Article from TES
The police officer sits between the two families on one side of the circle; I sit between them on the other. The anxiety in the room is high.
It’s unsurprising: the boy to my left was hit hard enough by the boy to my right that a hospital visit was needed. His eye is still swollen, black, the lid half-closed. The police became involved. And a week later, it’s time to decide what comes next.
In many schools, the solution would be relatively straightforward. Responses to challenging behaviour are generally sanction-based; evidence of this can be seen in statistics that show, on average, that nearly 1,800 fixed-term exclusions are issued every day, totalling 339,360 in 2016. Permanent exclusions in the same year reached 6,685.
In light of the level of violence that had occurred in the case in question, permanent exclusion would likely have been the option taken in most schools. Not here, though. Here, we’re talking it out.
The conversation is carefully structured; everyone speaks in a respectful way and the level of challenge is high. Some responses are painful to listen to, but everyone takes their turn. There is no prejudged outcome; just a will to find a solution that works for all.
The Iffley Academy is a restorative school. We are one of only a few schools in the UK to have the restorative-service quality mark. And we are arguably in a situation where such an approach is more challenging than most: we are a special school with 150 learners, over 40 per cent of whom have social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties; 50 per cent are eligible for pupil premium; many have communication and interaction difficulties; and all have cognition and learning difficulties.
We have used a restorative approach for 14 years. We believe it works. And we believe it could work elsewhere, too.
Restorative Practice is first and foremost a way of thinking about relationships and behaviour. When Restorative Practice is implemented across a school or other institution it influences the way people communicate, the way they respond to challenges and the way policies and procedures are developed and followed. Those inspired by the practice share a common commitment to:
- giving everyone a voice, and valuing what is said
- being attentive to, and encouraging the expression of, thoughts and feelings
- appreciating that all behaviour is a message, motivated by unmet needs
- seeking to understand this message, and the unmet needs, through non-judgemental listening
- giving people ownership of their own problems, conflicts and decisions, encouraging collaborative problem-solving
This Methods section offers a range of Restorative Practices that will be ideal for exploring the issues and answering the questions raised in the 7 sections that make up the RESTORE package. Each of these methods operationalises the key elements of restorative practice as outlined above.
The Methods section is divided into practical ideas based on one of three restorative processes:
All three processes are based on a way of thinking about relationships and interactions we call the restorative mindset or restorative thinking.
Before ever engaging with anyone else we need to stop, breathe and touch base with what is going on for us, and for those around us, so that any response we make is measured and coming from a grounded calm place. Call it the ‘restorative zone’! This is the place from which we can then use any of the three processes described below.
It only takes a few seconds to ask ourselves –
- What is going on for me right now?
- What am I telling myself about this situation and so what feelings are coming up as a result?
- How am I being affected by what is happening?
- What do I need right now to be able to give my very best here and now?
- What can I do to address these needs?
Now from that place of self-awareness we are ready to step into the shoes of those around us and ask ourselves:
- What might be going on for them?
- What might they be telling themselves about the situation and so what feelings might be coming up as a result of these thoughts?
- How might they be being affected by what is going on?
- What unmet needs might help to explain what is going on? What might they be needing right now to manage the situation to the best of their ability?
- What can I do or say now that is going to help them help themselves?
Once we have been asked ourselves these 10 questions, we are there – in the restorative zone and in a good place to facilitate any of the three restorative processes described above.