Restorative Practice is a values-based philosophy; it aims to consciously build relationships, respond to harm/conflict in a way that honours relationships, and CONNECT us to our best selves and to one another. The values of this philosophy promote relational ways of being, it informs how we think, engage, speak, listen, and approach situations, all day, every day.
There are a set of explicit observable practices that breathe life into the restorative values so that we are living values-in-action; the explicit language also facilitates and scaffolds this restorative way of being.
The intention is to develop a culture of care and respect that allows people to flourish and connect in community. Relational thinking and practices encourage high expectations to be our own best self and offer the support and care we need to reach this potential. Restorative Practice uses the restorative values as a compass; when dealing with conflict, it moves us away from blame and attack, and instead ignites a path towards connection, solutions and empathy. A restorative approach cultivates active responsibility and accountability over conformity and compliance. It also develops our capacity to regulate, recognise and communicate emotions. Emotional intelligence is the most overall success factor in careers. Ultimately it is about connection - to the self and to others.
Our Journey growing a Restorative School;
We commenced our RP journey in September 2018.
All staff received training on the Restorative Practice philosophy during the 2018/19 school year. That year, as a staff, we had chosen to work on the area of Wellbeing for the School Self Evaluation process. Restorative Practice and Wellbeing go hand-in-hand. Building community was a fundamental part of our Wellbeing Plan. We decided that Monday- morning Check-in Circles were to be a feature in every class going-forward. As staff we do check-in circles with ourselves from time to time too…it all starts with us! These Circles help us nurture each other, build community and create safe spaces where armour is neither necessary nor rewarded.
During the 2019/20 school year, we decided to focus on one of the core RP values each month over the course of the year. These are Fairness, Respect, Inclusion, Empathy, Nurture, Dignity &; Safety (F.R.I.E.N.D.S.). Every second Friday, one class in the school leads a Whole-School Assembly on the Value of the Month. At the Assembly, children who are spotted by their peers to be living that particular value ‘Over and Above’ are awarded Special Certificates with the FRIENDS values and Sophie the Giraffe on them. After the assembly, the kids record their ‘take-aways’ in their Reflective Journals back in the classroom. We also trained up our ‘Friendship Keepers’ / RP Buddies, empowering our children to be problem- solvers during the 2019/20 school year.
All of this is the ‘pro-active’ bit; the bottom of the Pyramid; the ‘carpet that offers foundation and warmth’ to the Conferences we have when things go wrong. During the 2019/20 school year also, we reviewed our School’s Mission Statement over a number of staff meetings. We ended up incorporating F.R.I.E.N.D.S. values into our Mission Statement. Of course, now the challenge for every one of us every day is to make sure that our aspirational values and our actions match.
At the start of the 2020/21 year, we signed up to the Ubuntu platform provided by RP Connect. We understand that RP is a process, a practice, a journey. For us, signing up to the Ubuntu Platform has been a tremendous scaffold on this journey. The platform has helped us build a Professional Learning Community among staff where we support each other on our Journey. The Ubuntu Team leaders on staff have found the monthly RP Café experience to be a fantastic support also. It is wonderful to be able to share ideas with other schools in a safe space.
We would love our families to get to know RP so that, at home, they are using the same language and strategies (when things go wrong) as we are using at school. This way we can all be on the page, which will surely benefit all members of our school community, especially those at the centre – the children. Our journey with Restorative Practices has, so far, been a very positive one. Our pupils, especially those at the senior end of the school now have the language of emotional literacy. This is very evident when it is necessary to convene a Conference; the children are now able to talk openly about how they are feeling. Staff facilitating these Conferences often find the experience powerful; each child has a voice &; the children now are the problem-solvers in their own conflicts.
However, our RP journey is ongoing. We are not perfect…the perfect school does not exist. Instead, we are all learning and trying every day to value each other and our relationships above all else. We feel that the Covid 19 pandemic has given society a truer appreciation of what schools are all about; our remit is much wider than the academic one only. We are aware that loss will feature greatly in some children’s experiences of being out of school during the Covid 19 lockdowns. We know that until this is addressed, the academic catch-up can’t happen.
In Shinrone NS, we look after any wellbeing deficits first; ensuring that our school is a safe, secure anchor for all. We know that the rest will follow. We will make sure that all of our children feel seen, heard and valued. We know relationships are the foundation stone of building resilience in our kids and as a school committed to the implementation of Restorative Practices, we put relationships first. We are very fortunate in our school to have such strong connections; the ‘invisible strings’ have kept these connections strong even though we were forced to stay physically apart during the lockdowns. We have a school community which looks out for everyone and our RP journey has served to cement the strong connection &; sense of team we share in Shinrone NS.