DETECT Schools Study Assessing COVID-19 Across Western Australian Schools
What is the research study about? The study is part of a larger community study to determine the prevalence of COVID-19 in people who may not have any symptoms (asymptomatic) in Western Australia. The Education and Health Departments of Western Australia in partnership with Telethon Kids Institute are undertaking the study in schools.
There are 3 distinct projects within the research study. Please note that only Project 3 applies to Dianella Secondary College. Projects 1 & 2 (greyed out) have been included to provide further context on the study and will not be conducted at this stage.
Project 1: COVID-19 Testing in those without symptoms (Asymptomatic) (Not Applicable to Dianella Secondary College) A random sample of up to 150 consenting staff and students at school will be tested to establish the levels of undiagnosed coronavirus infection among the school population. This will provide immediate evidence of asymptomatic infection levels in schools so we can help WA (and Australia) confirm that it is safe to keep schools open if we find limited evidence of COVID-19. The testing involves a throat and nasal swab carried out by clinical staff members employed by the Department of Health (for example nurses), who have been appropriately trained on how to do the swabs will do the testing. The swab is a non-invasive swab using a long, fluffy cotton bud to swab the throat and nose. It is not the deep nasopharyngeal swab taken at the COVID-19 clinics. It is a safe test and does not cause any discomfort to those who participate. The process will take about 5 minutes per participant and will be done during school hours.
Project 2: Tracking Transmission in Schools (Not Applicable to Dianella Secondary College) If we do find that someone in the school has COVID-19, in addition to standard Public Health and Department of Education responses (which likely includes closure of the school), we will do more testing with people they are in close contact with. Any close contacts of the person with COVID-19 (classmates, staff etc) will be invited to do two or three COVID-19 tests across two weeks, (whether they have symptoms or not), and keep a daily symptom diary and with their additional permission, complete a blood test. By doing more testing, we can find out more about how COVID-19 spreads in schools, and how we can prevent that in the future.
Project 3: Wellbeing Impact of COVID-19 (This will be conducted at Dianella Secondary College in week 9/10) Staff, parents of all students and students (Years 4 to 12) will all receive online surveys to complete, to better understand the impact COVID-19 is having now on the school communities’ physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
Why are you doing the study and what will it tell us? The safety of students and staff are a priority of the WA Government. The findings of the study will enable the Western Australian Government to learn more about undetected COVID-19 infection among school students and staff without symptoms, and get a greater understanding of any role schools play in the transmission of the disease. The findings will provide an evidence-base on which to make policy decisions and to provide appropriate support measures to schools.
What does asymptomatic COVID-19 mean? Many people who get COVID-19 show symptoms that they are ill. The commons symptoms are a sore throat, cough and tiredness. However, some international studies and reports are showing that some people are getting COVID-19without anysymptoms/signs of illness - this is what it means to have asymptomatic COVID-19. It means you test positive to the COVID-19 virus, but you have no symptoms/signs of illness.
It is difficult to know how many people may have asymptomatic COVID-19, and how it might be spreading between people, because people who have COVID-19 without symptoms won’t have a reason go to the doctor or get tested.
Why has my child’s school been chosen? 80 Western Australian schools have been invited by the Department of Education to participate in this study. They represent a cross section of the community and include primary, secondary, education support settings, residential colleges, metropolitan and regional schools.
How many students and staff will from each school will be asked to participate? 40 schools will take part in all three projects and 40 schools will take part in Project 3 only. For Project 1 of the study, a random sample of up to 150 staff and students, with parental consent, from each school will be tested for COVID 19.
If there is a positive COVID-19 test at the school, Project 2 of the study will begin. This will involve all close contacts of the person who tested positive – such as classmates, close friends, and other contacts who may have had more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact or up to 2 hours in the same room as the person who tests positive. These contacts will also be tested two to three times over 14 days and asked to keep a diary.
For Project 3 of the study, all staff, parents and students in Years 4 to 12 will be invited to complete the survey.
Does my child have to participate? Participation in any research project is voluntary. If you do not wish for your child to take part, they do not have to. If you do decide to take part, you will be asked to complete a Participant Consent Form and you will be able to access a copy to keep if you would like one. If you decide to take part and later change your mind, you are free to withdraw from the project at any stage. Your decision whether to take part or not to take part, or to take part and then withdraw, will not affect your relationship with your child(ren)’s school, or with the Department of Education, or with the Department of Health, or with the Telethon Kids Institute.
Note for the Wellbeing survey: If parents do not opt out their child from participating, their child will be asked to complete two brief 15-minute online surveys during school time.
This means if parents decide that their child cannot participate in the Wellbeing surveys, they do need to complete the Opt out form. Their child will not be asked to complete a survey. When the online surveys are given to students in class their child will be given another activity to complete.
If parents decide their child can take participate in the Wellbeing surveys, they do not need to complete the Opt out form. When the online surveys are given to students in class each child will be asked to provide consent e.g. if they would like to fill out the survey or not. If they don’t want to complete the survey they do not have to and they will be given another activity to complete.
Can parents participate? Parents are invited to participate in Project 3 of the research, where they will be asked to complete two 15 minute online surveys to determine the wider physical, social and emotional impacts of COVID-19.
Which staff at schools will be involved in parts of the study? All staff at your school will be invited to participate in the Project 1 testing. They may be one of the randomly chosen 150 staff and students at the school who are tested.
If there is a positive COVID-19 test at your child’s school, Project 2 of the study will involve any staff who have been in close contact with the person who tested positive – this may include teachers in the same classroom, and any staff who may have had more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact or up to 2 hours in the same room as the person who tests positive.
All staff are invited to participate in Project 3 of the research, where they will be asked to complete two 15 minute online surveys to determine the wider physical, social and emotional impacts of COVID-19.
What will happen to information about my child and me? Any information provided or collected will remain confidential. For Project 1, some important information about your child will be collected so that research staff can accurately identify your child during the testing, and to let you know the result of the test. If it is negative, you will get an SMS text message. The Department of Health will contact you if your child tests positive. Only authorised staff will be able to see this data and we will keep it locked (for paper items) with restricted access.
For Project 3, no information from the surveys will be able to be connected to you or your child – the surveys are anonymous.
All electronic information will be kept on the secure Telethon Kids Institute server and a secure, password protected online database that is can only be accessed by authorised team members.
Is this research approved? All research in Australia involving humans is reviewed by an independent group of people called a Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). The ethical aspects of this research project have been approved by Child and Adolescent Health Service (CAHS) HREC and the West Australian Aboriginal Human Ethics Committee (WAAHEC]. This project will be conducted according to the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). This statement has been developed to protect the interests of people who agree to participate in human research studies. This project has also met the policy requirements of the Department of Education.
What are the benefits of taking part? There may be no direct benefit to you from this research. By taking part in this study, you are contributing to important information that will inform government decision making on managing COVID-19 and the safety of keeping schools open. If you get a COVID-19 test, you will know whether you test positive and may be able to prevent further spread to family, friends and the general community. If you are found to be COVID-19 positive then this diagnosis may be earlier than if you were not participating in this study so you can watch for any symptoms and seek medical care earlier if you are concerned. By taking part in the wellbeing survey, possible benefits to the community may include increased understanding of how COVID-19 is affecting students, their parents and school staff - both inside and outside the classroom – to enable the Department of Education to provide appropriate support measures.
What are the possible risks of taking part? There are no anticipated risks to your child or yourself by participating in this study. For Project 1, the throat swab test may cause your child to gag briefly and they may experience eye watering during the nasal swab (but both pass quickly) . They may also feel more anxious about COVID-19 by taking part in this study. For Project 3, you or your child may feel that some of the questions we ask are upsetting so if you do not wish to answer a question, you may skip it and go to the next question, or you may stop immediately. Schools will assist with arranging appropriate support for your child should they need it. Further information about support services will be made available to students, parents and staff.
Project 1: Asymptomatic Testing (Not Applicable to Dianella Secondary College students) What is involved in having the test? The test involves taking a throat swab followed by a nose swab using the same swab which looks like a long, fluffy cotton bud. It is a gentle procedure which causes minimal discomfort to the student. Some students may feel like gagging with the throat swab. This feeling passes very quickly with simple reassurance. The nose swab has been described by a 9-year-old as feeling like “the tickle of a hairy caterpillar in my nose.” The same process will be followed for staff, a throat swab followed by a nasal swab.
Who will be administering the test? Clinical staff members employed by the Department of Health (for example staff from the Child and Adolescent Health Service (CAHS)). All staff will be appropriately trained on the swab technique by the Telethon Kids Institute researchers.
How long will the testing take? About 5 minutes per participant (about three minutes to check consent and about two minutes for the throat/nose swab to be collected).
How often will you be testing students and staff? 150 students and staff who have provided consent from each of the 40 schools will be tested for COVID-19 every month for a three month period, which could be extended to six months depending on how the study is progressing.
You said that 150 randomly selected students and teachers will get tested, does that mean my child might not get tested, even if we decide to take part in the study? Yes, even if you say yes to taking part in the study, your child(ren) may not be selected to do the COVID-19 testing. At each monthly visit to your school, we will randomly select (like flipping a coin) 150 students and staff who have provided consent to take part in the testing. That means each month there will most likely be a different group of students/staff selected. Your child may or may not get selected each time.
What safety procedures will be in place?
The testing will be done in small groups to ensure everyone can maintain good physical distancing. All research staff taking the swabs will be wearing the Department of Health’s recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) – an apron, gloves, mask, and eye protection. They will also wash their hands with alcohol gel regularly and will also have valid Working with Children Checks.
Will you let us know about the results? If your child’s test is negative, you will be notified by SMS text message. We expect results will become available around 24-72 hours from testing. Your school and the Telethon Kids Institute researchers will also be notified, so if there is any difficulty with the text message, your school will also let you know. If your child’s test is positive, you will be contacted by the Department of Health staff to ask questions about symptoms, develop a list of close contacts and advise you and your family about the next steps. A positive result will mean that your child will need to begin self-isolation for 14 days.
Part 3: Wellbeing Surveys Who will be receiving the surveys? All students in Years 4 to 12, staff and parents at the participating schools will be invited to complete the online survey.
With consent, participants will be asked to complete two brief 15-minute online surveys at a time convenient to you. The first online survey will be completed this term and the second survey will be completed in November, 2020. The surveys will be emailed to you by Telethon Kids Institute.
With your consent, your child will be asked to complete two brief 15-minute surveys during school time. The first survey will be completed on this term and the second survey will be completed in November, 2020. If your child is attending school, they will complete the online survey at school in class time. Your child’s classroom teacher will follow a guide which explains how to access the survey and assist with questions. If your child is learning at home, they will be asked to complete the online survey at home. Parents will be provided with a guide explaining how to access the survey and assist with questions. How long will the survey take? The online survey should take around 15 minutes to complete. The students will complete their online surveys in class time.
How many surveys will I/my child receive? You will receive one online survey to complete this term and one in November.
What will the researchers do with the survey information? The responses from all students, staff and parents who provided consent and completed a survey will be analysed to find out how COVID-19 is impacting their physical, social and emotional wellbeing. A report of the overall findings will be sent by the Department of Education and to each school to share with all families and school staff. Overall results will be used by the Departments of Education and Health to inform policy decisions and to provide appropriate support measures to schools. The researchers will also write journal articles and present their findings at conferences. When this occurs, the school and students / staff will not be able to be identified in any way.
Further information and who to contact The person you may need to contact will depend on the nature of your query.
If you want any further information concerning this research or if you have any queries which may be related to involvement in the project, you can contact the Telethon Kids Institute at DETECT-SCHOOLS@telethonkids.org.au .
If you require advice or support regarding your school’s involvement in the project, please speak to your school’s principal.
If you have any complaints about any aspect of the project, the way it is being conducted or any If you have any concerns and/or complaints about the project, the way it is being conducted or your rights or child’s rights as a research participant, and would like to speak to someone independent of the project, please contact The Executive Director of Medical Services at PCH, phone 6456 2222. Your concerns will be drawn to the attention of the Ethics Committee who is monitoring the study