Restorative Practices in Schools in Northern Ireland: Towards an ‘All School’ Model

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Abstract

Summary: As in many other countries around the world, the knowledge of restorative practices in schools has grown in Northern Ireland in recent years. There are growing calls from within the education sector to further embed restorative approaches in teaching practice and to include the knowledge of these approaches in teacher training. Whilst restorative practices are recognised as a proven structured approach for conflict resolution and the repair of harm involving children and young people, its use in school settings remains intermittent in Northern Ireland. However, an international evidence base increasingly identifies a range of positive outcomes and successes where restorative approaches have been embraced. In Northern Ireland much of the growth in such practices to date has occurred within the integrated education sector that includes children from the Protestant and Catholic traditions. An underlying compatibility between the transformative values and goals of integrated education and the approaches embraced by restorative practices has helped to bring about greater engagement with restorative practices in some schools. This paper argues that, far from being restricted to a few areas, the challenges posed within integrated education are universal to all schools in Northern Ireland, and consequently that an ‘All School’ restorative approach would help to address the broad spectrum of factors that can lead to relationship breakdown and the perpetuation of harm. The paper considers three important developments that may lead to greater momentum for the growth of restorative practices across all schools in Northern Ireland, including the passing of the Integrated Education Act, 2022, the recent enactment of the Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (Northern Ireland), 2016, and the publication of the ground-breaking Adult Restorative Justice Strategy for Northern Ireland (2022–2027). That strategy also incorporates proposals for a Centre of Restorative Excellence to support practice. This paper argues that each of these developments can provide real opportunities for mainstreaming restorative practices across all schools in Northern Ireland and can help schools to forge stronger relationships with local communities and the broader institutions of society outside the school gates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)74-96
Number of pages22
JournalIrish Probation Journal
Volume19
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • Restorative practices
  • school
  • Human Development
  • integrated educatin
  • bullying
  • punishment

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