Restorative Approaches in Educational Settings
Values-based - Needs led
Everyone in a school has certain needs to be able to give of their best. These needs are often expressed as essential values – they are essential because they relate to what we need as human beings to function well together.
These needs are remarkably similar regardless of age or status, role or position. They include
When these needs are unmet, or are ignored or violated, then people can become sad, resentful, hostile and behave in very negative ways towards others. This behaviour in turn has a knock-on effect on those around them.....
.....Like ripples on a pond
A downward spiral of conflict and increasingly damaged relationships can impact on the whole community – be it a school, a care home, an office or workplace.
A range of restorative skills and processes adopted by everyone in such a community can ensure that human needs are addressed and become the responsibility of that community.
This process can start in classrooms and staffrooms, where people sit in circle and explore together what everyone all needs from each other. The resulting list can become the basis of a list of agreed norms for behaviour, norms that everyone subscribes to, young and old.
Young people need to practice pro-social skills and so the teaching and learning policy of a school can help to maximise the opportunities for learning relationship skills like active listening, emotional literacy, negotiation, co-operation and conflict-resolution. Co-operative learning , assessment for learning and many other interactive techniques can all complement time spent in circles and small groups.
We base our pro-active relationship programmes for schools on our
(Click to view)
Restorative approaches do not have the monopoly on skills and strategies for developing safe harmonious classrooms and staffrooms. However their Unique Selling Point (USP) is what it offers people when things go wrong. They utilise the same relational skills people need to make relationships in the first place to respond when these relationships need to be repaired and harm needs to be addressed. Without the pro-active emphasis on developing relationship skills both young people and staff will struggle to respond appropriately in the heat of the moment.
As one of our trainers says -
“Skills learnt and practised in times of peace become automatic in times of war”
So what is unique about a restorative approach to conflict and challenging behaviour?
Virtually all so-called ‘discipline issues’ in schools or residential settings either stem from, or result in, inter-personal conflict, which leave two or more people feeling angry, hurt, resentful, anxious or even afraid.
When in conflict people need:
- · a chance to tell their side of the story - their experience
- · express their thoughts and feelings,
- · understand better how the situation happened
- · understand how it can be avoided another time,
- · to feel understood by the others involved
- · an acknowledgement of the harm caused, if not an apology
- · to find a way to move on and feel better about themselves.
There are a whole range of different restorative conversations and meetings that can be used, depending on the situation, all based on our trademark 5 key restorative themes.
From these themes we have developed a framework for listening called Restorative Enquiry – when someone needs a non-judgemental listening ear
The same five themes shape our Restorative Meeting model, which can involve a neutral facilitator and 2 people and or else larger numbers.
If the situation is one where parents and carers need to be involved then a formal restorative conference can be offered, preceded by private preparation with all involved.
The potential advantages of restorative approaches in the school setting include:
A safer, more caring environment A more effective teaching and learning environment
A greater commitment by everyone to taking the time to listen to one another
A reduction in bullying and other interpersonal conflicts
A greater awareness of the importance of connectedness to young people. The need to belong and feel valued by peers and significant adults
Greater emphasis on responses to inappropriate behaviour that seek to reconnect, and not further disconnect, young people
Reductions in fixed term and permanent exclusions
A greater confidence in the staff team to deal with challenging situations
An increased belief in the ability of young people to take responsibility for their choices, and more people giving them opportunities to do so