The NT Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) acknowledges and values research, and is committed to the benefits which research findings can deliver to the development of its policies and education outcomes.
What is Research?
DECS has adopted a broad view of research ranging from quasi-experimental randomised trials to literature reviews, case studies, action research and various forms of evaluation. This includes work conducted in schools, and extends to all research that involves staff or students in their schooling or work contexts; that involves DECS data, its systems, networks and resources, or makes use of DECS’ intellectual property. This stands whether the research is to be conducted by DECS staff or external research persons and organisations.
DECS has a responsibility to ensure that research conducted provides educational or other benefits, minimises disruptions to students, complies with contemporary ethical principles, and is likely to produce relevant, useable and good quality findings.
Potential investigators requesting the participation of NT Government schools, its staff (as participants or researchers), or requesting DECS owned data in their research must obtain DECS’ approval before conducting the research project. The general scope and procedures to acquire this approval is referred to below as the Research Approval Process (RAP).
Note: Where a research project requires Non-Government schools participation, researchers must seek separate authorisation from the relevant organisations.
DECS welcomes research that is well constructed, complies to ethical standards and is of strategic value. In order to meet these standards, a Quality Research Guideline (pdf 40 kb | word 64 kb)incorporating the Human Research Ethics Handbook is provided to assist researchers. The Application to Conduct Research form (pdf 138 kb | word 312 kb) and Guide for Completing the Application to Conduct Research (pdf 49 kb | word 71 kb) should be referred to in compiling your application. Researchers employed by the DECS should refer to the Application to Conduct Research for DECS employees.
DECS encourages research which supports its current Strategic Plan, improves its policies and procedures, and/or contributes to national education initiatives. While DECS does not provide a list of research priorities as such, it takes into account past and current projects in the Northern Territory and elsewhere.
The overall approval process incorporates an internal assessment of benefits and burden of each research proposals.
The general framework to obtain permission to conduct research in DECS involves three distinct phases of ‘consent obligations’. Approval/consent is required at each phase of the sequential process before research can commence.
Phase 1 DECS RAP
The Research and Evaluation Team (RET) is responsible for managing and processing the RAP before research is conducted in NT Government schools. The RET will provide you with a DECS Letter of Approval to conduct research shortly after your research proposal has been authorised. For more information refer to the Overview of Research Approval Process oulined below.
Phase 2 School Consent
After obtaining approval to conduct research (phase 1), researchers must obtain consent from school principal(s) prior to contacting teachers, or other school staff in relation to their research proposal. The DECS Letter of Approval to conduct research should be provided to the school principal(s).
Obtain Data Custodian consent
Subsequent to the researcher receiving the DECS Letter of Approval to conduct research, requests to obtain DECS owned data if required, can then be negotiated with the DECS Data Branch.
Note: School principals or any other DECS staff are not authorised to provide DECS data directly to researchers, without specific written approval from DECS.
Phase 3 Obtain Individual Consent
For most research endorsed by DECS, full active consent should be obtained from all participants prior to conducting research.
Submission of Applications and Contact information
|Type of Researcher||Approval sought||Submission details|
|An employee of DECS||Seeking approval for research led/undertaken by your Branch, Division or school or you are undertaking research as part of your studies.||Complete the Application to Conduct Research form (pdf 138 kb | word 312 kb) and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org|
|A research organisation, philanthropic organisation, consultant or student (not employed by DECS)||Seeking approval to undertake research, this includes NT Government schools, research that involves staff or students in their schooling or work contexts, that involves DECS’ data, its systems, networks and resources or makes use of DECS’ intellectual property.||Complete the Application to Conduct Research form (pdf 138 kb | word 312 kb) and submit to email@example.com|
|Research partnership with DECS||Seeking DECS support for a potential research partnership proposal.||Contact the Research and Evaluation Manager by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (08) 89995829.|
Overview of Research Application Approval Process Phase 1
In general, approval to conduct research is more likely to be approved where educational benefits justify the time and effort required of staff and students, and where the risks associated with data are minimised. Research that supports positive educational outcomes and the work of NT schools is encouraged.
An Application to Conduct Research (Application) will only be considered by DECS, after the following information has been provided, with all relevant documentation attached (incomplete applications will not be processed).
- A fully completed Application Form (signed by the responsible researcher)
- A copy of the full Ethics Application (submitted to an Ethics Committee or process)
- Evidence of Ethical approval (usually an official letter)
- Copies of all data/research instruments as attachments to the Application
- Copies of all information statements and consent forms to be provided to each category of participant
Research applicants should allow approximately 6 weeks for the Phase 1 of the approval process for their Application to be considered and processed by DECS. Additional time should be allowed for complex projects and for research proposals not backed up by full National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) approval.
The review process will commence as soon as the Application and all other relevant information has been submitted. RET may contact the designated applicant-researcher for additional information to support the Research Application, to check compliance with Ethics and to clarify aspects of the intended research.
Applications and attachments may be circulated to other persons/divisions within DECS as part of the review and approval process.
The DECS will consider the following:
- Fit of the research project with DECS’s Strategic Plan and national education initiatives
- Potential benefits of the research project in relation to education
- Likely impact on participants, for example students, teachers, principals and other staff
- Extent to which the given schools are participating in other research or under other forms of pressure
- Suitability of the research and data collection instruments for its participants and intended research objectives
- The way the research instruments and data collections are managed to protect participants in relation to privacy, safety and confidentiality
- Possible risks associated with the research, including those connected with data
As soon as the Research Application has been sanctioned, a Letter of Approval to conduct research will be provided to the researcher. The Letter of Approval allows the researcher to invite schools and DECS participants to participate in the research project. The Letter of Approval must be provided to each school principal, relevant divisions, and/or data custodians before commencing Phase 2 (interactions with schools, divisions or data providers) can be progressed.
Note 1: Participation in research is voluntary; the decision to participate in any research is at the discretion of the school principal or DECS Data Branch. School Principals and DECS Data Branch might decline participating (and could change their decision to participate in the research project at any time).
Note 2: The DECS Letter of Approval to conduct research is not an endorsement of the project, its research instruments, its findings and interpretations, or its recommendations.
After approval has been granted at Phase 2 (by each school principal or DECS Data Branch or DECS division directors), the researcher can then invite students, parents and staff to participate in the research, using the approach described in the application. Where relevant, ‘Plain English Statements’ must be provided to all participants and consent forms signed before conducting research.
Changes to Research Projects and re-submissions
Permission should be sought for variations to approved projects, before deviations from the approved plan occur. Before proposed changes are made to research projects (including change of schools, participants, instruments or methods), the RET should be notified that researchers are seeking approval to modify the research project, including complete descriptions of changes (and their rationale) via email at email@example.com.
Researchers should allow sufficient time, depending on the scale of the changes for DECS to assess the research project.