Parent-School Engagement During Family Separation and Divorce
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Parent-School Engagement During Family Separation and Divorce

Human Research Ethics Approval Number: H18REA239


Principal Investigator: Professor Sue Saltmarsh, Email:
Other investigators:    Dr Kay Ayre, Email:; Dr Eseta Tualaulelei, Email Telephone: 07 3470 4087


Project Description

The relationship between schools and parents is important to children's educational success. However, periods of family separation or divorce can present complex challenges to effective parent-school engagement, and there is little research to date concerned with parents' eperiences of interacting with schools during these times of personal and family upheaval. Our study aims to learn more about parents' perspectives on how schools can maintain positive relationships with parents during family separation and divorce, and the role of schools in working with parents to support children's learning and wellbeing in these situations. Findings from the study will be used to help schools improve their support for children and families going through similar circumstances.  


Parents who have been through a period of family separation or divorce at least 12 months ago or longer are invited to participate in this study. Participation will involve discussing your perspectives and experiences of interacting with your child's school during the period of separation or divorce, in a telephone interview that will take approximately 60 minutes of your time. The interview can be scheduled to take place at a date or time that is convenient to you, and you may wish to have a friend or family member who is over 18 to be present with you during the interview.

The interview questions are open-ended, and are designed to give participants the opportunity to include only aspects of their experience that they are comfortable discussing. Questions pertain to how participants would describe their relationship with their child’s school before, during and after family separation or divorce, what parents consider to have been the most significant issues when engaging with the school, and what parents consider to have been the most beneficial and the most challenging aspects of engaging with their child’s schools during this period. 

For the purpose of accuracy, interviews will be audio-recorded, transcribed and anonymized with the use of pseudonyms so that neither you nor your child’s school can be identified. 
Your participation in this project is entirely voluntary. If you do not wish to take part you are not obliged to. If you decide to take part and later change your mind, you are free to withdraw from the project at any stage without needing to give any reason. You may also request that any data collected about you be withdrawn and confidentially destroyed. If you do wish to withdraw from this project, please contact anyone from the Research Team using the contact details provided above.

Your decision to take part, not take part, or to take part and then withdraw, will in no way impact your current or future relationship with your parent representative organisation, your child's school or the University of Southern Queensland.

Expected benefits of your participation in this project

It is not expected that this project will have any direct benefit to you. However, your participation may have significant indirect benefits to the education profession and the community, particularly for other families who are engaging with their child's school during a period of family separation or divorce. 

Risks involved in your participation in this project

There are two main risks associated with your participation in this study. The first of these risks pertains to inconvenience. The burden of time involved in participating in a 1-hour interview may present some inconvenience to you.To minimise this risk, before the interview you will have the opportunity to nominate an interview date and time that is most suitable for you.  During the interview, you may ask to conclude the interview at any time.
The second risk pertains to the possibility of experiencing emotional distress. Specifically, there is a risk that you may find it upsetting to recount experiences that took place during what may have been a sensitive and challenging time for you and your family. To minimize this risk, the research team requests that only parents who have been through separation or divorce at least 12 months ago or longer agree to participate. You will be reminded at the beginning and during the interview that participation is voluntary, and that you may withdraw from the study at any time. You will also be encouraged to let the interviewer know at any time if you prefer not to answer any questions, and to let the interviewer know if you begin to feel upset at any time during the interview. If this should happen, you will be offered the option of taking a break or concluding the interview. You may also have a friend or family member who is over the age of 18 attend the interview with you.
If you should feel the need to access support following the interview, you are encouraged to contact your GP in the first instance, or, should you prefer, to access one of the free support services listed below:



ACT (02) 6287 3833, 9 am-5 pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays)
NSW 1300 130 052, 9 am-9 pm Monday to Friday, 4 pm-9 pm weekends
QLD & NT 1300 301 300, 8 am-10 pm 7 days
SA 1300 364 100, 7.15 am-9.15 pm 7 days (calls outside these times will be redirected to the national Health Direct helpline)
TAS 1300 808 178, 24 hours 7 days
VIC 132 289, 8 am-12 am 7 days
LIFELINE 131 114, 24 hours 7 days
FAMILY RELATIONSHIP ADVICE LINE 1800 050 321, 8 am - 8 pm Monday to Friday; 10 am - 4 pm Saturday



Privacy and Confidentiality

Your privacy and confidentiality are important, and all comments and responses during the interview will be treated confidentially unless required by law. 

As outlined in the section below regarding consent, we have designed the study so that you are able to make contact with the research team, provide verbal consent and participate in the interview anonymously if you wish to do so. 

As already noted, interviews will be audio-recorded and transcribed for the purposes of accuracy. Any identifying information such as names of individuals, schools or towns will be removed from the transcripts, and reports and publications arising from the study will not include information that could identify you in any way.

All data collected as a part of this project will be stored securely in accordance with the University of Southern Queensland’s Research Data Management policy. Your audio recordings will only be accessible by the Principal Investigator, Professor Sue Saltmarsh, and they will be stored securely in a password protected file on her university computer. Electronic files of the anonymised interview transcripts will be stored in password protected files on the university computers of members of the research team. At the conclusion of the study, anonymised print copies of interview transcripts will be kept in a locked filing cabinet in Dr Eseta Tualaulelei's office at the University of Southern Queensland.

A summary report of findings will be made available to the parent organization that advertised the study, and you will be able to access this report online. No one from the parent organization will be able to tell who participated in the study. We can also email a copy to you if you prefer.

Consent to participate

Because of the potentially sensitive nature of the topic, we have designed the study in a way that makes it possible for parents to give verbal consent and to participate in the interview without having to provide any identifying information to the research team. Clicking on the link to participate, designating a preferred date/time, and providing a contact phone number will be taken as implied consent for a member of the research team to contact you on that number. At the time of interview, you will be asked to confirm that you consent to participate in the study.

Questions or Further Information

Please refer to the Research Team Contact Details provided above to have any questions answered or to request further information about this project.

Concerns or Complaints Regarding the Conduct of this Project

The project will be carried out in accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. If you have any concerns or complaints about the ethical conduct of the project you may contact the University of Southern Queensland Manager of Research Integrity and Ethics on +61 7 4631 2214 or email The Manager of Research Integrity and Ethics is not connected with the research project and can facilitate a resolution to your concern in an unbiased manner. 


Thank you for your interest in the Parent-School Engagement During Family Separation and Divorce project.
Please keep a copy of this information for your records.


If you have read the information provided would like to participate in an interview, you can contact the project leader, Professor Sue Saltmarsh by email at to arrange a date and time for your interview.

If you prefer to participate anonymously, you can complete the following questions online, which ask only for a preferred date/time for your interview, a first name (you do not have to use your actual name), and a preferred contact phone number that a member of the research team can use to call you on the day/time that you have indicated. Names and contact information will not be retained by the research team, and will be deleted once your interview has taken place.