Conducting Research in WA Catholic Schools or Offices

Support for Research

Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) is responsible for approving research in the 163 Catholic schools across the four Dioceses as well as in regional offices. It is recognised that research is important in providing evidence to inform education policy making and practice. CEWA is committed to continuous improvement and sees strategic partnerships with, and support for, researchers as an important way of achieving this.

Each year there have been increases in the number of research applications. While research is important, the fundamental role of schools is educating children and it is also important that research in schools does not impact on the smooth running of schools nor on the wellbeing of students, staff, parents and the wider school community.

CEWA has implemented a number of processes that attempt to address the two considerations – potential burden on schools and research that is appropriate for children to be involved in.

Approval Considerations

The document ‘Guidelines and Principles for Research in Western Australian Catholic Schools or Offices’ outlines most of the considerations needed when developing an application.

Of significance are three considerations;

  • Research must be demonstrably linked to education or student wellbeing and demonstrate how it can value add to existing knowledge in the education setting
  • Research must be ethical and high quality, as outlined in the ‘National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007’ 
  • Research must not have the potential to unnecessarily harm or distress students or staff through their participation
Research that cannot guarantee these criteria will not normally be approved in Catholic schools.

The ‘Guidelines and Principles for Research in Western Australian Catholic Schools or Offices’ outlines levels of risk which will be considered when assessing a research proposal. Schools owe students a non-delegable duty of care and an assessment of risk where students are involved will be significantly more rigorous than that applied to an adult.

The following broad categories of research are likely to receive close scrutiny in terms of risk or harm;

  • Drug or alcohol consumption
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Trauma
  • Self harm and depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Sensitive personal and emotional issues
  • Sexuality
  • Criminal  activity or incrimination

Research methodologies are also be considered in the approval process. Those that involve the following methods are unlikely to be approved without appropriate justification and a demonstration of a high level of expertise from the researcher in terms of their capacity to manage the risk;

  • Passive consent from parents
  • Deception
  • Medical and related procedures
  • Use of unfamiliar or dangerous equipment, especially outside the school
  • Inadequate support provided by the researcher where risk is higher such that the school’s provision of a duty of care is compromised.