Children spend a lot of time in school, sometimes the relationships built in schools are the most significant of their lives. It is therefore essential that the relationships we build in schools are positively maintained and effectively repaired and restored when conflict arises.
Conflict is a fact of life – many of us have come to fear it and we all manage it in different ways based on our past experiences. Restorative practice in schools can help adults and children to build and maintain healthy relationships (the proactive part of restorative practice), and repair and restore fractured relationships (the reactive part of restorative practice). This can be done through practices such as restorative conversations, restorative circles and affective statements.
Although some organisations focus primarily on the reactive part of restorative practice, it is highly beneficial to invest in both parts of the model. When we engage with the proactive part of restorative practice, it is essentially like building a bridge: building and maintaining relationships strong enough to withstand the fractures of life. We are much more likely to be successful when it comes to the reactive part of restorative practice (repairing and restoring) if we invest time and energy into making sure that the relationship is strong enough to start with.
According to Hopkins (2004), introducing restorative practice into schools has the potential to:
- Make schools safer and happier
- Reduce the need for exclusion
- Raise morale and self-esteem
- Tackle bullying behaviours
- Raise attendance
- Improve staff wellbeing
For more information on how you can effectively introduce restorative approaches into your school setting, we now have a training session available delivered by Dr Eleanor Tomlinson, Educational Psychologist: Restorative Practice – The School Psychology Service (training4schools.com).
Hopkins, B (2004): Just Schools, A Whole School Approach. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, available from Incentive Plus.