Conference calls for Restorative Practices to be used in all Schools

26 May, 2016.

Issued by Restorative Practices Ireland and the Restorative Justice Forum Northern Ireland

All Teachers should be trained to use Restorative Practice in the classroom

All Teachers should be trained to use Restorative Practices in the classroom and the approach should be used in all schools – a major conference has heard.

The major organisations representing the sector have called for Restorative Practices to be included in all new teacher training, in existing teachers’ continuing professional development, and integrated into behaviour management and learning approaches used in all schools.

The conference is taking place in Dundalk and being co-hosted by Restorative Practices Ireland the Restorative Justice Forum Northern Ireland.

Restorative Practices is a proven model for working in community settings, including schools, which builds communications skills and relationships to tackle problems and also prevent problems before they occur.

It involves a structured approach to group or ‘circle’ working in which participants are facilitated by a trained teacher to communicate openly how they feel, and identify any problems, and the group works together to discuss the problems and agree a communal solution.

Using a restorative practice approach in schools means moving away from more traditional behaviour management methods of disciplining and punishment to communal working among teachers and pupils to discuss problems and agree responses which restore relationships and build trust.

Restorative Practices Ireland Chairperson Marian Quinn said: “Restorative approaches can be applied to great benefit across many sectors and there is a particular opportunity to bring the approach more into education and schools, both Primary and Post Primary.”

“Training on using a restorative approach in the classroom – both for behaviour management and to assist learning – should be part of all teacher training and professional development. Teachers should also be formally encouraged by the education curriculum to apply a restorative approach in the classroom, and also to train pupils in restorative skills.

Restorative Justice Forum Northern Ireland Chairperson Janette McKnight said: “To date restorative practices in schools has been carried out sporadically in Northern Ireland. The Integrated College Dungannon is an example of a school that has adopted restorative values and ethos and these have had hugely positive impacts on those who teach and learn there as well as benefitting their families and local communities. Research has additionally shown this is a more cost effective way to resolve conflicts within the education context.

“Given the success of restorative justice in the Youth Justice System, both in terms of cost effectiveness and human capital, we are very keen that the effectiveness of this approach is mirrored in our education system.

Restorative Practice Practitioner and Trainer Claire Matthews said effective use of Restorative Practices in schools maximises the potential of the whole-school community.

“It facilitates meaningful change in teaching and learning; everything is more possible as the emotional climate of the school is one of connection where reflection and a solution-focused approach is embedded.

“Teachers are better able to teach, students perform better and the emotional climate of the school improves. The practices themselves can be adapted to support pedagogy and ensure the development of skills and competences necessary for today’s world.”

Primary School Deputy Principal Aoife Slacke said restorative practices are used daily to great effect in her school. “The children now feel that the school environment is fairer, safer and happier. We have developed ‘Restorative Practice Buddies’; these are children who have been taught the skills to deal with issues on the playground, among their peers, in a restorative way.

“The children develop their emotions at daily ‘feeling check-ins’, so find it easier to express themselves. We also endeavour to hold any meetings with staff or parents in using a restorative approach and have found this has greatly improved the building of relationships between all parties.”

There is substantial international evidence concerning use of Restorative Practices in schools. A study conducted in Hull, found that after two years of delivery a highly disadvantaged school reported:

  • 98% fewer classroom exclusions
  • 92% fewer exclusions from breaks
  • 78% fewer lunchtime red cards
  • 75% fewer racist incidents
  • 87% improvement in punctuality.

Research in the Republic of Ireland has also found the use of restorative approaches to be beneficial to a range of organisations and professions including schools. A 2005 Interim Evaluation Report into the implementation of RP in Letterkenny Vocational School showed a 70% decrease in drop-outs and a 35% decrease in suspensions.

Research carried out in Northern Ireland in the justice sector found that offenders who participated in Restorative Practice processes were up to 40% less likely to re-offend than those who were imprisoned and up to 20% less likely than those put on probation or into community services.

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: 00353 (0) 86 317 9731.

Restorative Practices Ireland

Restorative Justice Forum Northern Ireland