Consensus NI Restorative Solutions was set up two years ago to provide training in restorative practices (RP) to schools. It has been proven world-wide that restorative schools provide a healthy and happy environment in which to teach and learn; the incidence of wrongdoing and conflict decreases significantly (in one school bullying decreased by 97%), the need for sanctions decrease significantly, academic achievement rises significantly and for many of our more vulnerable young people, their journey to other 'systems' such as care and justice is severed, thus providing them with hope for a good future.
The basis of RP is 'relationship building' within the whole school community. When things go wrong, those involved in the problem resolve the problem in a way which lessens recourse to 'punishment' and uses processes which develop empathy, responsibility and mutual understanding. The schools we have trained are seeing marked changes in staff and pupil relationships and other unanticipated positive outcomes.
As I have worked in the youth justice system for 20 years and am a lecturer in social work I feel very passionate about those children who have experienced abuse and neglect and these are the majority of pupils who are suspended and excluded from mainstream schools. My message is clear, that teachers genuinely wish to be more aware of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and want to learn different ways of working with those children who most need our care and connection.
My small step is simply to transform often archaic discipline systems in schools to processes which better serve the needs of the whole school community. Schools that we have trained want to see restorative approaches expanded to all schools in Northern Ireland and I would love to help make that happen.
Image Source: Consensus NI