Call to introduce 'restorative practices' in all schools
EXPERTS from across Ireland and further afield have come together to highlight the benefits of 'restorative practices' in schools.
Borrowing from the principles of restorative justice, the approach focuses on strengthening relationships within schools and resolving wrongdoing and conflict through dialogue.
A person causing hurt in a given situation is encouraged to take accountability for their actions, while those affected have an opportunity to share how they feel and reach agreement on how the harm can be made right.
The cross-border conference in Newry was jointly hosted by Restorative Practices Forum NI and Restorative Practices Ireland.
It heard calls for all teachers to be trained in the use of restorative practices and the approach to be adopted in all schools.
Among the speakers was Tim Chapman, visiting lecturer at Ulster University and chair of the EU Forum for Restorative Justice.
He said research into restorative practices in education has found that "schools that put respectful relations at the core of everything they do have fewer discipline problems, happier children and staff and improved academic results".
Retired secondary school principal Paddy O'Connor told of the benefits he had experienced.
"When you go down the restorative route as a school, amazing things can happen. People start listening to one another. We wean ourselves off our addiction to punishment and allow creativity to flourish. Now we're talking real learning communities."
Also attending was Dr Jim Longo, chair of education department at Washington and Jefferson College.
"It has never been a more important time for us to listen with our ears, head and heart. Relationships built through restorative practice are the oxygen people and communities need to survive and thrive," he said.
Martina Jordan of Restorative Practices Forum NI said she hoped the conference would encourage leaders and policy makers in the north to give serious consideration to implementing the approach in all schools.
"Restorative practices are embedded in our adult and youth justice systems, in community-based restorative justice projects, in our prison system and in services provided to children and vulnerable adults through family group conferencing, with very positive outcomes," she said.
"The schools already trained in 'RP' in the north are experiencing the value of this approach and therefore we would propose an expansion of the training of all schools here so that all pupils and school staff can experience healthier and happier learning and working environments."
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