Editor's comment

31st August 2007 at 01:00
There will be many teachers, no doubt, who will look at the research on restorative practices (pages 1 and 7) and conclude that here comes another pilot project "doomed to succeed". Schools that are carefully chosen to try out the latest initiatives, and researchers who may be committed to them, tend to confirm what appears to be forward thinking. The blue skies above a great deal of educational thinking are not quite blue, since they are often filled with scores of pilots that have successfully taken off.

The issue of school discipline, however, needs all the thinking it can get, whether it be blue sky or not. The research study found that restorative practices in the 18 schools which took part in the pilot "can offer a powerful and effective approach to promoting harmonious relationships in schools and to the successful resolution of conflict and harm".

One of the key words there is "can": in other words, restorative practices in schools may work in some circumstances and with some staff, but may not be replicable everywhere. The conclusion that RP has been effective in a number of the participating schools also needs qualifying: the researchers acknowledge that, since it was often part of a raft of approaches, it was difficult to attribute harmony to any one strategy.

Indeed, this is very much the point: just as there is no one model of restorative practices, so the strategy itself is not the only model around. As Brian Donnelly of the anti-bulling agency, respectme, correctly argues, RP will not work if it is inconsistent with all the personal interactions in the school, among teachers and pupils. Restorative practices, to answer one of the queries in the study, should be key to a school's over-arching ethos but they also represent "another tool in the box".

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