The main target group for vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, will be young adolescents. We undertook a population-based survey to assess parental consent and potential HPV vaccine uptake in eight secondary schools using stratified randomisation according to school type and ethnicity. Our results suggest that in socially and ethnically mixed populations such as Manchester, an HPV vaccine uptake rate of 80% may be achievable if the vaccine is perceived to be safe and effective. However, most parents lack knowledge about HPV and some are concerned about sexual health issues that would arise as part of a HPV vaccine programme. It will be important to raise general awareness of the role of HPV in cervical cancer without stigmatizing the vaccine.