The London Learner Survey has been commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and is a key part of their ongoing management of the Adult Education Budget (AEB). The survey will provide the GLA and providers with critical information on the impact of taking part in AEB-funded courses and provide key data and evidence about the case for more investment in the AEB.
The survey is run by IFF Research and tracks the progression of learners into further learning and employment, as well as social outcomes including wellbeing, self-efficacy, social integration and participation in volunteering.
The survey will run on a rolling basis from 31st August 2021.
How does it work?
The London Learner Survey consists of a baseline survey, administered by providers to learners at the beginning of their course, and a follow up survey, administered by IFF Research, 5 months after learners have completed their course. The baseline survey involves the following:
– Each provider will be given their own survey link, to distribute among students at the start of their course. To make distribution as easy as possible, this is a single, generic link that can be used by any learner at that provider who is eligible to take part.
– When they click on the link, learners will be asked to enter their learner reference/ ID number and basic contact details, so that IFF can match their survey responses to their Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data when it becomes available.
– The survey will take most learners around 10 minutes to complete and will be run predominantly online. However it can also be completed by paper or phone for learners who cannot take part online. There are multiple language options to ensure accessibility for students who speak English as an additional language.
– Each provider will have an IFF Liaison Officer to guide them through the process and answer any questions. Providers will also have access to a live dashboard to view the number of survey completes from their learners.
The follow up survey, completed 5 months after the learner has finished their course, will be run completely by IFF Research online and by phone, with all learners who have completed the baseline survey and given contact details. This does not require any provider involvement.
To make sure the survey is representative of all learners and findings are valid, it is really important that as many learners as possible complete the baseline survey, and we will support you in ensuring this happens. We have taken steps to make the survey accessible to all groups such as learners doing ESOL courses or learners with learning difficulty or disability.
Those learners who complete the survey can enter a prize draw to win an iPad. The T&Cs for entering this draw can be found here.
What do providers need to do?
Distribute the survey link
You will need to distribute the survey link, provided by IFF, to all eligible learners. The link can be distributed anytime from when learners first enrol on their course, to four weeks after they have started their course. Detailed information on how to distribute the survey is available in the written guidance sent to each provider administering the survey. If you do not have this guidance, please contact your IFF Liaison Officer at LLSTeam@IFFResearch.com.
If learners are taking part in more than one course starting in the same month, only one link will be needed per student, and students will only need to complete the survey once.
Encourage learners to complete the survey
For the survey to be fair and representative, we need as many eligible learners to complete it as possible, so please encourage learners to complete the survey. This can be through email reminders, posters and leaflets, on social media and your websites, and through tutors during their early course sessions. IFF will provide you with email and reminder text and publicity materials.
Monitor response rates
All providers will have access to a live dashboard showing the number of survey completes received. So that we can monitor response rates, we will ask you to regularly update the dashboard with the number of eligible learners you have distributed the survey to. This will also allow you to view your response rate live. We will work closely with you, providing resources and tips to help you encourage students to take part, to ensure a good response rate.
Provide alternative survey options to ensure accessibility
To ensure the success of the survey it is essential that all learners are supported to complete it. 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 survey start page is available in 10 different languages, and the full survey in six different languages. For those languages that have the start page translated but not the full survey, learners will be given the option to request a call back from an IFF telephone interviewer in their own language, who will assist them by talking them through the survey over the phone. Learners who speak a language not on this list of 10 can also request a call back in their own language, though meeting these requests will depend on whether that language can be covered by the interviewer panel.
– The survey will automatically adjust when the text size is increased in the browser and has screen reader compatibility.
– For learners who cannot complete the survey online, a batch of paper questionnaires and reply-paid envelopes will be sent to each provider. The survey can also be completed by phone on request with an IFF interviewer.
Options for distributing the London Learner Survey to learners
Providers are expected to distribute the survey using three main channels.
The pilot has shown that tutor involvement is key to getting the best response rate, so all tutors should be encouraged to promote the survey to learners as much as possible.
Further information on how to distribute the survey is available in the written guidance sent to each provider administering the survey. If you do not have this guidance, please contact your IFF Liaison Officer at LLSTeam@IFFResearch.com.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. It is mandatory for providers to take part in the survey if they are being funded through the GLA’s Adult Education Budget. This includes adult skills and community learning, and grant-funded as well as procured provision.
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.
You can find details on how to administer the survey on the main provider page of this website, or for more information see the full guidance PDF sent to all providers by IFF Research. If you do not have the guidance PDF, please contact your IFF Liaison Officer at LLSTeam@IFFResearch.com.
All learners on GLA AEB-funded courses are eligible to take part in the survey, excluding taster courses.
Many providers choose to offer ‘taster’ courses which should last a maximum of two weeks, but in most cases take part in one or two sessions. They should have been designed only to allow learners to decide whether they want to progress to a subsequent learning programme, and not aiming to deliver any other outcomes on their own.
Our understanding is that most taster courses in Community Learning are very short, but that they may occasionally be longer within Adult Skills provision.
By AEB do you mean the entire AEB grant? Or do you mean just the formula funded learners? Does this include learners under the Community Learning element?
The survey should be disseminated to all GLA-AEB funded learners, including Community Learning.
Can there be a (course hours) threshold, so that the survey is sent to those on more substantial programmes, that feels more proportionate, the tutor has more time to support completion, and learners are likely more motivated to share their experiences?
The GLA is keen to understand the benefits of all the learning aims it funds. This includes courses with relatively few Guided Learning Hours, and so we are asking you to include any learners enrolled in any GLA-funded learning.
If a learner is not eligible (or has not yet been submitted) for funding can they still complete the survey online?
Yes – learners can complete the survey if they are not eligible (or have not yet been submitted for funding) and they will all be included in the prize draw. IFF will remove any ineligible learners once data is matched with the ILR data. This matching will be done several months after they complete their course. However, as far as possible providers should try to only invite learners who are, or are likely to be, GLA AEB-funded.
What should we do if we have both GLA AEB-funded learners and other learners (e.g. self-funded, ESFA AEB-funded)?
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.
While you say that we can target all learners on selected courses, even if they are not all GLA-AEB funded learners – if there are only very few students that would be truly eligible, would it be ok to just target those ones? I.e. if only 1 student in a class of 15 is likely to be eligible, would it be acceptable to just ask that one student to complete?
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.
If a learner enters a non-GLA postcode, will this be detected automatically and not allow them to complete?
We do not currently plan to block any learners based on their postcode. Where providers have both GLA AEB-funded and non-GLA AEB-funded learners within the same class, we do not want tutors to have to distinguish between different groups of learners if this could cause confusion (as learners may well not be aware of different funding circumstances), therefore the survey has been set up to allow non-eligible learners to take part if necessary. These will then be removed from the final dataset at a later date once we have matched their details with the ILR.
If a learner is starting more than one course within the same month, they only need to complete the baseline survey once. If they try to complete the survey a second time, they will get a message to say they don’t need to complete it again (unless they want to) – as long as they enter the same student ID each time. However, if learners are starting multiple courses in different months we would like them to complete the baseline survey again, as their circumstances may have changed, and it is important that we capture current data as close as possible to the start of each course.
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.
The survey is designed to be completed mainly online but paper and telephone alternatives are available for learners who need them. You should distribute the survey to students in a variety of ways: via an information leaflet at enrolment, by emailing the survey link direct to learners, and via tutors in classes promoting the survey (and offering the option to complete in class if possible). 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 six of the most common non-English languages in London, while the survey introduction is available in an additional four 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, and see the troubleshooting suggestions in the Tutor FAQ document. Please also feed back to your liaison officer at IFF about any substantial difficulties your learners are facing.
From the pilot most ‘technical problems’ were students not understanding how to complete the survey, so the first point of call would be tutors. However, we will create a how-to guide for filling in the survey which we hope will reduce the number of questions asked of tutors (and which tutors themselves can use of a guide). We will also include troubleshooting information on the learner website FAQ page, so learners can be signposted there for help. Any major technical issues (e.g. no learners can access the link) can be referred to the team at IFF.
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.
Based on analysis of the pilot survey, it should take learners 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.
The full survey is available online in English, Polish, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, Arabic and Turkish. Learners can also request a telephone survey in Punjabi, Portuguese, Somali or Urdu via a question at the start of the online survey.
Will it be possible to get a copy of the questionnaire, so we can familiarise ourselves with the questions?
Yes – a provider reference copy of the questionnaire will be distributed to all providers. If you have not received this, please contact your IFF Liaison Officer.
IFF will send around a document highlighting the changes made from the pilot to the mainstage questionnaire, along with a copy of the final mainstage questionnaire.
No, we can’t show which students have completed the survey. 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.
What response rate are you expecting? / Will providers receive targets for the baseline survey response rate, and will they be penalised if these are not met?
We do not have a target response rate but want to maximise the number of responses. The GLA requires providers to disseminate the survey to all learners and to remind and encourage them to complete the survey as much as possible.
Each provider will have access to an online dashboard which they can access to see the number of their live survey responses at any point after the survey goes live. Dashboard links will be sent out shortly before the launch of the mainstage survey at the end of August.
Can the dashboard include course codes so we can see where we are getting the best responses from and where we need to focus the promotion of the survey?
We will not know which courses learners are on when they complete the baseline survey (this data will only be matched on from the ILR, several months later) so it will not be possible to include this on the dashboard.
Yes, results from the mainstage survey will be shared with specific providers in anonymised / aggregate form so that you can see the overall results from your own learners.
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.
You mention a student number is asked for in the survey. We don’t usually give our students a student number on registration – do we need to generate one?
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.
Is there a way of making sure the Learner Reference Number is not duplicated across different institutions?
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.
A small proportion of learners in the pilot (4.7%) did not provide any identifying information; in total 91% provided enough information to be likely to allow matching with the ILR (either student number, or at least two other items out of name, DOB or postcode).
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.
Are you going to provide a definition of “Social Class” to learners / will learners be offended by being asked this? [Referring to survey questions G3 and G4]
A description of social class is currently not included in the questionnaire. The questionnaire was thoroughly tested before the pilot, and our analysis of pilot responses showed there wasn’t a higher level of ‘Don’t know’ responses at this question compared to others, which suggests learners generally were not confused by the question. Also note that the question does not ask learners to identify what social class they belong to – just their perception of whether they interact with people from different social classes to their own.
Is there guidance for tutors on how to explain why we ask these questions, especially around wellbeing?
Yes – there is a specific section within the Tutor FAQ document that answers this question. The learner information leaflet also sets out that these kinds of questions are asked and explains why.
Due to the questions asked in the survey around wellbeing, the survey may identify learners who are struggling. Is there anything we can do around safeguarding?
As the survey must remain confidential we can’t contact specific learners based on their responses, however if learners give any indication during the telephone interviews that suggests they are at immediate risk of harm, we would flag this with the relevant learning provider (as safeguarding concerns would override GDPR). Also, if any learners give very low scores across all the wellbeing measures, they will be signposted to information on where they can find help at the end of the survey.
IFF Research have ISO27001:2013 accreditation, the gold standard of data security, and CyberEssentials. This means all our processes 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.
A number of our students have not given consent to be contacted for surveys (regards the ILR privacy notice question). Where do we stand from a legal / data protection perspective when it comes to sending them the baseline survey?
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).
Learners can enter a monthly prize draw to win an iPad.