Developing a Whole System Approach to Embedding restorative practices in YouthReach Youth Work and Schools in County Donegal.

Hugh Campbell, John McCord, Tim Chapman, Derick Wilson

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The success of restorative approaches, as an alternative tool to resolve difficult social issues, has extended beyond the domain of youth justice into a variety of sectors including education (Buckley, 2007). In the last decade, the application of restorative concepts within the field of formal and informal education has largely developed in response to the demands of improving inclusive practice within these environments. Within school settings someconcerns have been raised about the effectiveness of traditional approaches to deal with issues associated with pupil disaffection, disengagement, non-attendance (DfES 2004; Webb and Vulliamy 2004) and growing concerns relating to disruption and increasing violence in schools (Cremin 2007; Hayden 2007; McCluskey 2008, Reid 2006, Parsons 2005; Munn, Lloyd, and Cullen 2000). As a result some schools have been looking for solutions tosuch concerns.Some research studies have demonstrated that restorative conferencing offers a constructive mechanism to respond to inappropriate behaviour of a serious nature in schools (Blood and Thorsborne, 2005; Varnham, 2005). In this regard, Bitel concludes that although restorative practice in schools is not a panacea, if implemented correctlyit can “improve the school environment, enhance learning and encourage young people to become more responsible and empathetic’’ (Bitel, 2005:13). In our view restorative practices are also understood and relevant in youth work and Youthreach programmes.Restorative practices are based on valuing respectful relationships. To take restorative practices seriously implies that organisations will address their relational practices. This will mean cherishing caring, supportive relationships within which everyone is supported and challenged to grow. When harm occurs it is understood as damaging relationships. All restorative responses are directed at addressing the harm in ways in whichrelationships are restored. Some researchers have highlighted a more limited approach to restorative practices where it is viewed as another plank in a behavioural management strategy (McCluskey et al, 2008: Buckley and Maxwell, 2007; Blood 2005; Chmelynski 2005; Drewery 2004).International research evidence suggests that comprehensive approaches to implementation through the integration of restorative philosophy, practices and principles into the wider relational culture are therefore required. A holistic approach to restorative practice, with its emphasis on relationships, requires that organisations attend to all aspects of the culture and organisation by developing relational practices which canhelp prevent incidents of inappropriate behaviour from occurring. In this context, Cameron and Thorsborne (2001) suggest that restorative practices must focus attention on the relationships between all members of the community to achieve quality outcomes and that “Restorative Justice views misconduct not as rule-breaking….but as a violation against people and relationships in the wider community” (ibid., 183). Therefore, restorative practice in all education settings involves the whole community, including all staff, young people and parents to be involved and supportive (Hopkins 2004). This permits a more proactive approach to cultivate the best environment for the development of healthy relationships across the community which are critical for the delivery of improved student learning outcomes (Lingard et al., 2002; Blum et al., 2002; Weare, 2004).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUlster University
Number of pages44
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Sept 2013

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  • Restorative Justice
  • Restorative Schools
  • School Systems
  • Managing School Relationships


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