A lot has been said in the news and on social media about restorative approaches in schools. Often poor implementation is used as a measure of its apparent failure. Approaches like these, however, require a great deal of investment throughout an organisation in order to succeed. Without buy in at all levels of an organisation restorative approaches, like any strategy, can be undermined and eventually fail.
A restorative approach in schools looks to give children more responsibility over their behaviour and learning. The aim is to develop a healthier learning environment. Where incidents have occurred restorative approaches look to help the victim convey the impact this has had on them to those responsible and then those responsible take steps to put things right.
Relationships are key in this restorative approaches and one aim of restorative approaches is to strengthen the bonds between all involved. Key skills needed for this include empathy and listening. Pro social behaviours are nurtured where children are given the opportunity to assess the impact of their actions without being shamed.
The overall aims of restorative approaches are to:
- develop emotional literacy, responsibility and empathy
- create a more positive learning environment with better attendance and fewer incidents
- raise children and young peoples awareness of the impact of their actions / choices on others
- reduce the number of exclusions
Who is this for?
This approach can be used in all schools with students of any age. It is particularly useful for reducing shame when dealing with students with SEMH needs.
Research has indicated that restorative approaches can:
- increase attendance and reduce exclusions
- prevent bullying and help to respond to it more effectively
- increase the confidence of school staff to deal with bullying and conflict
- built a culture of respect and discipline in a school
For example, the DfE (2010) survey 283 schools and found that 97% of schools felt that restorative justice reduced bullying. The majority of schools also reported that this approach was cost effective and easy to implement. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182421/ DFE-RR098.pdf
Department of Education (2010) The use and effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies in Schools. Thompson, F. & Smith, P.K. DfE
Hopkins, B. (2011) The Restorative Classroom: Using Restorative Approaches to Foster Effective Learning. Speechmark.
Mahaffey, H. & Newton, C. (2008) Restorative Solutions: Making it work. Inclusive Solutions UKLtd