What is Restorative Justice?
USA research evaluated two projects which taught specific programmes aimed at raising social and emotional skills to groups of students who displayed behaviour problems. It was reported at completion that students were better able to control their own behaviour and had improved their ability to tolerate poor behaviour by their peers. These skills proved to be very effective in helping the students to remain in the classroom and reduced the disruption to the learning environment of all (Rogers, 1994; Epstein & Elias, 1996).
Further studies of programmes specifically designed to improve students social and emotional skills have reported positive outcomes and it can therefore be deduced that raised social and emotional skills will reduce the instances of unacceptable behaviours in school. Incorporating restorative practices into the classroom curriculum and climate is intended to raise the student’s social and emotional skills in this way.
Restorative approaches and restorative practices are terms that define restorative principles within the educational context. The general aim of restorative practices is to develop the family or school community and to manage conflict by repairing harm and then building or repairing relationships. Restorative practices in schools form a continuum with formal conferencing by trained facilitators at one end and circle time, fair process and affective statements at the other.
At Marchbank school restorative principles are wholly incorporated into the classrooms which include twice daily ring time sessions, problem circles, the use of affective statements and questions and a conference approach to manage specific instances of unacceptable behaviours.
Children are encouraged to own their behaviours and through discussion are made aware of the effects their behaviours have on others around them. They are then supported in repairing the harm they have caused and the relationships that may have suffered damage, with a focus on moving forward positively and developing skills or adopting strategies to reduce the incidents in the future.