Provider frequently asked questions


The GLA announced on Monday 18th January that the London Learner Survey baseline survey is being postponed until the start of the Easter term.

IFF Research will be pausing work on the baseline pilot survey until mid-March, when we will get back in touch with you to confirm the new pilot timings. At this point we will also issue reminders of materials and course selection guidance if needed, and make available an updated training video.

The pilot materials, course selection approach and methodology will all be unchanged, apart from the start date, so you can also refer to our previous communications if you want to start your planning earlier.

Yes. It is mandatory for providers to take part in both the mainstage survey and the pilot. As the main stage will be on a much larger scale than the pilot, involving all eligible learners on AEB-funded courses, it will be beneficial for you to take part in the pilot to prepare and test how the processes will work at your institution, for your learners. Taking part in the pilot is also an opportunity for you to feed back on your experiences to inform the main stage rollout.

IFF is unable to administer the baseline survey directly because we have no access to learners’ contact details at the point they start their course. For this reason, the baseline survey has to be administered via providers. IFF will handle the follow-up survey completely as by that stage we will have access to learners’ contact details: no provider involvement is needed for the follow-up.

Administering the survey for the baseline involves:

Identifying learners who are eligible to take part in the baseline survey. For the pilot survey only, IFF will provide you with guidance on which learners/courses to invite. For the mainstage learners doing any GLA AEB-funded course, except for short taster courses, should take part in the baseline.

Distributing the survey link. The link can be distributed anytime from when they first enrol on their course, to two weeks after they have started their course. If students are taking part in more than one course around the same time, only one link will be needed per student, and students will only need to complete the survey once.

Encouraging students to complete the survey. For the survey to be fair and representative, we need as many eligible students to complete it as possible, so we will ask you to encourage students to complete the survey. IFF will provide you with email and reminder text and publicity materials.

Keeping your IFF Liaison Officer updated. So that we can monitor response rates, we will ask you to provide IFF with monthly updates of the number of eligible learners starting courses that you are distributing the survey to.

Providing alternative survey options to ensure accessibility. The survey is available in different formats to ensure accessibility, and we ask that providers support students to make use of these where needed. The online survey is translated into five of the most commonly spoken languages in London. The homepage is available in the ten most common languages, where learners can request a telephone interview in their own language if needed. For learners who cannot complete the survey online, a batch of paper questionnaires and reply-paid envelopes will be made available to each provider.

All learners on GLA AEB-funded courses are eligible to take part in the survey if they are starting their course within the necessary pilot timeframes. We will be in touch in mid-March to confirm when they will need to start a course in order to be eligible.. You are welcome to administer the survey to all such students.

However, for the pilot, if it would be easier to administer the survey to a subset of students, please see the guidance that IFF has provided on which courses to select for receiving the baseline survey.

If you have a class which includes both GLA AEB-funded learners and other learners (e.g. self-funded or ESFA AEB-funded learners), you can invite all the learners to complete the survey (to avoid having to distinguish between different types of learners on the same course). IFF will suppress any ineligible survey completes from the main data outputs after we have matched baseline completes to the ILR data.

In that case, yes it is absolutely fine to target specific learners if this is possible and you are happy to do so. While we CAN remove any learners from analysis who are ineligible later on, if the proportion of ineligible learners in a class is likely to be high then it is beneficial to just target those who are eligible from the start.

The survey is designed to be completed mainly online but paper and telephone alternatives are available for learners who need them. You can distribute the survey to students in a variety of ways depending on what suits your organisation’s processes. We would recommend that as a minimum all learners should receive an emailed link to the online survey, together with encouragement to complete the survey either at enrolment or early in their course. A batch of paper copies of the questionnaire, with reply paid envelopes, will be sent to your institution for any learners that are unable to complete the survey online and need to do it on paper.

Learners who speak English as an additional language can complete a translated survey online if the available translations are suitable for them. Alternatively, we are also offering telephone interviews in other languages that they can request from the survey homepage.

The survey has been designed to be as straightforward as possible, but we recognise that some learners may have difficulties completing it due to language or literacy issues or lack of digital skills to get online. The online survey has been translated into five of the most common non-English languages in London, while the survey introduction is available in ten languages and enables learners to request a telephone interview in their own language if needed. IFF will also send all providers a batch of paper copy questionnaires and reply-paid envelopes which can be distributed to learners on request.

If you find that many learners are coming to you with issues completing the survey, please remind them of the options to do it on paper or in a different language. Please also feed back to your liaison officer at IFF about any substantial difficulties your learners are facing.

This isn’t something we expect providers to be able to do, but we are happy in principle for this to happen if necessary, and if the provider wishes to do so.

Yes we could offer the survey in more languages for the mainstage based on demand.

IFF Research will be in touch in mid-March to confirm the new pilot timings, including when this information will be needed. Your provider liaison officer will then ask you for this information and you can provide it directly to them.

If you sub-contract GLA AEB-funded provision (excluding taster courses), this is eligible for the survey and learners enrolled with sub-contractors should be invited to take part. The main contractor is responsible for ensuring that the survey information is cascaded to sub-contractors and that all eligible learners are invited to participate.

We would like as many learners as possible to take part in the baseline survey, to provide robust volumes and a representative spread of London learners. It’s also crucial to get a good response at the baseline, in order to ensure sufficient learners take part in the follow up survey.

Currently, we do not plan to introduce hard targets for the response rate or penalties. However, the more learners who take part in the survey, the better information you will have on learner motivations, experiences and outcomes from GLA AEB-funded provision, so please do encourage as many as possible to take part.

Around 10-12 minutes on average, but we recognise that some learners may take longer than this. Learners can complete the survey in stages if they enter their email address at the start, as this enables us to send them a new link which they can use to pause the survey and return to where they left off, if they need to finish it later.

Yes – ahead of the pilot starting again we will provide a list of the questions asked.

No, we can’t show which students have completed the survey unfortunately. This is for two main reasons: 1) Data protection rules mean that we need to keep this confidential, and 2) We may not initially know which students have taken part, as it depends on what information they give us at the baseline stage. We ask for student ID, name and date of birth, but these are optional.

Yes, results from the mainstage survey will be shared with specific providers so that you can see the results from your own learners. We probably won’t be sharing data from the pilot in this way due to the smaller numbers of learners taking part.

Yes, the follow-up survey will ask for feedback on courses that the learners have undertaken, so at the mainstage providers will get to see the feedback (in anonymised / aggregate form) that their learners have given their courses.

The survey asks for the Learner Reference Number, which is the number that providers give to their students on enrolment. This is “LearnRefNumber” in the ILR. It is not the ULN. It is very useful if students give us this number but it is optional in the survey.

We will use the student number in two ways – to check if a learner has already completed a baseline survey and does not need to do it again, and to allow us to match the data from the baseline survey to the ILR (by looking up the number entered in the survey against the “LearnRefNumber” field in the ILR).

It is not mandatory to enter a student number, and learners will be able to complete the survey without one – in that case we would use other information (such as name, date of birth etc.) to match each learner to their ILR record.

However, without a learner number we won’t be able to flag to learners if they have already completed the survey previously, so to avoid any extra burden on learners it may be helpful if you were able to allocate student numbers to your learners for this reason.

Our system will combine the Learner Reference Number entered by the learner with the provider ID code to create a unique identifier for that learner, and it can use that unique ID to check if that learner has already completed a baseline survey.

If learners are starting more than one course within a month, they will only need to do the baseline survey once (though they would be able to choose to do it again if they would like to). If their courses start more than a month apart, we will ask them to complete a baseline survey for each course. This timeframe will be reviewed for the mainstage, however it is important to test the possibility of learners being asked to complete multiple baseline surveys for different courses as part of the pilot.

The survey will generate evidence about all outcomes from adult education, not just the more ‘traditional’ economic measures relating to work or progression into further education. Hence, the survey asks about a range of wider outcomes including wellbeing, self-efficacy, and social interactions.

Yes – there is a specific section within the tutors Q&A document that answers this question. The learner information leaflet also sets out that these kinds of questions are asked, and explains why.

As the survey must remain confidential we can’t contact specific learners based on their responses, however we are investigating for the mainstage what signposting or support for learners might be possible.

IFF Research have ISO27001:2013 accreditation, the gold standard of data security, and CyberEssentials. This means all our process are geared towards meeting stringent data security requirements. We adhere to the GDPR and learners will get information on how their data will be used, where it will be stored and when it will be deleted, at the start of the survey. Learners’ contact information is stored on our secure servers at IFF and only members of the project team have access to it.

The ILR allows learners to opt in or out of being contacted for general market research, however it does not exclude people from research informing government policy, such as the London Learner Survey. Under the ‘public task’ lawful basis, and in line with the ILR privacy notice, we are permitted to invite all learners to take part in the London Learner Survey, and so will expect the invites to be sent to all in-scope learners (regardless of whether they agreed to be contacted for general market research by other third parties).

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