The Learning Renaissance

Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice

When first appointed to the leadership team of an inner city school, I was struck by the abrasiveness of relationships and recourse to abuse and violence amongst the students.

Too often disputes which occurred in the neighbourhood were brought into school or vice-versa! This eroded staff time and morale and diverted resources from learning into conflict management.

A previous Headteacher  had tried to resolve this by implementing a system of Assertive Discipline. This further diverted staff time from learning into managing behaviour.

We were later able to engage with a Theatre in Education programme designed to address the issue of bullying. Unhelpfully, the school was still dealing with bullying as if the issue was certain individual students, rather than a behaviour pattern. The villification and punishment of individual students did not solve the problem.

By using an enrolment process in which students had to write a formal letter to apply to join the TiC course, I encouraged both people who had exhibited bullying behaviour, and those who had been victims of it to apply. They worked with a professional actor to develop a short drama which could illustrate the issues to a Y6 class in the feeder primary schools which formed part of the transition process. The dress rehearsal was an assembly to their own year group.

The professional actor was very astute in allowing those who had exhibited bullying behaviour to act as the victims of it so that they could understand the damage their behaviour caused. Empowering those who had experienced bullying behaviour was equally enlightening. For those who had exhibited bullying behaviour there was now a certain cognitive dissonance, for having educated others about the damage such behaviour does, how could they return to such behaviour?

The student actors went on to develop a School Council and to act as mentors and mediators in student disputes. The level of violent incidents went down and teachers had more quality time to spend in learning, which was reflected in the end of year results.

This example of a similar process in the United States illustrates the process well.

Source: Justice Committee: Using Restorative Practices to Resolve Conflicts

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About educationalist04

Dazed and confused much of the time but convinced we can, as a species, do much better than this if we set our minds to being much more positive and productive towards our fellow humans.

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