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Restorative Approaches in Education

Restorative approaches offer a change in culture in school. A restorative approach looks at a variety of different aspects of the school including wellbeing, teaching and learning, behaviour management and leadership. One thing it does is provide a consistent approach to developing relationships and resolving conflict, which are often areas that schools may benefit from. Restorative approaches doesn’t pin its banner to any one theory, currently, and so provides an eclectic approach. It most closely aligns to theories that promote relationships at their core as well as the belief that being able to discuss a problem itself can lead to better understanding. Therefore, influential theories include but are not limited to; narrative theory, non-violent communication, person centred approach, metacognition, pro social modelling, positive psychology and solution focussed therapy. Restorative approach believe that one size does not fit all. Though there may be common techniques and core components that are used, a true restorative practitioner understands that different techniques will work for different people when encouraging them to tell their story.

Restorative approaches differ from restorative justice in that restorative approaches offer more than conferencing skills. A restorative approach is the framework and toolbox and restorative justice is one of the tools within. A restorative approach believes that the emphasis should be on the prevention of harm rather than reaction to it. This belief can be summed up in a simple equation – RA=BMR. Restorative approaches = building, maintaining and repairing relationships. If relationships are good, there is much less harm likely to be caused.

So how does this translate to education? By putting relationships at the heart of education, schools improve the wellbeing of not just pupils but staff too. With an increase in wellbeing, schools will see an improvement in teaching and learning and therefore attainment. In simple terms, happy pupils make better learners. Happy teachers make better teachers.

Some of the core principles of restorative approaches include:

  1. Fostering social relationships in a school community of mutual engagement.
  2. Being responsible for one’s own actions and their impact on others.
  3. Respecting other people, their views and feelings.
  4. Empathising with the feelings of others.
  5. Being fair.
  6. Being committed to equitable processes.
  7. Everyone in school being actively involved in decisions about their own lives.

Willingness to create opportunities for reflective change in pupils and staff.

WRAP’s training has a strong emphasis on taking participants through activities that enable them to critically reflect upon their own practice, think about what they do and may not do, learn new techniques and crucially, how to implement those techniques in school life.

A restorative approach is a way of being more than a way of doing. The aim is to be restorative in every engagement not to pick and choose. This does not mean that all the tools learned must be used all the time, but the core principles and beliefs should always be apparent.

By Vince Sanderson