Restorative Justice

Restorative Approaches in Educational Settings

Restorative approaches in educational settings are inspired by the philosophy of restorative justice, which puts rep- airing harm done to relationships and people over and above the need for assigning blame and punishment.

Key Values:  create an ethos of respect, inclusion, accountability and taking responsibility, commitment to relationships, impartiality, being non-judgmental, collaboration, empowerment and emotional articulacy.

Processes and practices include interventions when harm has happened, such as restorative enquiry, mediation and group mediation. However there are also processes and practices that help to prevent harm and conflict occurring and which build a sense of belonging, safety and social responsibility.  These include Circle Time and Restorative Pedagogy (teachers modelling the values and skills and creating opportunities for their development amongst the students whatever the subject being taught.)

The restorative approach is based on the belief that the people best placed to resolve a conflict or a problem are the people directly involved, and that imposed solutions are less effective, less educative and possibly less likely to be honoured. In order to engage in a restorative approach to conflict and challenging behaviour people need certain attitudes and skills. Skills-based training can develop both restorative skills and attitudes.

It can help participants to identify a variety of applications of these skills to meet the needs of the whole school community. The ultimate aim of the training and the project is to build a strong, mutually respectful, safe and inclusive school community in which everyone feels valued and heard.

One key to effective implementation is support beyond the home/school gate, not just of an isolated initiative, but in terms of locality-wide strategy that is adequately funded over several years. Local authority support can also mean that should an individual home/school need an external facilitator in cases where impartiality or neutrality of their own staff is an issue then there will be a team to call on.

Planning local authority wide means including all sectors – local authority, independent and voluntary.  Establishing a protocol for partnership with Police and Youth Justice is helpful too.

This piece is taken from information provided by Dr Belinda Hopkins, Director of Transforming Conflict.  More details are available on her website www.transformingconflict.org


Restorative Approaches in Residential Care

Restorative approaches in residential care settings are inspired by the philosophy of restorative justice, which puts repairing harm done to relationships and people over and above the need for assigning blame and punishment.

Key Values:  create an ethos of respect, inclusion, accountability and taking responsibility, commitment to relationships, impartiality, being non-judgemental, collaboration, empowerment and emotional articulacy.

Processes and practices include interventions when harm has happened, such as restorative enquiry, mediation and group mediation. However there are also processes and practices that help to prevent harm and conflict occurring and which build a sense of belonging, safety and social responsibility.

Statistics show that young people in Residential Care are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice arena.  This situation has arisen, not necessarily because children in care are more likely to offend but because the disruptive behaviours of the children have resulted in a call from staff to the police, often followed by an arrest and a caution or final warning.  It has been argued that a restorative approach instead can divert children in care from the criminal justice system by ensuring that the incident is dealt with by staff in such a way that both the wrongdoer and those affected reach a mutually agreed way forward without recourse to the police. A review of research showing what works best in children’s homes reports that the quality of the relationship between staff and children and also between the children themselves is a key factor in successful practice in both fostering and residential child care.  Ron Hart, manager of a children’s home in Hertfordshire, and an experienced restorative practitioner with Looked After Children, emphasises the positive impact on the young people and contribution to relationships.

‘…….Looked After Children often feel disempowered and institutional care cannot redress this.  It is ‘staffed’, and staff will only stay for a limited time on their shift before going home to their own lives.  Institutional care is reasonably inflexible due to staff rotas and shifts.  At times there are inconsistencies in approach.  Restorative approaches can help address these shortcomings since they provide a forum for children to voice their worries and concerns and feel heard.’

 Restorative approaches provide strategies that accord with recent studies of what works best in care settings.  Early reports from those homes using restorative approaches suggest benefits to both staff and young people.  They have also been consistently found to address the agendas of the three government policy papers – ‘Every Child Matters’ (DfES 2003), ‘Youth Matters’ (DfES 2006b), and ‘Care Matters’ (DfES 2006a).

This piece is taken from a paper written by Dr Belinda Hopkins, director of Transforming Conflict.  The full version can be found on her website www.transformingconflict.org