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Restorative Practice 


Restorative Practice 

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.

How does it work?

A restorative approach is a culture or ethos with the following practical goals:

  • to reduce the likelihood of conflict and/or recurrence of conflict by taking a whole-setting approach to meeting human needs;
  • to strengthen relationships by making time for open and honest conversations that need to be had.

A restorative setting understands that children, families and staff give their best when their needs are met, when they feel safe and when they understand their relationships with others.

A restorative organisation allows time to listen to the voice of individuals, staff and families. It wants to hear people’s stories, help them clarify their issues and needs, and empower them to find their own solutions to what is concerning them.

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: 

  1. One-to-one listening, working in pairs
  2. Small group circles
  3. Whole class or staff team circles

All three processes are based on a way of thinking about relationships and interactions we call the restorative mindset or restorative thinking.

Useful Resources

For further information about restorative enquiries including activities using the restorative questions see


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.

What are the benefits of restorative approaches in schools?

Experience and evidence at local and national levels has shown that restorative processes have a positive impact in changing school cultures, especially regarding attendance and behaviour, when embedded in a wider restorative context, and within clear school improvement strategies.

An independent evaluation of restorative justice in Bristol schools found that restorative justice improved school attendance and reduced exclusion rates.

On a practical level, restorative approaches provide a structured and consistent response to the inevitable incidents of conflict that arise in the life of a school. The benefits of improved conflict resolution in schools lead to reduced disruption of teaching and learning, improved relationships and a calmer school environment. 

In addition to the conflict resolution benefits, restorative approaches have been shown to develop people’s social and emotional competencies, such as increased empathy, improved self-discipline and more responsible decision-making. These benefits contribute to pupils’ personal, social and moral development. 


What do Ofsted say?

“… disruptive behaviour or sudden changes in behaviour can be an indication of unmet needs or a change in another aspect of a young person’s life.” – Ofsted 2021

Whether the behaviour or sudden changes in behaviour present as school refusal, abuse directed at peers/adults or disengagement with learning, it is fundamental that schools work with individuals, their parents/carers and key professionals to understand what’s behind the behaviour and what they need in order to find a better way forward.

Ofsted will be judging all settings on the extent to which:

  • relationships among learners and staff reflect a positive and respectful culture
  • leaders, teachers and learners create an environment where bullying, peer-on-peer abuse of discrimination are not tolerated
  • staff deal with issues quickly and effectively, and do not allow them to spread.

Source: Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (May 2019)



A Restorative Lens for Education

This model highlights seven key areas which, alongside learning, are where we need to stimulate thinking and make decisions in order to collectively move forward into a healthy ‘new normal’. The areas intersect, interconnect and affect each other, as we all do. RESTORE is a lens through which staff, children and parents can look at the strategy and plans that are needed for everyone’s well- being in a fast changing environment and for a safe and healthy return to school. 

Reading list

  • The Simple Guide to Child Trauma by Betsy de Thierry
  • Building a Trauma-Informed Restorative School by Joe Brummer
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk
  • The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel
  • My Hidden Chimp by Prof Steve Peters
  • Restorative Practice and Special Needs by Margaret Thorsborne
  • Getting More Out of Restorative Practice in Schools by Nancy Riestenberg and Margaret Thorsborne
  • When the Adults Change, Everything Changes by Paul Dix
  • Implementing Restorative Practice in Schools by Margaret Thorsborne
  • What Happened to You? by Dr Bruce Perry
  • The Geese Theatre Handbook by Clark Baim and Sally Brookes
  • The Little Book of Circle Processes by Kay Pranis
  • The Restorative Classroom by Belinda Hopkins


Tagged under: restorative practice, retorative thinking, restorative justice, relationships, behaviour, problem solving, conflict resolution, rrestorative mindset, TES