Platform of good practices

Transforming Conflict. National Centre for Restorative Approaches in Youth Settings

Summary

Country: United Kingdom
Education Level: Teacher training, primary school, secondary school, special education
Approach: Restorative approaches
Target Group: Initially senior leaders and then all staff (teachers, cleaners, office…)

Brief description of the practice

Transforming Conflict seeks to support systematic culture change across organisations, and especially schools, so that they become places grounded by the values of mutual respect, trust, care, inclusion and empowerment. In place of authoritarian leadership, and between adults, as well as with young people, a framework is provided to enable dialogue and meetings that allow all voices to be heard, feelings and needs to be expressed and mutually acceptable outcomes to be explored and agreed upon.

Objectives of the practice

  • Objectives of the practice:
  • To encourage an environment in which everyone – young people and adults alike – feels valued and heard
  • To create safe, harmonious communities for work and study
  • To promote restorative practices as a constructive process for addressing conflicts and strengthening relations
  • To replace punishments, disciplinary procedures (with staff), grievance procedures and complaints procedures with a range of restorative processes – including conflict resolution, mediation and circle problem-solving – so that as far as possible all sides have their needs met
  • To reduce violence and bullying in community settings (school, neighbourhood, etc)

Approach

This approach has as a central element the value of relationship. It regards relationship as fundamental both to build a sense of community, and to resolve bullying or severe conflict. It is based on the idea that a good climate of respect in the classroom benefits both emotional development and academic learning. It builds on recent neuroscience research into how people learn, and what they need from others around them in order to learn

Restorative Approaches build on the basic principles and values of humanistic psychology (genuineness; positive regard for all individuals; empathic understanding; individual responsibility and shared accountability; self-actualisation; the human capacity for positive growth; optimistic perspectives on personal development), and restorative justice (meeting, repair, reintegration, inclusion).
The Transforming Conflict model is based on five key principles:

  • Unique and equally valued perspectives
  • Thoughts influence emotions, and emotions influence subsequent actions
  • Empathy and consideration for others
  • Focusing on our own and others’ needs before the strategies to meet these needs
  • Trust and empowerment

This model may involve:

  • The introduction of several regular staffroom and classroom practices, particularly circle time and circle meetings, through which the teaching and the learning community is created
  • The creation of staff mission statements and classroom rules, decided collaboratively, based on everyone’s needs
  • The modelling of socio-emotional skills by all staff and thus learned by students, developed, etc
  • Training for all in practices to address conflicts through mediation, restorative conferencing or restorative circles

Implementation process

In this good practice, key steps to achieve the expected results and impacts are:

  1. Staff motivation to change
  2. Development of the programme of training and implementation with the staff once they have had an introductory session
  3. Introduction of new restorative thinking and behaviour in the senior leadership team first and foremost, followed by staff team development and finally in classrooms and in the school
  4. Evaluation of the impact of the initiative with Transforming Conflict support

Challenges and opportunities posed by the context

  • To transform the culture of a school may take 3–5 years, so the school needs to find enough time, energy and funds for the necessary training and implementation.
  • Since Transforming Conflict is a small organisation, it has created a flexible structure with a network of collaborators to get response to all proposals.

Results and impacts

Results:

  • Lots of trainings and programmes in schools over more than 20 years
  • A website with lots of information and resources (http://www.transformingconflict.org/)
  • The Restorative Service Quality Mark (RSQM) award for schools, an important recognition from the Restorative Justice Council, a national umbrella organisation that monitors the quality and standards of all restorative work across all sectors in the UK

Impacts:

  • The potential advantages of restorative approaches in the school setting that Transforming Conflict have seen in several schools include:
  • A safer, more caring environment. A more effective teaching and learning environment.
  • A greater commitment by everyone to taking the time to listen to one another.
  • A reduction in bullying and other interpersonal conflicts.
  • A greater awareness of the importance of connectedness to young people. The need to belong and feel valued by peers and significant adults.
  • Greater emphasis on responses to inappropriate behaviour that seek to reconnect, and not further disconnect, young people.
  • Reductions in fixed-term and permanent exclusions.
  • Greater confidence in the staff team to deal with challenging situations.
  • Increased belief in the ability of young people to take responsibility for their choices, and more people giving them opportunities to do so.
  • An example: The impact of implementing a restorative approach across Monmouth Comprehensive School speaks for itself:
  • Exclusions are down by 93%, with only 13 days lost last year due to exclusion.
  • Detentions and merit awards are no longer used as extrinsic behaviour control mechanisms and instead young people are encouraged to develop internal self-regulation.
  • Beyond the school gates, referrals to the Youth Offending Service are down 78% and anti-social behaviour attributable to young people in the town is down by 48%.
  • In the academic year 2013–2014 the school had its best ever results at both A level and GCEs, which it attributes in part to the restorative culture which ensures that the needs of staff and students is attended to, and thus has enabled everyone to give of their best.
  • Staff absenteeism with a stress-related tag is down by over 60%, which represents a saving of over £60,000 – a testimony to how beneficial the approach can be for staff health and wellbeing.
  • Attendance is at its highest ever level – over 94% and rising.

Strengths

Strengths of experience compared to other experiences of this website.

  • The model of restorative circles makes it possible to strengthen listening, appreciation and empathy within the group, which is in itself a way to prevent violence in conflicts.
  • The fact that restorative approaches not only aim to solve conflict but also to repair any harm, to reintegrate, and to promote inclusion in the group goes far beyond the aim of managing conflict. It aims, instead, to transform relationships and to promote peaceful coexistence within the school.
  • Through circle meetings, the relation between teachers and students becomes more horizontal. Students take on greater ownership of the issues that affect them. Using circles to define school rules is a way to tackle not only relationships, but also the school structure. Circles can also be used to define the school rules, or to set participation mechanisms so that students can decide matters concerning the school’s organisation.

Testimonials

Mandy Tomlinson, receptionist from Hunters Hill Technology College

“I would like to thank you very much for the course that I attended on 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 2015. The knowledge and skills that I learned over the three days is already equipping me to deal better with situations, both in my personal life and my working practices. I am sure that I will continue to use them for the foreseeable future. Thank you again for the course and for putting up with my drama queen antics during it.”

Sarah Buchanan, a member of Brighton Youth Offending Service

“Things are going really well, I have been having some really great feedback from my training sessions and I feel that what I'm squeezing into 1/2/3 hour slots now goes far deeper than it did before your course, I am really enjoying it. I was in a meeting with my colleague Mark this morning and he was still talking about how much of a difference the course has made and will make to his practice and that of his team.”

Further information

http://www.transformingconflict.org

Video about the experience of Childshill School as an example (13’13): www.transformingconflict.org/content/childshill-school

Contact

info@transformingconflict.org

0044 118 9331520