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Department for Education (DfE)

User research for Language Horizons Mentoring, a digital mentoring scheme pilot

8 Incomplete applications

7 SME, 1 large

2 Completed applications

2 SME, 0 large

Important dates

Monday 28 January 2019
Deadline for asking questions
Monday 4 February 2019 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Monday 11 February 2019 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
DfE requires a supplier to undertake user research on the usability of a digital platform in an alpha trial of a digital mentoring project aiming to inspire year 9 pupils to choose Modern Foreign Languages at GCSE. The work will inform the development of the project at private beta stage.
Latest start date
Monday 4 March 2019
Expected contract length
Up to 20 days. Bidders must outline their project timeline at the proposal stage.
No specific location, eg they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education (DfE)
Budget range
Maximum budget of £30k including VAT and expenses.

Bidders must fully detail their resources and charges at the proposal stage.
Travel and subsistence should be included in the proposed charges.

About the work

Why the work is being done
As a manifesto commitment, DfE is working towards the ambition of having 75% of GCSE pupils studying the EBacc combination of subjects by 2022, and 90% by 2025. Modern Foreign languages (MFL) are one of the EBacc subjects. Currently MFL take-up is lagging behind, with 46% take-up in 2018.
The Department is running a languages mentoring project at alpha stage in ten schools in England to seek to increase take-up of language GCSE by inspiring pupils to choose languages. The project will use a digital platform to allow mentors to be in contact with their mentees and to inspire pupils.
Problem to be solved
We are procuring user research exploring the experience of pupils and mentors using the digital platform, focused on:
- Accessibility;
- Assisted digital needs;
- Pupils with SEND and EAL requirements;
- Digital literacy; and
- General usability of the platform.
The contractor will provide a report informed by interviews with pupils and mentors as well as expertise in digital usability, focusing on strengths and weaknesses of the existing digital platform, recommendations for improving it and for scaling it up. The research should assess the end to end user journey including access and use of the online tool.
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a pupil, I need to use the digital platform to contact my mentor so that I can ask questions and access the advice, information and inspiration provided by my mentor.

As a mentor, I need to use the digital platform to contact my mentees in schools, and to provide me with resources to inspire and inform pupils about the value of languages.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
The DfE has appointed Cardiff University to run a 6 week pilot mentoring programme aimed at inspiring young people to take up languages at GCSE. Cardiff is working with undergraduate mentors from Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam universities and 200 pupils from 9 schools in Sheffield, who will receive a combination of face-to-face and online mentoring in languages.
During alpha Cardiff will:
- Test the mentoring approach in England
- Test the prototype digital platform
- Explore the potential to take this to private beta stage, and to roll it out to more schools.
Please contact us for further details.
Existing team
The supplier will be working with the alpha delivery team at Cardiff University and their partners at Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam universities.

The alpha delivery team at Cardiff university have commissioned an evaluation which will look for example at the success of the project in increasing GCSE uptake and changing attitudes towards languages, but will not focus on the digital platform.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Working arrangements
The supplier will need to conduct some interviews with pupils and mentors in schools in Sheffield in w/c 4 March and 11 March, when pupils will be accessing the digital platform for the final time: the supplier will need to be ready to start work immediately on appointment.

The supplier can work remotely, but will attend an initial meeting in London or Sheffield with the DfE to discuss expectations. The supplier will provide a final report in a format agreed with the DfE.
Security clearance
BPSS clearance is required for all team members. This will need to be in place before the start of the project.

Any researchers working with children will need DBS clearance.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
All expenses should comply with DfE Travel & Subsistence Policy, which will be provided at the proposal stage of the process.

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Recent and demonstrable experience evaluating digital platforms from the perspective of users, including those with SEND, low digital literacy and EAL (10)
  • Demonstrable experience of working in schools and engaging with pupils (4)
  • Recent and demonstrable experience of working to tight timescales and delivering at pace (4)
  • Recent and demonstrable experience in project and programme management (2)
  • Familiar with Government Digital Security (2)
  • Knowledge and experience in course design and online learning (2)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Demonstrable experience in government policy work and policy development principles (2)
  • Demonstrable knowledge of the education policy landscape (2)
  • Demonstrable ability to absorb large amounts of pre-existing research in a short period of time and the ability to build on this research (2)

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Proposed plan of activities with clear deliverables and milestones, demonstrating the ability to complete the delivery of the work within the required tight timescales (7)
  • Proposed approach and methodology which meets the goal of assessing the Language Horizon’s digital platform from the perspective of users of the platform (7)
  • How the proposed research will look specifically at accessibility, assisted digital needs, pupils with SEND and EAL and digital literacy needs (6)
  • How the user research will be presented to ensure optimum use of the data and inform the future development of the project (4)
  • Proposed supplier team structure, with evidence to demonstrate how their skills and experience will deliver the required outcome (2)
  • Identification of any risks or dependencies and proportional mitigations to manage them (2)
  • Evidence of how the proposal represents value for money for DfE (2)
Cultural fit criteria
  • The supplier’s approach to working proactively with the DfE, alpha project providers and schools (4)
  • How the supplier plans to keep the DfE informed of the progress of their work (4)
  • The supplier’s approach to sharing good practice, knowledge and lessons learnt with the project team (2)
Payment approach
Fixed price
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Work history
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Do you expect the recruitment and scheduling of participants to be managed (fully, collaboratively, not at all) by the supplier?
We will provide the contractor with a provisional schedule of appointments upon appointment. After appointment, the contractor will be responsible for collaborating with Cardiff University for any further recruitment and scheduling needs.
2. In the essential criteria question, 'Recent and demonstrable experience evaluating digital platforms from the perspective of users, including those with SEND, low digital literacy and EAL' – will alternative responses still be considered if they do not contain SEND or EAL examples? Would examples from experience working with Higher Education organisations be consider in general for instance?
Yes, where a supplier cannot demonstrate direct SEND or EAL experience they can include relevant examples along with context of how they would gain and apply the relevant SEND/EAL understanding/knowledge to meet the criteria.
3. Regarding the question, 'Recent and demonstrable experience in project and programme management' – please could you provide more detail on what your interpretation/definition of Programme Management is?
Management of a programme where detailed project plans are put in place and progress is proactively monitored to ensure delivery of the objectives/outcomes within the scope and timescales of the programme.