Restorative practices reign

1st February 2008 at 00:00
Respect, relationships, repairing harm - a Fife school's alternatives to the three Rs of education.

At Tulliallan Primary, there has not been a single exclusion for two years, teachers never shout and restorative practices reign supreme.

Eleanor MacGregor, the headteacher, sums up the Fife school's ethos as being about respect, relationships and repairing harm.

She says: "When a child behaves badly, it's more about how they fix it rather than why they have done it - what were they thinking? What were they feeling? Who has been affected? And what can they do to make things right?"

Mrs MacGregor believes that if you exclude a child, you have failed. "If you exclude a child, you remove them from their peers and school and then they become excluded from their community. Like adults, children need to know they belong. Exclusion should only ever be a last resort if safety is at risk."

Last year, inspectors described pupils' behaviour and manners at Tulliallan Primary as "exemplary", rating the climate and relationships at the school as "excellent", along with the leadership of the headteacher.

Around 16 per cent of pupils at Tulliallan receive free meals - just below the national average. Mrs MacGregor argues, however, that Kincardine is "not a leafy suburb".

At the school, pupils are taught explicitly about conflict resolution through health education and the behaviour management programme Being Cool in School.

They are also taught "problem-solving" and "thinking skills" to develop their emotional literacy. "If you can't say how you feel, you will resort to violence rather than talking," continues Mrs MacGregor.

Teachers at Tulliallan do not shout and do not bark instructions at pupils like "sit down; get your coat off," or "get your pencil out".

"That's nagging, and children switch off. Here teachers say things like 'show me good listening'," she says.

But restorative practices are not a soft option, she argues. "We have big, tough P7s with tears in their eyes telling us how they feel. This is not a soft choice - people bear their souls. If something serious has happened, you might have a child sitting there with 20 other people affected by their behaviour."

Pupil participation is actively encouraged at the school where children can sit on the pupil council or apply to become "playground pals", "mediators" and "P7 friends".

Jack Duffy, 11, has climbed through the ranks and is now a P7 friend. He describes Tulliallan Primary as "usually a really, really happy place" and says he has learnt a lot from his experience dealing with conflict in school.

"It teaches you how to solve conflict out in the street with friends. If they fall out, you can help them make back up. It's not just for inside school, it's for outside as well."

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