What Are Restorative Approaches and How Does Restorative Justice Conferencing Work?

Restorative Approaches are an understanding that we work best when part of a community and that to do so we need an understanding of how a community works, self awareness of our responsibilities to that community and shared communications skills.

Restorative Justice is a process that resolves conflict. It is part of a larger ethos also known as Restorative Practices/Approaches. It promotes telling the truth, taking responsibility, acknowledging harm as appropriate response to conflict and in doing so creates accountability.

It is a very valuable tool to a modern school as it not only allows the harmer to see the impact of their behaviour but also allows the "harmed" person the opportunity to see if they contributed to the conflict in anyway by their own behaviour. Both participants are then able agree their own joint contract of how they are going to treat each other in the future, this gives them a personal stake in the success of the contract.

Conferencing works by trained neutral facilitators focusing attention on the harm that an incident has caused to others, by giving everyone the opportunity to answer the same questions and everyone is given the same opportunity to speak. The controlled equality ensures the process is seen as fair. This encourages the truth and provides a safe environment so that responsibility can be acknowledged and genuine remorse felt. It is this feeling of remorse drawn out by the process that creates accountability.

By looking at what harm has been caused it brings the participants together to develop a solution. This allows them to take ownership of their solution making it much more likely to succeed.

Restorative Approaches/Practices are the larger effect of a community embracing restorative measures within their school. It has been proven in USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to be a very effective way to reduce all levels of conflict, not only exclusions, but also reducing the need for punitive sanctions across the board, it creates a happier safer school, that deals effectively with conflict. Through slightly different methods it works equally well in Primary and Secondary Schools and is appropriate for School Management Team, Teaching and Support Staff.

Restorative approaches when implemented in a whole school approach:

Develop - emotional literacy, conflict resolution skills, truth recognition, accountability, responsibility
Improve - behaviour, attendance, learning, teaching
Increase - empathy, happiness, positive life skills,
Reduce - exclusions, detentions, conflict, bullying, need for sanctions
Compliment - SEAL, PHSE, Citizenship, P4C

We recommend that schools develop community, social and communication skills by using a series of restorative circle technique

Check in and Check out - Develop circle skills, taking turns, listening to other, develop community
Icebreakers - Focus attention, enjoy learning, practice social skills
Restorative Norms - Develop negotiation skills, verbalising concepts, defining needs
Aims for the day - Develop aspirations, identify skills, achieving goals

By using restorative conferencing participants will

Develop - truth telling skills, responsibility, accountability
Learn about - real impact of actions, consequences
Be able to - make amends, show remorse, change behaviour, agree a way forward

Benefits of using restorative approaches to the victim:

~ Opportunity to participate in a process that they are central to
~ Have their say
~ Take back some control of their situation by choosing to participate
~ Ask any questions
~ Have a say about reparation, unpaid work, financial restitution, or an apology
~ Witness genuine remorse
~ Reduces anxiety and possible post traumatic stress disorder

Benefits of using restorative approaches to the offender:

~ Learn about the harm they caused
~ Acknowledge that harm
~ Explain what happened
~ Opportunity to apologise
~ Attempt to repair the harm caused
~ Reduces re-offending

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