The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an assessment of mathematics and science that has been monitoring trends in pupil achievement at Primary Year 6 since 1995. TIMSS takes place every 4 years in over 60 countries and provides internationally comparable data on pupils’ attainment in mathematics and science, and how their performance is related to their attitudes, gender, and background. In addition, TIMSS includes a range of questionnaires to be completed by parents/guardians, teachers, and school leaders. This information collected provides valuable knowledge on pupils early learning and pre-primary education and views on teaching mathematics and science.
2) When does the study take place?
The study will take place between May - June 2023. In the welcome letter, addressed to your principal, a date is suggested for the study to be conducted at your school. We hope that this date is convenient for your staff and pupils, and that suitable room(s) can be made available. If for any reason this date is not suitable, your TIMSS School Coordinator can contact our TIMSS Support Team to suggest an alternative date for the study to take place. Our TIMSS Support Team will reply to confirm a new date.
3) Why has my school been selected to take part in TIMSS?
Following a rigorous sampling process, your school has been selected to participate in TIMSS by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). One of the requirements of the study is to ensure that the sample of participating schools is representative of schools in Northern Ireland. We are only able to approach schools that are selected through the sampling approach, to ensure the results show
a true representation of the full range of schools in Northern Ireland in respect of size, location, and school type.
Please see https://www.iea.nl/studies/iea/timss/timss2023 for detailed information on the study methodology.
4) Why does Northern Ireland take part in TIMSS?
TIMSS is a major international study monitoring mathematics and science achievement. It is a vital part of the international evidence base, allowing the Department of Education (DE) to benchmark Northern Ireland’s performance against other countries, to TIMSS 2023 measure trends over time, to identify and analyse factors that impact pupil attainment and the implementation of our policies and practices. TIMSS provides Northern Ireland with information on policies and practices in other high performing countries.
5) What are the benefits to your school for taking part in the study?
The schools and pupils that participate in TIMSS are making a valuable contribution to the understanding of our education system and it is only with this participation that we can realise the opportunities that TIMSS brings to improve our educational policies and practices. By participating in TIMSS, you will be:
- supporting a study that helps us better understand our education system, directly influencing national policy and developments.
- contributing to an international evidence base that informs policies and strategies to help address the challenges associated with raising standards and reducing attainment gaps.
- giving your pupils the experience of representing Northern Ireland in an important global study.
- providing your pupils with the opportunity to practise their mathematics and science skills through an interesting and innovative online assessment.
Your school will receive a feedback report containing your pupils’ perspectives in a range of areas e.g., attitudes to mathematics and science, sense of belonging and wellbeing*. This report is an opportunity to better understand and gauge your pupils’ wellbeing and learn from their experiences as we emerge from the pandemic. A sample of this report can be viewed here.
* provided the number of participating pupils in your school is high enough to protect pupil confidentiality.
6) How is our contribution recognised?
As a thank you for your support, schools and pupils will be awarded a certificate of participation. In recognition of your valued contribution, your school will also receive a £200 administration payment. You will be sent a payment form following your initial call from the TIMSS Support Team.
7) Will school staff be required to invigilate the study?
No, the National Research Centre (Pearson) will provide a Test Administrator who will liaise with School Coordinator and visit the school on the assessment day and have responsibility for running the study (C2K and TIMSS Support Team will also be available for additional IT Support). TIMSS Test Administrators are experienced education professionals, often ex-teachers, who all have enhanced ACCESS NI credentials. However, we do ask that a member of the school staff stays in the room during the assessment. If you have any concerns about Test Administrators visiting your school, you can discuss alternative arrangements with the TIMSS Support Team.
8) What does the assessment consist of?
Pupils will complete an interactive computer-based mathematics and science assessment covering a wide range of age relevant content and topic areas, followed by a questionnaire. The assessment is designed to test pupils’ knowledge of mathematics and science and their applying and reasoning skills. It will include a mix of open and closed response questions.
School staff and parents/guardians will also be asked to complete a questionnaire to provide important contextual information to supplement the assessment data:
- The pupil questionnaire asks participating pupils about aspects of their home and school lives, including demographic information, their home environment, school climate for learning, and their attitudes towards learning mathematics
- The school questionnaire asks a range of contextual questions about the participating schools, including demographic characteristics of the school’s pupils, the availability of resources for teaching, and the school’s learning environment
- The teacher questionnaire asks participating teachers about their education, professional development, and experience in teaching, as well as their teaching of mathematics and science classroom activities and strategies TIMSS 2023
- The home questionnaire (Early Learning Survey) asks a range of questions about home resources for learning, language(s) spoken in the home, early literacy, and numeracy activities, and preprimary education.
View examples of TIMSS assessments.
9) How long will the study take?
The whole process will take approximately 2.5 hours, including the assessment itself, survey, questionnaire and breaks. No prior preparation is required from pupils. Most schools aim to complete the study by lunch, though we can make arrangements to start later. The assessment is split into two sessions and will take around 1.5 hours in total. After a 5-10 minute break, pupils will be asked to complete the online questionnaire, which will take around 30 minutes.
Our Test Administrator will arrive at least an hour before your chosen start time to prepare the room. The School Coordinator should aim to arrive at the same time. Parking on the school premises is welcomed if available. The school and teacher questionnaires can be completed in advance online. Instructions on how to access the questionnaire will be sent to the School Coordinator to distribute. These questionnaires should take about half an hour each to complete. If two classes are chosen in the school it can be easier to assess one class in the morning and the second class after lunch to make best use of IT facilities. Guidance will be provided by the TIMSS Support Team for schools with two classes.
10) Do pupils need to bring anything or prepare?
No prior preparation or work is required for pupils to be able to complete the assessment and minimal administration is required from school staff.
Pupils should bring a book to read quietly in case they finish the assessment early.
11) Where should the study take place?
Pupils will need access to an internet enabled computer with keyboard and mouse to complete the study. An IT room, or two, depending on the number of pupils, is ideal, or alternatively a classroom can be used with laptops. Each pupil will need to take the assessment on a laptop or PC in a room that is quiet and free from distraction.
If your school doesn’t have enough computers in IT rooms or laptops for use in a classroom for the assessment to take place, please get in touch with the TIMSS Support Team as early as possible.
12) What facilities are required?
Yes – The assessments will be accessed over the internet using a secure log in. So WIFI/an internet connection will be required for pupils to access both the assessmentand the questionnaire. Each pupil will need a laptop or PC for a maximum duration of 2 hours (including breaks). If laptops are used they should be fully charged before the day of the study.
Pearson and C2K will liaise closely with your nominated School Coordinator and IT Coordinator ahead of the assessment day to ensure that the IT facilities in your school are set up correctly as well as providing demonstration videos. A 5-minute automated test of a computer on the school system will need to take place ahead of the assessment day, and a diagnostic link will be provided for this. We also ask if possible that your IT Coordinator is available on the assessment day to assist with any issues that may arise.
13) When will I know which class/classes have been chosen?
You will be informed of the class/classes chosen as soon as the sampling is complete; we expect this to happen in February-March 2023. The majority of schools will have one class selected, but some larger schools will have two classes selected to participate. It is important that all the pupils in the sample carry out the required activity, however you will have the opportunity to notify us if the test will not be appropriate for any of your pupils such as those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) which mean they would not be able to access the test.
14) What are the main duties of the TIMSS School Coordinator?
The TIMSS support team will support your TIMSS School Coordinator throughout the process and aim to keep administration to a minimum. The Year 6 Class teacher is often selected for this role.
- being the main point of contact for Pearson and the TIMSS Test Administrator.
- agreeing the date and making the arrangements for pupils to complete the activities in the school.
- working with Pearson to confirm details of all eligible pupils and then those sampled to participate.
- informing pupils and parents of the study using the letter templates provided by Pearson.
- informing the board of governors about the school’s participation in the TIMSS study (your Principal may wish to do this).
- Liaise with C2K to ensure computers are ready for the assessments and any diagnostics testing are carried out (with support). FAQs 11 and 12.
- ensuring secure storage of any materials sent prior to the study.
- overseeing the distribution, completion and collection of school and teacher questionnaires prior to the test date (Teacher and School questionnaires will be available to complete online or can be completed on paper from April 2023).
- overseeing the distribution and collection of home questionnaires (Early Learning Survey) prior to the test date (questionnaires will be available to complete online or can be completed on paper from April 2023). We will provide template letters for you to send to parents/guardians of pupils taking part in the study. These templates will be emailed to you so you can edit them as necessary and print or distribute electronically.
- Ensure all hard copy materials / pupil information are safely stored in a secured cabinet
- Before the assessment day, confirming the date and time with the TIMSS Test Administrator.
- On the assessment day, supporting the TIMSS Test Administrator as needed (see School Coordinator Guidance document ‘Day of the study’).
- If may be helpful to have IT support available on the day of testing (optional) however immediate help with IT troubleshooting will be available from the TIMSS Support Team.
To check that we are delivering the study in a similar way in all schools, a quality monitor may attend your test session. If this happens, the School Coordinator will be asked some questions about the arrangements you were required to make and your views of the way in which the study was organised.
15) How will pupils and parents be informed about the study?
We will provide template letters for you to send to pupils taking part in the study and their parents/guardians. These templates will be emailed to you so you can edit them as necessary and print or distribute electronically.
We will also provide you with a letter on data privacy which must be included with your letter to parents and should not be altered. Letters should be sent once we have TIMSS 2023 confirmed the pupils taking part in the study from February-March 2023.
To find out more, parents/guardians and pupils can be directed here.
16) Will results remain confidential?
Yes – school, pupil, and parent/guardians’ identities will remain confidential, and data will only be shared with the study organiser, the IEA, via secure channels. The information collected from your school will only be accessible at individual school and pupil level (but not containing any personal identifiers) to the TIMSS project team.
The dataset shared with the international study organisers will be pseudonymised, meaning teacher, school, pupil and parent/guardians’ details will be removed and replaced with a code so that no individual, school or pupil can be identified.
The Department of Education and any organisation granted access to the data for the purposes of international comparison or research will not publish information which identifies or makes it possible to identify any individual or school participating in the study.
17) How will the study protect my school’s data?
We take data protection very seriously and follow the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Any personal information we collect will be held securely and no individual pupil or school will be identified or identifiable in any report or publication.
18) What have we learnt from TIMSS?
The Northern Ireland National Reports from previous cycles of TIMSS, on the DE website.
The previous TIMSS Study was conducted in 2019 and further details are available for your information in the links below.
To see how Northern Ireland performed in TIMSS 2019 please click here.
For the TIMSS 2019 full report please click here.
For more information regarding TIMSS 2019 click here.
19) Where can I get support/ further information?
The TIMSS support team can be reached from Monday to Friday between 8am and 4pm on 020 7010 2010, or by email on timss23NI@pearson.com