Conference calls for Restorative Practices to be used in all schools

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Image: Janette McKnight at the conference in Dundalk: Photography: Conor Healy Photography

All teachers should be trained to use Restorative Practices in the classroom and the approach should be used in all schools – a major conference has heard today in Dundalk.

Janette McKnight, Restorative Justice Forum Northern Ireland chairperson,  said the Programme for Government, which is currently being negotiated in Northern Ireland, should include cross-departmental recognition of Restorative Practices and greater integration of the approach across all public and social services, particularly in schools.

The conference was co-hosted by Restorative Practices Ireland and the Restorative Justice Forum Northern Ireland.

Restorative Practices is a proven model for working in community settings, including schools, which builds communications skills and relationships to tackle problems and also prevent problems before they occur.

Ms McKnight, who is also the director of Quaker Service and guest editor of VIEW’s next issue on Prisons and Justice, said: “Restorative approaches can be applied to great benefit across many sectors and there is a particular opportunity to bring the approach more into education and schools, both primary and post primary.”

“Training on using a restorative approach in the classroom – both for behaviour management and to assist learning – should be part of all teacher training and professional development. Teachers should also be formally encouraged by the education curriculum to apply a restorative approach in the classroom, and also to train pupils in restorative skills.

“To date restorative practices in schools has been carried out sporadically in Northern Ireland. The Integrated College Dungannon, is an example of a school that has adopted restorative values and ethos and these have had hugely positive impacts on those who teach and learn there as well as benefitting their families and local communities. Research has additionally shown this is a more cost effective way to resolve conflicts within the education context.

“Given the success of restorative justice in the youth justice system, both in terms of cost effectiveness and human capital, we are very keen that the effectiveness of this approach is mirrored in our education system.”

Restorative Practice practitioner and trainer Claire Matthews said effective use of Restorative Practices in schools maximises the potential of the whole-school community.

“It facilitates meaningful change in teaching and learning; everything is more possible as the emotional climate of the school is one of connection where reflection and a solution-focused approach is embedded,” she said.

Research carried out in Northern Ireland in the justice sector found that offenders who participated in Restorative Practice processes were up to 40 per cent less likely to re-offend than those who were imprisoned and up to 20 per cent less likely than those put on probation or into community services.

• The next issue of VIEW magazine, with guest editor Janette McKnight, director of Quaker Service, will look at the subject of Prisons and Justice. It goes online on May 31. To get a free copy, sign up at http://viewdigital.org/sign-get-view/

 

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