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Reading performance a positive reflection of teaching standards

While there are many challenges facing our education system, it is clearly very positive that a major international survey has placed Northern Ireland pupils among the world's top performers in reading.

The latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) has placed the north, along with the Republic, in the top ten of 50 countries that took part in the tests, which measure the reading levels of nine and ten-year-olds.

Figures showed that the overall average score for Northern Ireland pupils remained stable between 2016 and 2011 when the survey was previously carried out.

As well as the high international ranking, the study provides information which helps to explain why our young people are performing so well.

This includes the fact that children have a positive attitude towards reading and enjoy their lessons.

Primary schools in the north have highly qualified principals and the majority of teachers reported they were very satisfied with their job.

The importance of parents encouraging reading in the home was also apparent in this study. It is clear that children with parents who are keen readers themselves and provide access to books and resources in the home led to higher average achievement.

Of course, this will come as little surprise to many parents, who understand the value of reading and who help to develop reading skills in their children from an early age.

In terms of the impact of the home environment on children's education, the report pointed to a concern over tiredness among pupils.

The proportion of pupils whose teachers reported lack of sleep as a limiting factor was slightly higher here than internationally, a matter that perhaps deserves closer attention.

There is a case for ensuring greater awareness among parents of this issue and an understanding of the appropriate levels of sleep required by children in this age group.

But overall there is much that is gratifying in this study, which is a reflection of the high standards delivered by our schools.

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