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Here we answer a few common questions from parents about our school mental health survey.

Q1: Does my child have to take part if their school has signed up?

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 send a survey link and login details to your child. 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.

Q2: If my child takes part, can their answers be identified by the university or schools?

We do NOT want to identify the young people who take part. We do NOT ask questions that make it possible for us to identify pupils (such as name, date-of-birth, ethnicity, postcode, address). We can not identify children by the survey link they use or record any location data. Also, we do NOT make individual data available to schools, only online summaries of the data that report differences between groups of 5 or more pupils.

Q3: What are the topics of the questions in the survey - will my child be asked about things they aren't aware of?

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. The survey version for school years 4-7 does NOT include clinical measures of mental health (which can be quite negative) or ask questions about the vulnerable behaviour associated with adolescence. Instead the survey for pupils in years 4-7 includes a measure of mental wellbeing (WEMWBS), so that children are asked to say how much they agree with positive statements like "I've been feeling good about myself".

Pupils in year 8 and above complete a validated measure of mental health (RCADS) and see at least one question on self-harm, but to minimise the chance that they are asked questions about topics that they are not aware of, we have included the response option "I am not sure what this means", which will ensure that they do not see any further questions on the topic. 

Pupils in years 12 and 13 or at Further Education Colleges (over 16 years old) are also asked at least one question about smoking, alcohol, drugs, and gambling, and one question about Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Q4: Can I see the full list of survey questions before I decide whether my child takes part?

We do not send survey links to parents or provide the full list of questions because we do not want pupils to have seen the questions before they complete the survey. The survey is anonymous because we want children and adolescents to give honest responses to the questions and not think too hard before answering. However, we do understand the concern of parents (we are parents too) and we have provided information on the content of the survey in the presentation for pupils (see link above) and in the response to Q3 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 (pathfinder@psych.ox.ac.uk). Parents/carers should notify the school if for any reason they are still concerned and do not want their child to take part.