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What is restorative practice?

Restorative practice is a way of working with conflict that puts the focus on repairing the harm that has been done. It is an approach to conflict resolution that includes all of the parties involved.

What do young people say about restorative approaches? Video by Restorative Thinking


Video by Resolve Consultants 

The Restorative Justice Council said:

  • A report published by the Department for Education gave whole-school restorative approaches the highest rating of effectiveness at preventing bullying, with a survey of schools showing 97% rated restorative approaches as effective.
  • An independent evaluation of restorative justice in Bristol schools found that restorative justice improved school attendance and reduced exclusion rates.

The following information has been written by the ABA's restorative practice partner, Restorative Thinking  Limited - a social enterprise providing innovative restorative justice/practice prevention and intervention programmes, training, consultation, wrap-around support and evaluation with Primary and Secondary Schools, Children’s Centres, Youth Justice Services and Criminal Justice Services (Prisons, Probation Services) and Police and Crime Commissioners.

Restorative practice and ways of thinking are now developing and growing in many primary and secondary schools. Experience and evidence at local and national levels has shown that restorative processes have a positive impact in changing school cultures, especially with regard to attendance and behaviour, when embedded in a wider restorative milieu, and within clear school improvement strategies.

Equally, school improvement strategies are enhanced by the use of restorative processes, not least through the fundamental drive of restorative work to build relationships and community amongst the adults and not just the pupils. Restorative processes also make challenge and support explicit in everything that happens in a school. This explicit challenge and support drives and underpins real change in a school. This consistency is something that is often absent from schools that are struggling to meet expected outcome targets around behaviour, achievement and attendance.

A school making a conscious decision to become restorative also opens a door to a new mindset and culture shift. It focuses on positive relationships and collaborative teaching and learning, with classrooms developing as communities. It means that teachers and pupils commit to looking at positive alternatives to reactive punitive behaviour solutions (e.g. exclusions), because they are confident that the matter is being dealt with in a clear and explicit way, understood and endorsed by all.

Restorative practice is a proactive way of working WITH people, not doing things TO them, not doing things FOR them and NOT being neglectful and doing nothing at all (Wachtel and McCold, 2001, p.117). They seek to increase the opportunities for dialogue at every level.

Goldsmiths University research (2010) into anti-bullying strategies listed the conditions required to develop effective restorative practice in schools. To paraphrase them, these are:

  • whole staff training
  • the embedding of restorative practices, with students
  • making restorative practices transparent in policies and procedures
  • having direct sanctions to back up if the restorative process fails

Restorative Thinking Limited (RT) worked with six schools in Liverpool, 2015-2017, to implement whole school restorative practice. Each of the six schools identified a restorative practice guiding team to lead the pilot alongside the RT team. RT training and consultation with all six schools was needs-based and each school developed its own individual ‘road map’ for the two year pilot and beyond. This project was funded by the Families’ Strategic Group, Liverpool City Council.

This film shows how the pilot developed at the Academy of Saint Francis of Assisi, where SLT, teachers, support staff, pupils and parents worked alongside Restorative Thinking Limited to develop a whole school restorative approach. Restorative practice continues to strengthen day-to-day relationships and to support teaching and learning in addition to the school’s behaviour strategy. 

Video from Restorative Thinking about restorative peer mediators

Find out more about Restorative Thinking here.

29 May 2017