Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin 2:00 pm, 12th March 2013

The Audit Office report that the Member refers to was published in March 2006 and the specific recommendation was contained in the follow-up report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which was published in December 2006.  The full list of the PAC recommendations was included at appendix 2 to the most recent NIAO report, 'Improving Literacy and Numeracy Achievement in Schools', which was published on 19 February 2013.

Following the 2006 report, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was commissioned by the Department of Education (DE) to undertake a study to identify measures that were working successfully in delivering better literacy and numeracy outcomes in comparator cities.  PwC identified the comparator cities or local authorities as Glasgow, Liverpool, Dublin, Cork and the London boroughs of Camden, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea.  That report was published in December 2007.

My Department benchmarks pupil performance at an international level through surveys such as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).  In 2011, our primary 6 pupils performed exceptionally well in the TIMSS and PIRLS surveys.  They were ranked the highest performing English-speaking region in the world in reading, coming fifth out of 45 countries, and numeracy, in which they were ranked sixth out of 50 countries. 

The PISA study assesses the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science.  The PISA 2009 results showed that, overall, we are placed among the average performing countries in respect of reading and maths and among those above average in science. 

The most recent Audit Office report welcomed the Department’s participation in international studies such as PIRLS, TIMSS and PISA.