Restorative practice in schools

A restorative school is one which takes a restorative approach to resolving conflict and preventing harm.

Restorative approaches enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right.

Restorative approaches refer to a range of methods and strategies which can be used both to prevent relationship-damaging incidents from happening and to resolve them if they do happen.

Becoming a restorative school has many benefits, including increased attendance, reduced exclusions and improved achievement.

It can also alleviate problems such as bullying, classroom disruption, truancy and poor attendance, antisocial behaviour, and disputes between pupils, their families, and members of staff.

To be effective, restorative approaches must be in place across the school. This means all pupils, staff (including non-teaching staff), management and the wider school community must understand what acting restoratively means and how they can do it. As a result, restorative schools adopt a whole-school approach to restorative methods.

There is good evidence that restorative practice delivers a wide range of benefits for schools.

A report published by the Department for Education gave whole-school restorative approaches the highest rating of effectiveness at preventing bullying, with a survey of schools showing 97% rated restorative approaches as effective.

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

In Barnet, an evaluation by the local authority found a reduction in exclusions of 51% in restorative justice trained schools compared to a 65% increase in exclusions in the thirty two Barnet schools that have received no restorative justice training. They also found increased confidence among school staff to deal with bullying and conflicts in the school.

Further reading about restorative practice in schools:

RJC Schools Briefing December 2011

St Martins in the Fields: Tackling Bullying in an Inner City School 

Lewisham anti-bullying policy and guidance for those working with children and young people