English Schools Shine: A Remarkable Fourth Place in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study

By Renaissance

By Joan Mill, Group Managing Director at Renaissance


England’s schools have made an impressive jump in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), moving from eighth place to secure a spot in the top five rankings. Conducted every five years, this global assessment evaluates countries’ education systems and provides a comprehensive league table.

This week, it’s been very pleasing to see that the findings of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) are consistent with our own reports here at Renaissance. It’s remarkable to see the encouraging recovery in reading abilities yet concerning to observe the continued decline in mathematics scores. Both of these tendencies very much align with what we have been observing at Renaissance. However, what truly excites me is how our Star Assessments data has proven to be a reliable harbinger of larger studies as well as a strong predictor of SATS results, showcasing its validity and widespread use in England, particularly in reading.

Evidence-Based Teaching and the Role of Practice: Although many different factions may hope to take credit for the positive outcomes in education, determining the exact impact of specific policies or reforms, such as phonics instruction, curriculum and standards overhaul, or background knowledge building, requires a huge amount of analytical work. The truth is, it’s likely a combination of various factors that contribute to student success.

However, two things are certain: Firstly, policies alone, even if they are evidence-based, don’t facilitate student learning. It is the educators who make a real difference. That’s why I firmly believe in the power of Star. These assessments provide educators with immediate and actionable information throughout the school year. They empower teachers to make informed instructional decisions, helping them understand where their students stand, identify who needs additional support, and gauge the effectiveness of their instruction. Moreover, the strong predictive validity of Star to the Key Stage 2 SATs gives teachers the confidence that positive trends observed in Star Assessment data will likely translate into success in high-stakes assessments.

Secondly, high-quality practice is crucial for successful reading reforms. Students need the opportunity to engage with a diverse range of excellent texts both in and out of school. This is where myON and Accelerated Reader come into play. With these solutions, students gain access to a vast library of captivating texts tailored to their interests and reading levels. This enables them to practice reading regularly, improving their proficiency, and nurturing a genuine love for reading.

Addressing Reading Motivation: I must admit, England’s performance in the reading motivation section of PIRLS was disappointing compared to other nations. However, I see this as an area where improvement can be made. Interestingly, previous studies conducted by Christina Clark at the National Literacy Trust have highlighted the positive impact of Accelerated Reader on students’ reading enjoyment, attitudes, and engagement, and is echoed in our latest What (and How) Kids Are Reading report. Therefore, it’s worth considering how solutions like Accelerated Reader, can significantly enhance reading motivation and create a positive reading culture among students.

Reflecting on the findings from PIRLS and related reports, I am reminded of the importance of evidence-based teaching practices and the value of practice itself. At Renaissance, we take pride in offering educators tools like Star Assessments, myON, and Accelerated Reader, which empower them to make informed instructional decisions, provide students access to high-quality texts, and foster a love for reading. As we continue our journey towards educational excellence, let’s embrace these insights and resources.


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