This page is intended for parents/carers of children and adolescents who take part in our OxWell school survey. Schools are requested to send out parent information one week before they invite pupils to take part in the survey, to provide details on the survey and how we use the data. Additional information can be found in our frequently asked questions below.
Frequently asked questions from parents
Q1. What are you trying to find out?
A. Childhood and adolescence is a critical period for mental health and brain development. By asking them directly about how they experience school life and health-related issues, we hope to better understand what is happening to the mental health of young people, and to inform schools and local services of how to provide students with the best mental health support. More information can be found on the ‘About OxWell page‘ or by contacting the research team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q2. Why has my child been invited to take part?
A. We are inviting your child to take part because they are at a school participating in the OxWell study and are aged 8 years or older, currently in school year 5-13. We are inviting up to 100,000 students to take part.
Q3. Does my child have to take part if their school has signed up?
A. If for any reason you don’t want your child to take part, then you can notify your child’s school and ask them not to invite your child to take part. Even if you are happy for your child to take part, your child may choose not to complete the survey, or to opt-out of any questions that they really don’t want to answer. Young people of 16 years and older can decide for themselves whether they wish to take part without giving their parents the opportunity to opt-out.
Q4. What will happen if my child takes part?
A. During a designated school class lesson of around 30 minutes, students will be invited to log in to the OxWell Student Survey, to answer questions on lifestyle and health-related issues. Some of the questions address sensitive areas (e.g., safety, bullying, mental wellbeing), and there are different versions of the survey to ensure that the content is age matched. Pupils in years 7-13 are also asked some questions related to risk factors like self-harm, drugs, abuse, depression and anxiety. At the end of the survey, appropriate advice and guidance is provided with links (e.g., www.childline.org.uk). We do not wish to identify students and therefore do not ask for names, addresses, date of birth or use unique logins. The survey data is collected as part of a service provided by Foster and Brown Research Ltd (www.fabresearch.com).
Q5. Why does this research study use an opt-out procedure with parents, rather than seeking explicit consent?
A. With an opt-out process, parents need to be sent the approved information on the study (at least one week before running the survey), and provided with contact details for the research team and instructions on how to opt-out, rather than having to provide explicit consent.
This opt-out process is only suitable for studies that follow specific research procedures with children and have received ethical approval following review. For example, this research is carried out through the school and no harm or distress is caused to the pupils. The research team has no direct contact with the participants and does not collect names, addresses or other explicit identifiers.
The goals of this study also depend on a large and representative sample from each school taking part. Summaries of the data are provided to schools once the data has been collected, to help inform their own in-school interventions. A representative sample and informative summaries would not be possible via an opt-in consenting process with parents. This is because the parents who took the time to respond and consent would be limited in numbers and not representative of the whole school or year group, often missing the more vulnerable groups of pupils who are most likely to benefit from the survey findings being used by the schools.
Q6. What are the advantages / disadvantages of taking part?
A. One potential risk of this study is that your child will be asked questions about a topic that they know nothing or very little about, such as about substance misuse (years 7-13 only). To mitigate the risks, different versions of the survey have been designed to ensure that the questions are age-appropriate, and most of these questions are seen only by students who indicate that they understand the topic and have experience in it. Schools and students are provided with links to websites offering information and guidance.
There are no direct benefits of taking part, but one of the aims of the survey is to advise schools on which topics students might require additional information on to be fully aware of the dangers of specific situations and behaviours. In the event that the survey highlights any safeguarding concerns then the relevant school safeguarding leads are informed of the number of concerning responses in the whole school, but this only takes place several weeks after the survey has been collected (as the data needs to be prepared for analysis).
Q7. What are the topics of the questions in the survey - will my child be asked about things they aren't aware of?
A: Some of the questions in the survey are about sensitive topics. However, with this concern in mind, the survey questions have been selected to be age-appropriate, to ensure that children and young people are only asked about things that they are likely to already know about. There are two separate age-appropriate surveys – one for primary school aged children in years 5 & 6, and another for those in secondary school and FE colleges in years 7 to 13. The survey asks about pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. For example, for years 5 & 6 this is the Stirling Children’s Wellbeing Scale, where children are asked which option best describes their thoughts and feelings to positive statements like “I’ve been in a good mood” and “I’ve been feeling calm”.
All pupils are asked about sleep and activity, their school experience, friendships and bullying, gaming and online behaviours, diet, and how safe they feel in their everyday life at school and in their neighbourhood. The survey version for school years 5 & 6 does NOT ask questions about possible experiences and vulnerable behaviours, including maltreatment and substance use which are asked in the secondary school/FE survey (years 7-13). We ask no questions about sexuality.
To minimise the chance that pupils are asked questions about topics that they are not aware of, there are gateway questions that only open up more detailed questions when pupils indicate that they have experience in these topics. In particular, this relates to an age- and language-appropriate question on self-harm. We are also very keen to learn about how best to support all school children with mental health needs and so ask some questions about which services they would like to access, and if they have accessed any services whether they have found them helpful.
We have used the best available questionnaires we could find on each topic area, that have been used by other surveys and research groups, and are published and validated where possible. All questions across both versions of the survey have been approved by the University of Oxford’s ethical review board (ref. R62366).
Q8. Can I see the survey questions before I decide whether my child takes part?
A: We do not send survey links to parents or provide the full list of questions because most pupils will see only a limited number of the questions. However, we do understand the concern of parents and we have provided information on the content of the survey in the response to Q7 above. If you have concerns about survey questions on specific topics, then we would be grateful to hear from you and willing to discuss those questions with you (email@example.com).
A list of questions from previous OxWell surveys in 2019, 2020 and 2021 are available on the study’s Open Science Framework website: https://osf.io/sekhr/ which should give a good idea of previous questions, although changes have been made. For example, questions relating to COVID-19 have been removed and new questions about ethnicity, appearance, and the cost-of-living crisis have been added. The study protocol is also available here: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/12/e052717.
Q9. If my child takes part, can their answers be identified by the university or schools?
A. We do not want to identify the young people who take part. Therefore we do not ask pupils for explicit identifiers (such as name, date-of-birth, postcode, address), and we do not use unique logins to the survey. Due to the large number of questions in the survey, including some demographics, we do treat the data as personal data and have included a privacy notice in the parent information sheet. To maintain the privacy of the pupils who take part, we do NOT share the raw individual data with schools or others outside our research team, only summaries or extracts of the data.
Q10. Who is conducting this research?
A. The research project is organized by The OxWell Study Team at the University of Oxford for which Professor Mina Fazel is the Principal Investigator. The research is funded by the by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (Oxford and Thames Valley), and the Westminster Foundation. This study has received ethics clearance through the University of Oxford’s Central University Research Ethics Committee [CUREC reference R62366/RE0014].
Q11. What happens to the data provided?
A. The information your child provides as part of the study is research data. Any research data from which your child can be identified is known as personal data. In this study we do not wish to identify students and have taken measures to minimise this, so we do not collect names, addresses, dates of birth, IP addresses, or use individual logins to the survey. We also do not collect data relating to parents’ professions. A school login is provided to students, and opt-out records will be held by the school. We do ask some sensitive questions that relate to mental health, but make it clear that any questions can be left blank. Personal or sensitive data will be stored confidentially in password protected files on secure servers at the University of Oxford, and in secure databases by Foster and Brown Research Ltd. We would like your permission to use your child’s data in future studies, and to share data with other researchers (e.g., in online databases). All personal information that could identify your child will be removed or changed before information is shared with other researchers or results are made public. An up-to-date list of researchers with access to the data can be found here. Responsible members of the University of Oxford may be given access to data for monitoring and/or audit of the study. All research data will be stored by the University of Oxford for 20 years (the final ten years of which will be archived) for ongoing research studies, in accordance with the law. Foster and Brown Research Ltd will keep the data for at least 10 years. Summaries of our findings will be given to schools, local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and Public Health teams who can use the results to guide the services they provide. They are also given access to summaries of the data via Foster and Brown’s online platform (Lodeseeker), which enables comparisons to the rest of the data collected but does not enable access to individual survey responses.
Q12. What if there is a problem?
A. If you have a concern about any aspect of this project, please contact the OxWell team on: firstname.lastname@example.org