Restorative Practice

Fostering Responsibility and Accountability

Restorative approach supports a philosophy for maintaining and repairing relationships by fostering a sense of social responsibility and shared accountability. 

School setting is the ideal place for an early restorative approach intervention, this is because the introduction of any social skills and problem-solving curriculum is likely to decrease negative behaviour, peer aggression and disruptive behaviours in the classroom. Furthermore, any activity that promotes the social, emotional and academic competence in children is likely to increase pupils social skills and their understanding of feelings (empathy) and academic engagement and co-operation with teachers. (Barnet youth offender service, 2004)

Nevertheless,  it is extremely important to take into consideration the children and young people’s ability to reflect their culture and family principles, the families’ beliefs, ability to understand their children and others’ development and how much their own behaviour reflects on the whole family’s wellbeing. Whenever a conflict occurs, the school may serve as a community link for restorative meetings for the community, resulting in better emotional wellbeing, emotional literacy and ultimately a restored and happy community.   

‘Restorative’ and ‘retributive’ interventions and their relative contribution to the emotional health of the parties in conflict

Our society structure is very retributive, laws and sanctions are necessary if we want to have order however, we see more and more people coming out of prison and re-offending, more and more children having punishments and consequences but not changing their behaviour.

In the retributive system it is believed that people should receive what they deserve. Meaning that people who work hard deserve the fruits of their labour, while those who break the rules deserve to be punished. In addition, people deserve to be treated in the same way that they voluntarily choose to treat others. If you behave well, you are entitled to good treatment from others. (Rachel, 1997)

On the other hand, a Restorative Intervention seeks to meet the needs of the harmed person and to support the harmer or people who cause the harm to make right the harm they have caused. It is a way of helping the hurt and harmers communicate and find some resolution to the harm that has been caused as the result of a criminal offence or a conflict.

Retributive approach focuses on the offence or harm caused, in order to stablish guilt and the offender’s past behaviour.  Restorative approach focuses on the people, the community and reducing the harm; how can the problem be solved and how can all parts have a restored future?

How can Understanding Shame Support Practitioners in their Restorative Work?

“So often when we think about education and the education process we take the position that education is about the way a child receives information and processes it. That’s entirely cognitive. But it turns out that to the surprise of most people, education is also about emotion.”   Dr Donald Nathanson, September 2003

Shame is not just a negative affect or emotion, but it is also the interruption of all positive effects. Once an individual experiences a negative affect or an interruption of a positive affect; there is a reaction. A shame reaction is a reaction to failure; it is a painful social emotion that may cause further consequences depending on how each individual reacts.

The Importance of Becoming a Restorative Practice

Restorative practices, by their very nature, provide an opportunity for us to express our shame, along with other emotions, and in doing so reduce their intensity.

Early intervention is vital in order for children to grow to be confident, assertive and independent. Therefore, the whole school staff should be restorative practitioners, thus recognising these “Attacks” as expressions of shame such as giggling, class distractions and answering back. In order to succeed, it is imperative to separate the ‘Self’ from the ‘Behaviour’ in Restorative Practices. We can provide comprehensive training where the whole school community, including parent and carers speak the same language making restoring relationships and moving forward after conflicts far easier and effective. 

In a restorative school environment, it is vital to remember that young individuals are still developing emotionally and socially, their self esteem might be very low (for both the harmer and the harmed) meaning the negative affect of shame and its behaviour scripts might be more accentuated. Together with that, there is a list of factors which should be taken in consideration.

When Restorative Approach is Implemented in School we tend to see:

  • Development of emotional literacy, conflict resolution skills, recognition, accountability and responsibility taking
  • Improve whole school behaviour, attendance, pupil’s attainment and teaching environment
  • Increase of empathy, happiness and positive mindset amongst pupils
  • Reduce of exclusion, detentions and bullying incidents
  • Compliment your PSHE curriculum

A Restorative Approach Practitioner:

  • Acknowledges that relationships are central to building community 
  • Builds systems that address misbehaviour and harm in a way that strengthens relationships
  • Focuses on the harm done rather than only on rule breaking
  • Engages in collaborative problem solving
  • Empowers change and growth 
  • Enhances responsibility
  • Gives voice to the person harmed

Training is Paramount

Many schools called themselves ‘Restorative Schools’, however what really happens when conflict arises is very the opposite. The best and only way to be a truly Restorative Practice is to empower every member of the school community by training and implementing the new approach in the Behaviour for Learning and Anti-bullying policies. 

The Restorative Process

Our philosophy doesn’t reprehend feelings and emotions, they are all accepted, and we encourage children to express them. What we teach them is how to express those feelings.

“There are no wrong feelings, how we react to the feeling may or may not be wrong”.  Ines Gomes

The Feelings Teacher Approach

Feelings Teacher Approach


  1. Recognise the child’s feelings and empathise with them
  2. Validate and label the feelings 
  3. Setting limits on behaviour (when necessary)
  4. Problem solving with the child with restorative justice questions

Restorative Justice Questions:

    1. What happened?  (where, who was present, what was said or done)
    2. How were you feeling when it happened?
    3. Who was hurt? (explore all possible affected people, parents, peers in class, teachers, etc).
    4. How are you feeling about it now?
    5. How can we make things better? 

Levels of Behaviour and Correspondent Emotional Wellbeing

Low level disruptionChallenging responseSerious and deliberate behaviourVery serious behaviourExtremely Serious Behaviour

Each behaviour level is dealt differently, from low level disruption to serious challenging behaviour there is a Restorative Approach for it. Each stage corresponds to an emotion and an unmet need. It is important to connect with the child or young person making them feel safe and secure, just than they will respect and follow the adult supporting them.  

Our implementation package includes detail step by step of each level and how to best manage them. 

In more  to facilitate the mediation process, many individual meetings with all parties involved needs to happen. There are many preparation steps such as risk assessment, attention to potential victimisation, evaluating whether both the victim and offender are ready for a face to face meeting. All stages need to be carefully planned and executed. Sometimes, a conference process may only come after an offender completes some of their custodial sentence, or a community service for example.

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Restorative Practice