Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2015: Online Pilot

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) has always been administered on paper. This report summarises an online pilot ahead of the potential move to conduct some of the SALSUS 2015 fieldwork online rather than on paper.

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2 Methods


2.1 The online pilot methoidology is summarised in Figure 2.1 below.

Figure 2.1 Online Pilot Methodology

Figure 2.1 Online Pilot Methodology

2.2 A total of 12 schools took part in the pilot – 11 were local authority schools and 1 was independent.

2.3 The schools were in 12 different Local Authorities (LAs). The results of the feasibility study conducted in the autumn of 2014 were used to determine which LAs to target. In order that the pilot was not biased towards those authorities which seemed best placed to carry out online research, and to increase the chances of identifying problems, the sample was skewed towards those which the results of the study suggested would be more problematic.

2.4 The geographic spread included rural authorities where broadband coverage/connectivity might be problematic.

2.5 Schools were recruited by the research team at Ipsos MORI by way of a letter then a follow-up telephone call with the headteacher. Subsequent arrangements were made through a nominated liaison teacher.

2.6 The fieldwork replicated the intended main-stage fieldwork process as closely as possible. Recruited schools were sent packs containing instructions for liaison and class teachers, parent opt-out letters, pupil information sheets, and a sheet of 30 stickers per class (each with the survey web address and a unique, anonymous log-in code) for pupils to select at random. Eight of the schools administered the survey on PCs and four used tablet devices. Two Secondary 2 and two Secondary 4 classes took part in the survey in each school.

2.7 Researchers from Ipsos MORI visited six of the schools to carry out observations and interviews. Class teachers at the remaining six schools were sent feedback forms, and their liaison teachers were interviewed by telephone.

2.8 In each of the schools visited by a researcher, the pilot comprised five strands:

  • observation of one class completing the survey
  • a focus group with 6-10 pupils
  • interviews with class teachers who administered the survey (which in some cases was also the liaison teacher)
  • an interview with the liaison teacher
  • feedback forms from class teachers.

2.9 In the schools which were not visited, a researcher conducted a telephone interview with the liaison teacher after the participating classes had completed the survey. To feed into this, liaison teachers sought feedback from the teachers who administered the survey. In addition, the liaison teacher at one school held a feedback session with pupils.

2.10 All discussion guides were designed by Ipsos MORI, and can be found in Annex A.


2.11 Although the sample was designed to avoid any bias, the profile of schools which participated may have led to fewer problems being identified. The reasons for this were that:

  • it is possible that the schools which agreed to take part in the pilot may have been those more likely to consent to participating in online surveys, and/or those more able to administer a survey in this way
  • schools were free to choose which classes would take part in the pilot (rather than classes being selected at random as would happen for the main-stage fieldwork). This could have led schools to choose classes which had Personal and Social Education (PSE) time at the same time as the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) suite was vacant, or on the basis that certain classes may face fewer problems than others (e.g. in terms of behaviour or support needs)
  • one teacher who was interviewed said that she thought that she, and the other colleague who administered the survey in the school, were more comfortable with technology than the other two PSE teachers - and she wondered if this was why her class had been selected (by the liaison teacher). This may also have happened elsewhere.

2.12 On the other hand, the pilot was conducted at a busier time of year for schools than the main-stage fieldwork (i.e. the spring rather than the autumn term) and the fieldwork period was also significantly shorter than the main-stage fieldwork period. This is likely to have exacerbated some of the problems of booking ICT suites and equipment.


Email: Emma McCallum

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