Integrated Youth Support Service
Dear Sir or Madam
I have been approached by Dr Belinda Hopkins, Director of Transforming Conflict, who has requested a letter of reference concerning the work that Transforming Conflict has have undertaken with, and for, Oxfordshire County Council.
Transforming Conflict were initially involved in developing restorative approaches in Oxfordshire over 10 years ago. Following a successful bid to the Children’s Fund which was submitted by Oxfordshire Youth Offending Service, Transforming Conflict were contracted to offer training, consultancy and support in establishing restorative approaches for a number of schools in the county. A county wide steering group was set up to co-ordinate this initiative, and some of the schools involved in the pilot went on to develop a ‘whole school’ restorative approach. Although I wasn’t directly involved in that first wave of activity, I have been deeply impressed by recent visits to 3 of the schools that were involved, where I have found the restorative approach remains embedded and actively practiced by the whole school community. Some of those staff trained by Transforming Conflict over 10 years ago remain champions for this approach, and are going on to offer training to colleagues in other schools in the county.
More recently I have been involved with a new initiative, with the vision to spread restorative approaches across the whole county. This has again found huge support from Transforming Conflict. Dr. Belinda Hopkins has offered her time to support the development of a restorative approaches practitioners group, which is working alongside a restorative approaches management group with the aim of promoting the efficacy of restorative approaches in a variety of settings. The management group has identified 3 pilot areas in the county, each centered on a key secondary school (chosen because of a high rate of students entering the criminal justice system) and reaching out to feeder schools, children’s centers, youth workers, neighborhood police and other groups and individuals who are working with the same young people and families. Transforming Conflict has supported County Council staff in developing a training strategy for these pilot areas. Although this is still at an early stage of development, the first pilot school has fully taken on the restorative approach, and a steering group of senior staff at the school are cascading the training down to their year groups, and rewriting school policies and procedures in line with restorative processes and principles.
Transforming Conflict are the leading organization for restorative approaches in youth settings. Oxfordshire is very lucky to have Transforming Conflict on their doorstep, and key staff who are taking the Oxfordshire strategy forward have received training from Transforming Conflict, and support in going on to train others in the model. The restorative approaches strategy group for the county have been in discussion with Transforming Conflict about embarking on a longer term partnership, with the aim of helping Oxfordshire become autonomous providers of restorative approaches training, eventually with it’s own training package. Transforming Conflict are supporting the notion of an interim period when the training offered in Oxfordshire is delivered under franchise with Transforming Conflict, and with the guidance and consultancy of their staff. We have found the Transforming Conflict team to be extremely sensitive to our local needs, generous in offering their time and expertise, and clearly out in the lead nationally in terms of the quality of their training model and materials. It is because Transforming Conflict won’t be able to directly train all of the people in Oxfordshire who are now queuing up to be trained that they are open to being flexible in supporting us in developing our own fledgling group of trainers.
In terms of evidence of the impact of the Restorative approach in Oxfordshire, the initial pilot was externally evaluated by Brookes University. I have a hard copy of the report, which was published in April 2004, and would be happy to send or fax it to you if it would be of interest. The new wave of interest in Restorative Approaches is also being evaluated, although it is too early to present any findings.
If you would like more information about any aspect of this letter, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Peter Wallis Senior Practitioner (Restorative Justice)