Restorative approach raises morale

6th October 2006 at 01:00
Pathhead Primary in Kirkcaldy has seen its attainment rise and its exclusions drop to zero, since it embarked on a series of positive behaviour approaches.

Julie Mair, headteacher for the past four years, believes that its work on restorative approaches, as part of a national pilot, has brought about significant change in relationships within the school.

Although school ethos had begun to improve under her predecessor, relationships between staff, pupils and the community in general had gone through a difficult period.

Pathhead has a free school meal entitlement of 60.2 per cent, compared with the Fife average of 20 per cent, and is in an area of high deprivation. But the suite of initiatives adopted by Mrs Mair and the school staff are bearing fruit.

She feels that the use of restorative approaches has been particularly successful, allowing situations to be resolved through problem-solving techniques. Other initiatives, such as the Fife Framework for Staged Staff Support, Cool in School, and peer mediation training, have enhanced that work.

Now, 16 of the 50 P6 and P7 pupils are appointed Pathhead Pals (pictured) - their job is to act in the playground as problem-solvers, mediators and games leaders. Some of them have in the past displayed challenging behaviour themselves, but they have responded well to the responsibility invested in them and the kudos attached to the role.

Throughout the playground, and within the quiet garden areas, are scattered "friendship" benches which are used as a quiet space to solve problems.

Mrs Mair has also initiated a staff "ethos circle" which gives all staff - teaching and non-teaching - a regular forum to support each other, work through issues, and raise morale when they are faced with challenges.

"It is about recognising that dealing with challenging behaviour is stressful and making sure that staff feel supported," she says.

Mrs Mair does not pretend that behavioural problems do not arise: "I am not saying that children behave well all the time. This is the real world and they are children. But the support and teaching staff and management are working in partnership with parents and moving things forward."

She believes that having the restorative steps in place to allow staff and pupils to talk about the harm caused is far more effective than using exclusion which, she says, only gives "short-term respite" and did not lead to pupils learning any lessons.

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