Restorative Justice Pocketbook

Provider: Teachers' Pocketbooks
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Description How to resolve disciplinary matters by enabling those involved to repair the harm done to people and relationships.

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Categories Primary, Secondary, Higher, Further education, 14-19, KS1, KS2, KS3, KS4, Management, Support Staff, Teaching staff, Assistant Headteacher, CPD Leader, Deputy Headteacher, Headteacher, Head of year / Pastoral leader, Special Educational Needs Coordinator, Learning Support, Pupil Support, Advanced Skills Teacher, Excellent Teacher, Main-scale (core) teacher, Newly Qualified Teacher, Non-practising teacher, Post-threshold Teacher, Pupil mentor, Supply / Peripatetic teacher, Trainnee (pre-QTS) teacher, Teacher trainer, Head of Department / Faculty, Behaviour for Learning, Inclusion, Classroom Management, Out of school, Online, After-school meetings, Team lesson planning/teaching, Book, e-Book
Learning outcomes for participants/users and, where relevant, pupils or students

Readers will gain a basic understanding of restorative justice philosophy and values in a school based context. These understandings can be explicitly taught to students in classroom settings so they benefit from learning about social justice and the importance of ‘making things right’ with their relationships that will potentially be life-long skills.

Learning outcomes include an understanding of the benefits of taking a relational approach when responding to wrongdoing, mistakes and anti-social behaviour in all educational settings. Restorative approaches give victims a voice in problem solving. Retributive approaches focus largely on the student who has done wrong, and the needs of the victim are rarely considered.

Knowledge will be gained about the continuum of practices that bring restorative justice to life in the classroom and playground and the importance of establishing strong and healthy relationships to minimise wrongdoing and inappropriate behaviours.

Readers will read about the basic skills in how to facilitate restorative conversations with individuals and small groups to address harm and interpersonal conflict.

Readers will be encouraged to adopt an attitudinal change; whereby wrongdoing and inappropriate behaviour is viewed as harm towards others and to relationships. This is a move away from a retributive attitude where wrongdoing is viewed as rule breaking and deserving of punishment to prevent the behaviour from happening again. The restorative approach builds empathy and thoughtfulness in ways that retribution cannot, and builds capacity to problem solve as perspective-taking (theory of mind) is also developed. Readers are encouraged to move away from an attitude of ‘classroom rule breaking’ to ‘following values in our classroom’.

While all students will benefit from this approach, it is particularly effective when working with those identified ‘at risk’ or those experiencing relational and behavioural difficulties whether they are those responsible or those harmed.

Evidence underpinning this approach

The evidence is now clear that when schools move away from a control and compliance approach to discipline to one based on promoting a strong community where the focus is on healthy relationships, learning and wellbeing outcomes can be maximised.

The Australian criminologist John Braithwaite provides the social justice theory and research that underpins the reasons why people do the right thing most of the time. Research from schools attempting to regulate student behaviour through systems based on retribution and punishment often find these approaches counterproductive in that they undermine the original intentions of promoting self-regulation. Harsher punishments and increased levels of suspension have been shown to increase difficult behaviours and diminish the sense of safety and wellbeing in the school community so necessary for engagement in learning.

The most recent announcement by the Obama administration in the USA to end zero tolerance approaches in schools highlights the narrative around how we have been doing discipline in our schools in the past and the changes underway as a result of newfound knowledge about effective practice and the fallout from harsh approaches (the school to prison pipeline) (APA report – Zero Tolerance)

One example of the emerging evidence from neuroscience and the capacity for restorative problem-solving to promote moral development and emotional regulation is neuroscientist Dan Riesel’s work. He has become an advocate of restorative justice.


Compelling evidence of how our emotions work can be explained through the ground-breaking work of Silvan Tomkins and his Affect Theory (1962 etc). Several others including Don Nathanson (1992) and Vick Kelly (2012, 2014) have expanded this work to Affect Script Psychology (ASP). ASP explains very clearly how we are biologically wired to live in good relationship with others – and why restorative approaches to problem-solving are biologically sound.

These international sites provide excellent and up to date research and articles:

Centre for Restorative Justice (Australian National University)

Restorative Justice Council UK –

The Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice –

Restorative Justice Research Network (Independent Academic Research Studies)

The Centre for Restorative Justice (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

Restorative Justice Online –

International Institute for Restorative Practice –


How users/participants can evaluate success

Schools can use evaluation tools that may already be in place including:

Student attendance data

Referrals to student managers and/or specialists

Student/parent/staff satisfaction and wellbeing surveys

Staff absentee data

Playground referrals to student managers, first aid, ‘time away’ etc.

Suspension/Stand down/Detention/Expulsion figures

Property damage/vandalism/graffiti

Peer mediation interventions and data

Restorative Practice interventions and conferences

Of interest is anecdotal evidence around the tone and feel of schools that have implemented Restorative Practices. People visiting and working in these schools say that there is a calmness and cooperative feel to the culture of the school and in classrooms. In many ways restorative justice is a way of ‘being’ when working with students rather than a set of tools or strategies to use.

Follow-up activities and support

After reading the Restorative Justice Pocketbook follow-up activities may include:

  • Reading books and guidelines about the whole school implementation of restorative justice approaches. The most recent book is by Marg Thorsborne and Peta Blood:

IMPLEMENTING RESTORATIVE PRACTICES IN SCHOOLS: A Practical Guide to Transforming School Communities

  • Teacher role-plays simulating restorative chats and small group conferences.
  • Working with classes demonstrating and teaching restorative justice approaches.
  • Peer mediation programs where senior students use restorative justice approaches to resolve playground conflicts.
  • Parent information sessions to introduce restorative justice principles and approaches, including the use of these principles in parenting

Teachers and schools are invited to become members of several international organisations that promote restorative justice and provide profession development opportunities. Some of these organisations include:

Restorative Practices International –

Restorative Justice International –

International Institute for Restorative Practice –





All parties involved in an incident or problem work in conference towards a solution. Wrongdoing is viewed through a ‘relational lens’ whereby those involved come to understand the harm done to people and relationships. Accepting that such harm creates obligations and liabilities, they then focus on repairing the damage and putting things right.

 David Vinegrad is an international trainer and can be contacted at:

 email address [email protected]

 telephone number +61 (0) 467611596