The Restorative Service in Lincolnshire Schools

Monday 3rd December 2018


With school exclusion rates rising, it’s now more important than ever that restorative practices are being used in schools to help young people to get their education in a safe, structured environment, whilst learning how to resolve conflict and manage their emotions.

In fact, last year, the government had to address worrying school exclusion statistics, which saw 381,865 fixed-term exclusions being issued across mainstream secondary schools during the 2016-17 academic year.

Many students who are permanently excluded find themselves in referral units or, more troublingly, are left to wander the streets despite parents and guardians being legally bound to keep their excluded child out of public areas during school operating hours.

Similarly, more than 200 pupils in England spent at least five consecutive days in isolation booths last year. These isolation booths have been described by Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, as “distressing and degrading”.

This is why Restorative Solutions, together with Family Action, set up the Restorative Service within the Behaviour Outreach Support Service in Lincolnshire. Commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council, Restorative Service provides Restorative Approaches (RA) in all Lincolnshire schools.

By putting restorative approaches into practice, the Restorative Service is reducing the number of permanent exclusions in schools. Restorative approaches help pupils, teachers, and practitioners to dig a bit deeper and uncover what the unmet needs of the child in question are, allowing them to find a solution to the disruptive behaviour and conflict being caused.

This is done by encouraging the children to explore what is happening when conflict is being caused and to consider who else is being affected. The children are also encouraged to come up with solutions to their problems to affirm their experience during their time using the service. Not only does this help to solve immediate problems, it also gives them the tools needed to solve problems of conflict later in life.

There are a huge amount of benefits when it comes to using restorative approaches with children, from helping them to develop people skills and encouraging them to conquer their fears to helping them take responsibility for their behaviour and giving them an opportunity to explore their own behaviours, attributes, and emotions. Learning to understand why conflict is happening and helping them to learn to problem solve can be an incredibly empowering experience for children and young people.

A service like Restorative Service requires a lot of setting up, especially in terms of creating all of the necessary documents, training staff, and developing referral pathways, processes, and procedures for the BOSS staff. The Restorative Service has also created a variety of leaflets and guides on restorative approaches for practitioners, as well as visual aid cards to be used with children and young people.

The Restorative Service is still coming on in leaps and bounds and is entering its next phase, which will involve extending the restorative network, continuing to assist schools with complex and sensitive cases, and ensuring that all practitioners are up-to-date with their training.

The Restorative Service is continuing to develop innovative approaches to restorative practices to benefit all children and young people. A year 3 student was referred to the service after being verbally and physically aggressive towards staff and, although the behaviour was reducing over time, the student was still making rude remarks towards a particular teaching assistant. He would cause disruption in class and hurt other children to get the teaching assistant’s attention.

At first, a meeting was held with the student to find get to the bottom of  what was going on for him. He was asked if he wanted to get involved with the restorative process and he said that he wanted to repair his relationship with the teaching assistant and wanted to spend more time with her.

He seemed to understand that his behaviour was making her sad and that he didn’t want to make her sad. The restorative process was explained in a way that he could understand. He agreed to take part in the process and have a meeting.

A meeting was then held with the teaching assistant who was confused by the young boy’s behaviour towards her. After she was told that he did like her and that he would like to spend more time with her, she felt that going ahead with the restorative process would be useful for both of them.

The two met with each other in a restorative meeting and they both had on opportunity to talk about the incidents and how they both felt. They both agreed that they would like to repair the relationship. This gave both an understanding of how the other was feeling and they agreed that they would like to have a chance to work and play together.

Ever since the meeting, the relationship between the student and the teaching assistant has improved. They have played games together and they’re managing to interact with each other using appropriate language, with both saying that they’ve found the service useful - the teaching assistant said that she found talking with a neutral service really helpful.

In another instance, BOSS was supporting a 12-year-old student with behavioural problems. It quickly became clear that he and his music teacher were having difficulties. The teacher was negative from the beginning of the lesson and this was poorly received by the class and, in particular, the young boy in question.

The whole class was regularly disruptive, but the boy in question was often highlighted by the teacher. BOSS explained the restorative process to the student and he said he would be happy to try to repair the relationship with his music teacher through restorative practices.

The teacher, in  the beginning, was slightly reluctant to take part in the service because he said he felt that other teachers had issues with the student, so he didn’t understand why he was the only one having a restorative meeting. BOSS explained that it was because the student had said that music was his most difficult lesson.

The first meeting was held with the student and he talked about his feelings about his teacher. He said he felt targeted and, no matter what he did, he was blamed for anything that happened in the class. He said that felt he was never given a fresh start and that previous incidents were being brought up.

He said that he hated his music lessons and had the attitude of giving the teacher the behaviour he expected - the behaviour of a troublemaker. He said that, to move forward, he would need to be given a fresh start and be made to feel welcome in the class.

The next meeting was with the teacher who explained that he was frustrated with the student because he felt that, in the past, they had a positive relationship. He spoke especially positively of projects that the student had been a part of and seemed to enjoy when he was in primary school. He said that he didn’t know what else to do with the student.

The teacher even went on to say that he was upset on a personal level about the extent to which his relationship with the student had broken down. To move forward in a positive way, the teacher said that the student needed to try harder to listen and work in lessons, and enjoy being creative.

The next step was to bring the student and teacher together and, in the meeting, the student bravely said that he felt undervalued and pre-judged. The teacher explained that he was frustrated with the student and that he wanted to get the best out of him because he is aware of his abilities. The teacher also explained that he was personally upset.

The student acknowledged his teacher’s feelings and said that he didn’t realise the impact of his behaviour. In a similar vein, the teacher said that he was upset that the student felt unwelcome and that he could understand why he began to act how he thought he was being perceived.

The pair decided that a fresh start was the best option, forgetting all previous goings on from both sides. One way that they would do this is to greet each other at the beginning of every lesson in a positive way.

Since the restorative meeting, the student and teacher have regained respect for each other and the music lessons have been much more positive. The student has decided that he likes music so much now that he wants to take it as GCSE subject. Both student and teacher have explained their current relationship as ‘very good’ and greatly strengthened by their shared experience of being open and honest with one another in the restorative meeting.

Restorative justice can be used in many areas of life, including schools, workplaces, and the criminal justice system. If you think training in restorative practices could help you in your career, talk to Restorative Solutions.

Restorative Solutions delivers training in restorative justice, from e-learning courses to bespoke and specialist training. To get in touch, call us on 01772 842 109, email us at enquiries@restorativesolutions.org.uk, or visit our website.

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