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School pupils give their views about research


School pupils should only be asked to take part in research that is relevant to them and be given a say on research topics, a new guide to carrying out research with young people says.

Newcastle University has worked with Shawlands Academy in Glasgow to develop ‘ Peter%20Hopkins%20research%20protocol%20involving%20young%20people%20i, a new student-centred research protocol, which is being introduced in schools across Glasgow.

Developed because students wanted to be better informed about why research was being carried out and to have a greater say in how they participate, the protocol aims to make it easier for decisions about taking part in research to be student-led, rather than made by teachers. It also sets out how research should be conducted and how researchers should behave when working with young people.

Among the points made by students in the protocol are:
• Students should be able to refuse to participate in research without having to give a reason. They should also have the option to choose a pseudonym if they wish.
• Research should be motivated by social justice and be relevant to young people.
• Students should be provided with written feedback about what researchers found from carrying out research in the school, and whether the research was successful.

Professor Peter Hopkins worked with the S4 (Year 11) students at Shawlands Academy to develop the protocol, and is himself a former pupil of the school. He said: “Discussions about research involving young people frequently take place directly between school senior management and researchers, often without any consultation with the students about whether or not they would be interested in the research. 

“This new protocol places young people at the centre of research. It is designed to be used at all stages of research, including when researchers initially approach schools seeking permission to work with young people. The new protocol will ensure that researchers are more informed about the preferences of young people so that their views and preferences about how they participate in research can be taken into account.” 

The students said that taking part in research gives them a chance to explore a range of topics relevant to their lives, and helps them understand why they think the way they do and why they might disagree with their friends and classmates. As a guide to researchers, a summary of topics young people think are important is included in the protocol.

Shawlands Academy is frequently approached by social researchers as the school is within a diverse part of Glasgow. The new protocol provides a framework within which pupils and teachers will be able to make informed decisions about whether or not to participate in research.

While developing the protocol, the group of S4 students visited Newcastle University to talk to researchers to learn more about the research process. They then presented their finished work to officials from Glasgow City Council at a special event in June. The group is also mentoring and training younger pupils at the school so that there is a sustainable student voice in decisions about which research takes place at Shawlands Academy.

Megan Adcock, 15, one of the students involved in developing the protocol, said: “I felt that our work on research was really worthwhile – it means we have a real say in the research in our school and how it is carried out. I loved the trip to Newcastle University too and felt really encouraged to think about my future.”

Cath Sinclair, Deputy Headteacher at Shawlands Academy, said: “The genuine partnership between Shawlands Academy and Newcastle University was built firmly on the principle of allowing students to have more than just a voice about research in schools, but actually to steer the project from inception to outcome.

“It was such a delight to watch students grow in confidence and knowledge culminating in their trip to participate in workshops at the University. As a school we are delighted to have been an integral part of this innovative project and continue to involve our students in reviewing educational research in the Academy.”

Teachers, pupils and researchers will be able to access the new research protocol on the Glasgow City Council website.

Dr Michele McClung, Support Services Manager (Policy and Research) for Education Services at Glasgow City Council, said: “Understanding more about the areas young people want to be researched on and listening to their views on how they think research should be undertaken in their schools, delivers a better outcome for everyone. We are very pleased with this new research protocol, and hope that in time, schools in other parts of Scotland will use it.”

published on: 6 October 2015