Research in ACT Public Schools

The Education Directorate (the Directorate) welcomes applications to conduct research that has the potential to contribute to a greater understanding of educational issues and outcomes. Research applications are assessed by the Directorate and must be approved before research in schools can proceed. The information on this page has been prepared to assist researchers in submitting an application to conduct research in ACT public schools.

The Directorate has an obligation to ensure that research is carried out in an ethical manner and therefore assesses all research projects intended for public schools. Students’ and teachers’ privacy must be protected and the research must be appropriate to the school environment and students’ age.

The Directorate has a duty to ensure that students in its care receive the best possible education and are protected at all times from physical, psychological and other forms of harm. Research design should not affect students’ educational progress and psychosocial wellbeing.

If a research project involves investigation of sensitive issues which could have the potential to cause distress to students, the project may be declined. The Directorate considers research in the following areas highly sensitive and potentially distressing to students:

  • Mental health
  • Body image and eating disorders
  • Death, grief and trauma
  • Anti-social and criminal activities or behaviours
  • Alcohol, drug or substance abuse
  • Attitudes towards opposite sex and sexual behaviours, and
  • Ethnic, race and gender issues and relations.

For positive consideration of research applications in the foregoing areas, researchers are required to provide a risk management plan with their application. It is a condition of research approval in these sensitive areas that researchers or their sponsoring organisation will provide free of cost support services such as clinical or counselling services to participating students and their families in the case of potential mental health or psychological issues arising out of their participation in the research project.

Consent

If the research project involves students under the age of 18 years, consent of both students and their parents/carers is required. Consent (opt-in) forms for both students and their parents/carers must be included with the application for research. An opt-out form is not acceptable. Students have the right to withdraw from the project despite consent from their parents/carers.

Public Liability Insurance

Any researcher applying to conduct research in ACT public schools or their sponsoring organisation must have public liability insurance of at least $10 million. Evidence of public liability insurance must be attached with the Research Application. Permission to conduct research in schools is usually granted for the duration of public liability insurance cover.

Directorate Approval

The Directorate has responsibility for public schools and does not assess applications to conduct research in non-government schools. Researchers wishing to conduct research in non-government schools should conduct relevant schools or their associations for permission.

Approval to conduct research in public schools involves two stages: 'in-principle approval’ from the Directorate and ‘permission to proceed’ from individual school principals. The Directorate examines all research proposals to ensure that the subject matter and methodology are suitable for the target school(s).

Submission of the Research Application and relevant supporting documents will initiate the first stage of the approval process. In most cases, the Directorate approval is processed within four weeks of submission.

Researchers must advise how the findings will be used/published (e.g. thesis, article etc) in response to the question on ‘major objectives of the project’.

Anonymous assessors may recommend that a research project be:

  • approved
  • approved subject to amendments or additional information being provided, or
  • rejected.

If approval is given, a letter will be issued granting permission to approach public schools. The approval letter must be presented to individual school principals. The letter provides information on conditions of conducting research in public schools. Researchers must follow those conditions at all times. Any changes in the methodology, scope and timeframes of research require Directorate approval through a written application for continuing research in public schools.

The Directorate reserves the right to reject a research project that is assessed to be methodologically inadequate or investigating highly sensitive issues. Approval may be conditional on the researcher adjusting the research design/methodology to ensure the reliability and validity of research and wellbeing of participants. An application that has been rejected may be revised and resubmitted.

The Directorate does not generally provide approval for research that is undertaken primarily for commercial or material gain.

Researchers should also note that the approval to undertake research in schools does not extend to obtaining individual or aggregate data on local, national or international assessment programs, or student achievement data such as year 12 results. In order to obtain such data, researchers must contact the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority for assessment data and the Office of the ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies for data on year 12 results.

An essential condition of approval is that within one month of the completion of the research project, researchers will provide the Directorate with a copy of their final research report/paper/thesis along with an abstract. Research reports are placed in an online library accessible internally to all Directorate staff in order to inform policy and program development and evaluation through research in public schools. All researchers are required to agree and comply with this condition.

Ethics

Research in public schools must always be conducted in accordance with ethical and privacy guidelines and requirements as determined in the following publications of the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council:

  • Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007)
  • National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007)
  • Guidelines under section 95 of the Privacy Act 1988 (2000)
  • Guidelines approved under section 95A of the Privacy Act 1988 (2001).

Researchers from universities or research organisations must seek approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) of the university or their organisation and enclose the approval letter with the application.

Researchers, that are not associated with universities or organisations with an HREC or who cannot submit their research proposals to a third party HREC and undergraduate students undertaking a short research assignment (not exceeding a semester), must submit the Ethics Statement word file (28kb). The statement must be countersigned by supervisors.

Approaching schools

Following Directorate approval, permission to conduct research in a particular ACT public school rests with the school principal. Permission will be dependent on curriculum requirements and a determination that the research does not place undue burden on the school, students or school personnel.

A letter to the principals of nominated schools seeking approval to conduct research must outline the nature of the research. Applicants should supply a copy of the Directorate’s letter of approval, submitted Research Application, Information Letter and Consent Form to the principal when seeking approval from the school.

Screening of Researchers

If the principal assesses that the nature of the research activity and/or the type of contact with students may place students at risk then the researcher will be required to undergo screening. The researcher and sponsoring organisation are responsible for arranging the screening, criminal record check, and any associated costs.

A person entering a school to conduct research is considered a visitor to a school. Visitors must comply with the Visitors in Schools Framework located on the policies page of the Directorate’s website.

To apply for research approval, please complete the following:

The Directorate has provided templates for an information letter and consent form. Applicants must provide all necessary information letters and consent forms.

All enquiries and completed research applications should be emailed to det.research@act.gov.au