We all know that transforming school culture doesn’t happen over-night. Creating a Restorative community takes a dedicated team, strategy, reflection and an incredible amount of commitment and perseverance. Also introducing Restorative Practice and Restorative Justice can be a gentle process and doesn’t have to irradiate everything you were doing before. Many schools incorporate Restorative principles along-side their current behaviour policy and make gradual steps towards more Restorative interventions as the pupils and the teachers become accustomed to the ethos and learn the skills necessary.
Step 1 -Getting everyone on board
If you have a member of staff who can be a dedicated ‘Restorative Practice Facilitator’, it will be their first job to get staff and pupils committed to a Restorative approach and this may or may not be able to be achieved without the help of an outside training provider depending on how much time they can dedicate to driving the initiative and their confidence as a facilitator. Unfortunately a 20 minute briefing in a staff meeting will seldom be enough. Input little and often tends to be more effective than a single long training session. If using an outside training provider, we recommend finding a trainer who will work with small groups of staff (less than 20) over a few months. If you have a large number of staff, the same hour-long session might need to be delivered five or six times in a day to get around everyone. Three one-hour long sessions, over three months, will give your staff time to implement the strategies and then reflect on them and will prove far more effective than one long session. Trackit Lights outsources Restorative Practice training to a former headteacher of three Restorative schools / ex-Ofsted inspector / DfE advisor. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for in-house Restorative Practice training
-Start off with a briefing to all staff covering the basics of Restorative Practice. Include statistics and evidence of the impact of Restorative Practice, a case study and a video, and explain why this is important for you to include Restorative approaches in the school. Present a strategy to slowly incorporate Restorative Practice approaches. You might ask for a few volunteers to start trialling out Circle Time and Restorative conferences in their classes / forms. If you have a reflection time or detention system in place, you can introduce some Restorative Conferences during these times without changing your behaviour policy. In the next briefing you can ask these members of staff to share a bit about their experience.
-hold regular one-hour long training sessions with small groups of staff (up to 20 max), incorporating circle time, pair work, self-reflection and workbook activities. Start running staff meetings in circles using Restorative principles.
-Conduct lesson observations and ask the teachers to reflect on what they think is and isn’t working. Giving ideas where necessary.
Step 2 – putting a team together
Depending on how large your school is and how many staff you have, the initial team should include the Restorative Practice Facilitator whose role it is to manage implementation, the school SENCO, Behaviour Support, School counsellor and a few teachers who are early adopters.
The team should meet once or twice a month to discuss the school’s strengths and needs, develop the implementation plan, plan internal training and lesson observations and reflect on what is and isn’t working. These meetings should be conducted as a circle, utilising Restorative principles.
Step 3 – Gradually make your behaviour policy more Restorative
Once your early adopters are incorporating Circle Time and Restorative Conferences into their classroom successfully, the other members of staff have been briefed and some training sessions have taken place, the pupils should be starting to get quite familiar with Restorative methodologies. The time will come when you decide to commit and formalise the behaviour policy. You might start by imposing Restorative circles and conferences on top of your existing escalation system. For example: Step 1) verbal warning 2) move to another desk 3) restorative conference with a teaching assistant 4) Restorative conference with a Senior Leader (or Behaviour Support / SENCO outside of class) 5) Restorative Conference with pupil, parents, Senior Leader and other affected parties.
Step 4 – Build a Restorative Practice infrastructure in the school.
By now you are well on your way to operating within a Restorative Practice culture in school. Your teachers have been briefed and regular training sessions have taken place. Most teachers should be using circle time at the beginning and end of the week and be trained in Restorative language. Restorative Conferences should be embedded into you behaviour policy and pupils should expect these conversations and be comfortable with them. You might be conducting staff meetings, Senior Leadership meetings and Governor’s meetings in a circle. In addition to staff meetings, you might consider creating more time for community building. Depending on the size of your school, you might need to break your staff up into smaller groups who meet once a month to develop the values and connect with one another.
Where possible, many schools create a space for Restorative Practice by converting a classroom, office or storeroom into a ‘hub’. This can be used as a space to refer pupils to when their needs can’t be accommodated by their teacher.
In the playground there can also be a dedicated area for Restorative Practice. The children can be taught how to facilitate Restorative Conferences and the older pupils can be responsible for managing conflict during break times. A playground ‘buddy’ system helps support this and the ‘Zippie Friends’ program is popular for helping pupils develop the social and emotional skills required to navigate through difficult situations.
Parental engagement through letters, emails and information packs can be a start to introducing them to Restorative Practice, along with Restorative Practice briefings and training sessions outside of school hours. If you have a member of staff or a school counsellor who can conduct Restorative Conferences on a deeper level within a family counselling framework, the pupils can start to benefit from a holistic Restorative approach at home as well. Individual agreements within the family and follow up sessions for accountability prove to be very effective. Sufficient training is required at this level of intervention.
Restorative Practice is proven to have a significant impact on exclusions. When welcoming a pupil back from a fixed-term exclusion, a Restorative Conferences with all affected people is appropriate to agree on strategies moving forwards and put accountability mentors in place. All members of staff can be informed of the outcomes of the meeting. The goal is to reintegrate the pupil with the best possible chance of success. When the pupilsstarts school again, a welcome circle with all relevant people to build a sense of belonging and a reminder of agreements and accountability can be re-established.
Step 5 – Evaluate and Reflect
To make Restorative Practice sustainable, it requires ongoing evaluation, reflection and support. Once a term, you can evaluate the impact by measuring past and present data. If you are a Trackit Lights School, you can compare percentages of positive vs negative behaviours logged. You can see a breakdown of each behaviour type (such a bully, violence, disrespect etc) and measure what impact Restorative Practice has had on specific behaviours. You can measure the impact in individual pupils’ behaviour who might have been struggling, or classes that previously had high level of incidents, and monitor what behaviour each of your teachers are still dealing with regularly which can then inform your circle time questions. This can feed directly into your implementation plan.