Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Leaders' surgery: The antidote to common leadership conundrums...

A member of our leadership team has come back from a conference convinced that we need to replace our discipline policy with 'restorative justice'. Everyone else seems to have heard of it - what is it?

Restorative justice started in the youth justice system as an alternative to traditional sanctions. It involves mediation between 'victims' and 'offenders', with the belief that making the offender understand the consequences and effect on other people of his/her action is more effective than punishment at preventing reoffending.

While restorative justice in schools is often associated with stopping bullying, some schools are using it to tackle disruptive behaviour, theft, damage to property or reintegration after exclusion.

A restorative process typically starts with an enquiry, to get a full picture of what happened and determine if the parties involved are willing to sit down face to face; a mediation meeting between the parties to share feelings about the incident and the aftermath; and, if necessary, community conferencing among a wider group of individuals.

Most schools that have tried it agree that a restorative approach only works if all staff understand and accept the principles and use the procedures consistently. Therefore getting staff on board will be key if the school decides to go down this route.

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