This demonstrates that our strategy is effective. Thanks to our excellent teachers, more children are reading comfortably and fulfilling their potential. Relentless pursuit of standards, the pioneering English Hubs project, and the introduction of the Phonics Screening Check.
While there is always room for improvement, students and teachers around the country should be extremely proud of their accomplishments today.
Nick Gibb, Minister for Education, stated:
The Government’s long-term aim has been to raise literacy levels. Over the last decade, we have focused on enhancing reading instruction through the tried-and-true phonics technique.
With the implementation of the Phonics Screening Check and the English Hubs Programme. We have provided kids nationwide with a firm foundation in reading. Which is internationally acclaimed, as seen by today’s results.
I’m grateful to all the teachers and teaching assistants who helped make this happen. They teach their students skills necessary for success in later education and instil in them a lifetime of love and respect for one of life’s greatest pleasures.
In 2012, the Department of Education implemented the Phonics Screening Check to verify that every 6-year-old is on track with their reading. Only 58% met the predicted standard in 2012; By 2019, shortly before the pandemic, this had increased to 82%.
The English Hubs programme, worth £60 million, was launched in 2018 with the goal of developing competence in school reading instruction. The lead schools collaborate with partner schools by demonstrating best practices. And supplying professional teachers to assist them in raising reading standards through phonics. According to new research, partner schools sponsored by the English Hubs Programme outscored other schools in Phonics Screening Checks by around 7 percentage points.
PIRLS also revealed that the gender gap between boys’ and girls’ scores and the attainment gap between the highest and lowest-performing students are narrowing. Similarly, the attainment gap between students who “like” reading “very much” and those who “do not like” reading has shrunk to its lowest level ever. Indicating that even students who do not enjoy reading are proficient in it.