Qualitative research with primary school-aged children: Ethical and practical considerations of evalutaing a safeguarding programme in schools.
Jackson-Hollis, V. (2019). Qualitative research with primary school-aged children: Ethical and practical considerations of evalutaing a safeguarding programme in schools. Journal of Children’s Services, 14(3), pp. 194-204.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the ethical and practical challenges of working with primary school-aged children to conduct qualitative service evaluations regarding sensitive safeguarding topics.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper centres on the author’s learnings from conducting school-based, task-assisted focus groups with 5–11 year olds. The reflections are drawn from notes made during fieldwork, debrief discussions with evaluation colleagues and wider team debates. This was a consultative participatory evaluation and the findings are situated within the wider literature around rights-based approaches to research.
Findings: Using multi-method and creative approaches can facilitate young children to assent and dissent from service evaluation in a school setting. However, the challenges of helping children understand confidentiality are highlighted, as is the challenge for researchers in recognising and responding in situ to disclosures. Using suitable and creative activities, this evaluation demonstrates that primary school children can contribute meaningful data to assist with service development. However, the approach to collecting these data from the youngest children needs careful consideration.
Practical implications: Researchers may need to adopt full participatory methods to better help children understand the confidentiality bounds of research and to form views on the subject matter. More discussion is needed in the wider safeguarding research literature to show how researchers have navigated the challenges of handling disclosures.
Originality/value: This paper contributes to the literature by providing examples of how to overcome issues of children’s participation, consent and protection in service evaluation focussed on a sensitive topic.
This article is a part of a special issue entitled, Children’s participation in safeguarding: Ethical and practical considrations. A number of other articles in the issue may be of interest (see Publisher’s Link below).