Restorative Conferencing

A Guide for Parents and Carers

What is Restorative Conferencing?

Restorative Conferencing is an initiative in some schools which aims at resolving issues of conflict affecting pupils’ behaviour in school. It is a new approach which considers the views and wishes of all those involved in a dispute, and attempts to resolve problems in a calm and positive way putting right the harm that has been done.

How does it work?

  • Each school involved has staff trained in Restorative Conferencing.
  • In dealing with a dispute the usual procedure is for the trained member of the staff to offer those involved in the conflict the chance to attend a Restorative conference.

What problems can be addressed by a conference?

  • Bullying
  • Name calling
  • Assault
  • Harassment
  • Truancy

What is the purpose of a Restorative Conference?

  • To bring together all those affected by a particular incident in school.
  • To discuss the incident in a calm manner.
  • To look at ways to put right the harm the incident has caused.
  • To write an agreement of the actions that will be taken
  • To be supportive.

What will happen at a Restorative Conference?

  • The problem will be referred to a trained facilitator by the school, who will assess if the case is suitable for a conference.
  • If it is, the facilitator will meet individually with all those involved in the incident –both directly and indirectly and gather relevant information.
  • The date, time and place for the conference will be arranged.
  • There is a structured format, so it is fair.
  • The facilitator remains neutral, but runs the meeting.
  • Everyone present at the conference will be asked in turn their thoughts and feelings about the incident and how it has affected them.
  • The person whose inappropriate behaviour caused the problem is given the opportunity to put thing right.
  • An agreement giving details of what will be done is drawn up. Everyone present signs this and is given a copy.

Why Restorative Conferencing works.

  • It is seen as a fair and balanced process in which the views of everyone are shared.
  • The person who has been harmed is given the chance to speak for him/herself and say how the incident has harmed or affected him/her.
  • It works for the person whose inappropriate behaviour has caused the problem, because s/he sees the effect of the incident and is given the chance to put things right. S/he is not seen as a bad person. It is only the specific incident, which is discussed.
  • Because it is generally a positive and ‘healing’ experience, the risk of repeating the incident is reduced.
  • This benefits those people who are important to the pupils as well as the wider community.
  • It breaks down barriers and those who are involved often become mutually supportive and remain in contact.
  • The agreement acts as a point of reference and is a commitment shared by all present to see that the harm is put right.

A guide for pupils

Education in school should be a happy time where all pupils are able to do their best in a safe and caring environment.

There are some people, however, who try and stop pupils learning and enjoying school by making them unhappy.

They can do this in variety of ways including:

  • NAME-CALLING
  • BULLYING
  • TEASING
  • HITTING
  • HURTING

This is not fair and should not happen.

There are lots of things the school can already do to sort out these problems, but there is also something new that is being tried out in some Nottingham City schools.

It is called ‘Restorative Conferencing’ or RC for short.

This is what would happen if, for example, you were being bullied.

  1. Go and see a teacher and explain what is going on.
  2. The teacher will talk to everyone involved to find out more information.
  3. The families of the bully and the person being bullied will be seen and asked if they wish to have the incident dealt with in this way.
  4. A meeting (conference) will be called.
  5. Everyone involved (including parents/carers) will be asked to come, but sometimes a conference can just involve two pupils.
  6. The meeting will be held in a quiet and safe place in school.
  7. The teacher begins the meeting.
  8. S/he asks everyone in turn what happened and how it made him or her feel.
  9. Everyone present has a chance to have his or her say.
  10. The person who has been unkind listens to what everyone says and then says what s/he will do to put things right.
  11. The teacher writes out an agreement.
  12. Everyone signs the agreement and has a copy.

After a while the teacher checks that the promises made have been kept.

RC helps sort out problems in school because

  • It allows pupils to say in a safe environment what has made him/her unhappy and why.
  • It allows the wrong doer to see what effect his/her actions have had and give him/her the chance to put things right.
  • It allows school, friends and families to work together and support both pupils affected so that school is a place where they can learn.

Information and Guidance for Teachers

What is Restorative Conferencing?

  • Restorative Conferencing (RC) is a non-adversarial approach to conflict resolution where the pupil who has done wrong in a given situation becomes accountable to those s/he has harmed.
  • It seeks to achieve agreement and reparation through dialogue between those involved in an incident where harm has occurred.
  • Those involved are offered the opportunity to take part in a conference, but attendance is always voluntary.
  • Restorative Conferencing separates the person from the wrongful act, but it is vital that s/he admits that s/he has caused harm.
  • Although based on practices used in law, Restorative Conferences do not normally involve the police in schools.

When can it be used?

  • Bullying
  • Name–calling
  • Most Inappropriate behaviour
  • Truancy
  • Vandalism

It is another tool which can be incorporated into a school’s Behaviour policy

How does it work?

The conference has a structured format and certain phrases and style of language are used which help the pupil involved in a specific incident reflect on how his/her actions have impacted on others and how amends can be made.

There are three main strands to Restorative Conferencing in Schools

  1. A full Restorative Conference.

    What happens?
    • The facilitator (trained member of staff) is consulted if it is felt that RC could be beneficial in resolving conflict.
    • The relevant information is gathered and the facilitator decides if a conference is appropriate.
    • If so the participants are seen by the facilitator. This usually includes parents and carers as well as the pupils involved in the incident. Here, the format of the conference is explained and the date, time and place are arranged.
    • At the conference, each person in turn is asked how he or she feels about the incident and who is affected by it.
    • The facilitator remains neutral.
    • The wrong doer is given the chance to put things right.
    • An agreement is drawn up stating what s/he will do to achieve this.
    • All those present sign it and are given a copy.
    • Emphasis is placed on restoration and reparation.
    • It should be seen as positive, inclusive and show mutual respect
  2. A Short conference

    What happens?
    • This format is used in less formal situations – usually two pupils and the facilitator.
    • Admittance should be made that harm has been caused.
    • The incident is discussed and questions asked following the format of the full conference.
    • The time taken should be much less than for a full conference because fewer people are involved.
    • Some form of reparation should be made.
    • The emphasis should be on reparation and restoration.
    • It should be seen as positive, inclusive and show mutual respect
  3. In and around school

    The language of RC can be used in many situations in and around school to deal with a pupil whose actions have adversely impacted on those around him/her.
    Some key RC phrases are:
    • “How do you think “A” feels about what you have said?’
    • “I am not saying that you are a bad person, but what you have done is wrong”
    • “You have just apologised to Mary. How do you feel now?” “How do you think she feels?”
    • “Who in your class has been affected by what you have done?
    • “How can you put it right?”
    • “How will the class feel when you have done this?”
    • “How will you feel?”

All the above challenge the pupil to be aware of the effects his/her action have had and give him/her the opportunity to put things right.

In brief – Restorative conferencing principles can be applied to a whole range of situations within school. It is about how we deal with conflicts and each other.

A cornerstone is that all those involved in and affected by an incident should actively participate in a positive and meaningful way, encouraging pupils to take responsibility for their actions.

Our evaluation shows that it is this communication and dialogue, which restores and promotes reconciliation.

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Colin Newton

0115 955 6045

Doug and Maggie

01473 437590

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