Approaches to consent in public health research in secondary schools

“Seeking active parent consent can undermine secondary school students’ autonomy, and limit participation, particularly among disadvantaged students, so biasing research. Our analysis suggests that active student consent and passive parent/carer consent be standard practice for most research procedures in secondary schools. More intrusive data collection, such as blood and saliva samples, would require parent/carer active consent since such procedures would be defined as diagnostic procedures so being classed as an investigational product. However, we would argue that for questionnaire completion, observation or routine data, student consent and autonomy should have primacy with parents having the right and means to receive full information, ask questions and withdraw their children from research should they wish. This approach gives proper primacy to student autonomy while also respecting parent/carer autonomy.”

Also helpful thoughts on issues arising with consent for whole-class interventions.

Bonell, C., Humphrey, N., Singh, I., Viner, R. M., & Ford, T. (2023). Approaches to consent in public health research in secondary schools. BMJ Open, 13, e070277.