Chris Ivey / Academic
One of the events that dominated the news for much of my childhood
19 March 2021
From Our Principal Reverend Chris Ivey: Restorative Practice
Dear St Andrew’s community,
One of the events that dominated the news for much of my childhood was the Northern Ireland conflict and now I have an Irish neighbour who lived through this in Ireland, I hear firsthand about the challenges. The news was regularly filled with images of fighting, conflict, and disagreement. One’s religion dictated on which roads you could travel, which streets on which you could live, and the company you kept. Such was the animosity and hostile relationships; it was felt that the issues would never be resolved.
The appointment of Mo Mowlam as Northern Ireland’s Secretary changed this perception forever; what had been viewed as a poisoned chalice changed through her approach as she did everything in life – with a human touch. As one historian shares, Mo knew that peace wasn’t going to come just from leaders, but from the people. She met with the victims and survivors from all communities. Her inclusion of women was imperative to the peace process: she knew that there would be no progress without inclusion of the women in each community. Mo knew peace was ultimately about transforming the lives of ordinary people, and that was what motivated her”
Central to Mo’s approach was the power of connection and relationships, which also underpins all we do at St Andrew’s. When reading our value statements, it is apparent that without strong relationships, we, as a community, would not be able to
- Encourage Learning
- Create Opportunities
- Build connections
As a College, we have recognised the importance of relationships, how we manage them, and how we repair relationships when they have broken down. We believe a common language is central to this process, and our move to embrace Restorative Practice offers just this. At the core is the belief that everyone is inherently worthy and that our connection to one another is what matters most.
It is important to note that Restorative Practice is not just a way to police bad behaviour; it is a way of being, thinking, interacting, teaching, learning – with relationships at the centre. At St Andrew’s, we value our students; we recognise that their journey through education will pose many challenges. When students feel valued and are actively involved in all aspects of school life, they will have a sense of belonging and worth. It is this sense of value that brings us together with a common purpose. It is a framework that we at St Andrew’s want to use to create safe, supportive spaces. Underpinning Restorative Practice are some keywords
- Building capacity
Restorative Practice is not a punitive approach; this is clearly shown in the following graphic.
Blood, 2004 Adapted from Wachtel, T 1999
A punitive approach focuses on what rules have been broken, who did it, what do they deserve? A restorative approach will focus on what happened, who has been harmed, and what needs to happen to make things right? In short, Restorative Practice recognises that when wrongdoing occurs and poor choices have been made, then often relationships have been damaged. Before we can move on, these relationships must be repaired. These relationships will be a combination of peer to peer, student and teacher, student and parent, parent to parent, and teacher.
It also offers the opportunity to ‘keep the small things small’, as often in society, especially with social media, situations can escalate very quickly, and more harm is caused in this escalation than in the initial action. Restorative Practice will give the St Andrew’s community a common language. One we will all use. One that the students are familiar with and a process that they recognise is focused on rebuilding relationships.
Margaret Thorsborne, an expert in this area, has been working with staff in developing Restorative Practice at St Andrew’s. She states, “schools which value the importance of healthy relationships in the teaching and learning process have seen the benefits of adopting restorative approaches to all matters relating to behaviour management in classrooms and playgrounds. The gift in this approach is a new language to refine how we think about and manage our own and student behaviour.”
Mo Mowlam was ahead of her time, unknowingly giving Ireland the gift of unity after many years of unrest through her natural aptitude and understanding of Restorative Practices. We at St Andrew’s look forward to embracing this approach, with positive relationships remaining central to our language and our approach.
Rev Chris Ivey