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Northern Ireland primary school pupils best in Europe at maths

By Rebecca Black

Published 30/11/2016

The study of achievement in maths and science shows that pupils aged nine and 10 here continue to perform at the top of the table in the former subject
The study of achievement in maths and science shows that pupils aged nine and 10 here continue to perform at the top of the table in the former subject

Northern Ireland's children are the smartest in Europe at mathematics, an international survey has found.

The study of achievement in maths and science shows that pupils aged nine and 10 here continue to perform at the top of the table in the former subject.

Just five of the 57 countries which took part - Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan - outperformed us in maths.

Pupils in the Republic were ninth, and pupils in England came 10th.

The tests examined pupils' ability to solve problems involving whole numbers, simple fractions and two-place decimals, understand geometric properties of shapes and angles, and interpret and use data in tables and graphs to solve problems.

Education Minister Peter Weir congratulated the local principals, teachers and pupils involved.

The National Foundation for Educational Research carried out the research for the Department of Education.

Achievement in science was found to be not as high, but was still above the international average.

In Northern Ireland there were no significant gender differences in attainment for either mathematics or science.

The rankings in Trends in the International Mathematics and Science Study have been published every four years since 1995.

They are based on tests taken in 2015 by more than 580,000 students aged nine to 10 and 13 to 14 in 57 countries.

Mr Weir said the report showed primary schools had maintained their strong performance in maths.

"It also highlights that primary schools in Northern Ireland have highly-qualified principals and teachers who are committed to continued professional development," he said.

"The level of participation in professional development activities for mathematics was higher in Northern Ireland than that seen internationally."

The minister said the results come shortly after the Education and Training Inspectorate's chief inspector's report, which found that in 89% of primary schools inspected, achievements and standards in mathematics and numeracy were good or better.

"The vast majority of children have parents with a positive attitude towards mathematics and science," he added.

"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."

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