There tend to be two understandings of a “restorative approach” &/or “restorative programs” in schools: one is simplistic, the other more complex. The complex version can deliver significant, sustained improvements in student- and staff well-being.
Fortunately, there is now a growing realisation among educators that “restorative practices” in schools involve more than:
- running the occasional community conference to address some specific incident, &
- implementing circle time.
Both of these activities can be highly valuable. However, restorative practices in schools are more usefully understood as part of a broader approach to effective relationship management.
We anticipate that the phrase Relationship-based Education will gain wide currency in coming years.
This systemic, school-wide approach can provide positive support for respectful relationships by applying teachable / learnable skills in:
- offering coaching feedback,
- resolving issues – directly between the people involved or with the support of a meditator, and
- facilitating meetings in various formats.
The philosophy and techniques of restorative practices and relationship-based education have important parallels with what we now know about effective methods of teaching and learning more generally. Members of a school community can use evidence-based techniques to improve the way they build, maintain, and deepen relationships, and also the way they and repair, reset or restorative relations in response to hurt and other harms.
To support the move beyond a system of behaviour management based on “consequences” and rewards, and towards a system of relationship management, requires a virtuous circle of reform – where each element of reform supports other elements. A virtuous circle of mutually reinforcing effective practices can involve the following elements:
To ensure a common understanding or mindset about relationship-based education, and a common set of practices or skillset (described with a shared language), requires coordination.
Restorative practices, as part of comprehensive-relationship-based education, provide some of the “how to” for implementing &/or fine-tuning school programs such as:
- School Wide Positive Behaviour Support;
- Respectful Relationships;
- Protective Schools;
and more general social movements such as:
- Positive Education.