Standing up for restorative schools

Under the headline ‘The school that says there’s no such thing as a naughty child’, yesterday’s Mail on Sunday contained an article on a primary school that - as is made clear in a more positive recent feature in Schools Week - is run on restorative principles.

I am not familiar with this school or the approach that they have taken. But we know that – if done right – embedding restorative approaches across a school can be very effective in helping to create a positive environment that supports good behaviour and improved attainment. It can reduce exclusions, improve attendance and help to tackle bullying. There are also benefits to staff wellbeing. At Monmouth Comprehensive School, for example, which has implemented a whole-school approach to restorative justice and has achieved our Restorative Service Quality Mark, exclusions have dropped by 92%, attendance is up, staff are taking fewer sick days and results have improved significantly. Similarly, a restorative justice pilot in Hull found that the schools involved had 81% fewer fixed term exclusion days and a reduction in verbal abuse between pupils and towards staff of over 70%.

At the RJC, we believe that restorative approaches should be embedded into schools across the country. To achieve this, the Department for Education could provide funding to enable a primary and a secondary school in every local authority area to implement a restorative whole-school approach. These schools would then act as centres of excellence, demonstrating the benefits of restorative practice to their local peers and providing support and guidance to those who want to follow their lead. This should be supported at the national level by the development of guidance on effectively implementing restorative practice in schools.

This would quickly enable far more schools to take a restorative approach, benefitting pupils, staff and communities. Using restorative approaches with young people teaches an understanding of others’ feelings and the ability to connect and communicate successfully. This can play a key part in providing children with the skills they need to flourish in adult life.

In the meantime, however, we have some work to do in making it clear to teachers, parents and the wider public what the benefits of a restorative school really are.