Research with school-aged children

Ethical concerns with research involving children

Research involving children and young people raises particular ethical concerns about:

  • their capacity to understand what the research entails, and therefore whether their consent to participate is sufficient for their participation;
  • their possible coercion by parents, peers, researchers or others to participate in research; and
  • conflicting values and interests of parents and children.

Guidance on how to apply the principles of Justice, Beneficence and Respect when conducting research with children are set out in National Statement Chapter 4.2: Children and young people

For an example of designing an protocol to work with children and young people, see Children and young people participating in research - Australian Institute of Family Studies.


Working With Vulnerable People registration

Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) registration is required in the ACT (and/or equivalent registrations for other states) prior to beginning any research with vulnerable people, including children.

If you already have your WWVP registration when applying for ethics approval, upload copies of your registration in the Documents tab of your ARIES ethics application.

If you have not completed your WWVP registration when applying for ethics approval, you must clearly state in your application that your WWVP will be completed before any research with vulnerable people commences. If your application is approved, it will be conditional on that basis. Copies of the WWVP must be forward to the human ethics team when completed, before beginning research with children.

Further information on how to apply for WWVP registration and the NSW Working with Children Check are available in Related Links on the right hand side of this page. Where research involves vulnerable people overseas, research staff must obtain an Australian WWVP. For other Australian states and territories, please see Information for community and volunteers: Working or volunteering with vulnerable people in another State or Territory.


Research in schools

Approval to conduct research in schools by ANU researchers involves three stages:

  1. Approval from ANU HREC
  2. 'In-principle approval' from the relevant Department of Education; and
  3. 'Permission to proceed' from individual school principals

If you want to conduct your research with students in government schools, you need permission beforehand, from both the relevant Department of Education and the individual school/s, usually through the principal.  In the case of private schools, permission from the principal may suffice. 

Each state and territory has different research priorities, guidelines and processes for obtaining approval. It is your responsibility as researcher to make sure you are following all the regulations for your research location. The links below are a good place to start. 

  • ACT - Department of Education lists areas of research considered highly sensitive and have additional application requirements. Application to research in ACT public schools is via a word document form to be submitted via email.
  • NSW - Department of Education accepts its applications online through SERAP (NSW State Education Research Applications Process). Guidance can be found in the SERAP Guidelines (updated 2019).
  • Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia



Some departments or schools may require researchers to be covered by insurance (e.g., public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance and workers compensation insurance). For information on insurance provided for ANU research, check the Certificates of Currency, or contact the ANU Insurance Office.

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