How To Succeed With Restorative Practice In Your School (with Sara Hagel)

How To Succeed With Restorative Practice In Your School (with Sara Hagel)

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Tired of playing referee when your students fall out or have long-running disputes? Wish there was a better way of resolving conflict in your classroom (or school)?

There is - it's called restorative practice - and in today's show, Sara Hagel from Peacemakers is going to walk us through how to get a programme of restorative justice up and running successfully in your school.

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Show notes / transcription

Sara Hagel  0:00  

I think the strength of the process is that it involves everybody who is affected in a situation with coming up with a solution to it. So it involves a process of learning and the opportunity to put something right. And I think that's very important for us as human beings.  We can't afford to give up on each other.

Simon Currigan  0:23  

Welcome to Episode Four of the school behaviour secrets podcast. And today we have an interview with Sara Hagel is going to talk to us about how to succeed with restorative practice in your school.

Emma Shackleton  1:14  

If you haven't come across restorative practice before, it's an alternative approach to resolving short and long term disputes by encouraging the children to think about the impact of their actions upon others.

Simon Currigan  1:27  

But before we get to that, I just like to remind you to enter our prize competition where you could win over 100 pound of behaviour related resources. We'll tell you how you can enter a little later into the show. Before we get to our interview. Let me ask you a question. What's the most difficult thing about sorting out arguments between pupils?

Emma Shackleton  1:48  

I think for me, it's actually having the patience, it can take a really long time to get to the bottom of who said what, especially when other children get involved as well. For many teachers, this is a really troublesome issue after lunchtime. So teachers want to get on with the teaching, but instead they're having to spend ages getting to the bottom of something that happened when the children were out of class. This can make for a really negative start to the afternoon, meaning that the teacher feels stressed because they are now having to play catch up.

Simon Currigan  2:19  

Wouldn't it be better than if there was an approach where the adult move from being the referee to the facilitator to helping kids resolve arguments for themselves? Well, luckily for us, there is it's called restorative practice. And in today's interview with Sara Hagel, she's going to talk us through how to use restorative practice in your school. This interview is full of simple practical advice any school can implement. So let's jump into that interview now and find out more about restorative practice. I'd like to welcome our guest to the podcast today. Her name is Sara Hagel from peacemakers. peacemakers is a charity that works in the West Midlands region, to develop the skills of peace that will build more peaceful communities. peacemakers has worked with schools, alternative provision and local authorities to help them develop a restorative ethos for over 10 years. And Sara leads on this work, and also has experience of working restoratively in the community, especially with faith groups. Sara is going to talk to us today about how to get a programme of restorative practice up and running successfully in your school. So to start with, could you tell us a little bit about peacemakers how peacemakers got started and about your work supporting schools? Yes. So

Sara Hagel  3:34  

Peacemakers is a charity that has been set up by the Quakers in Birmingham. So it's actually part of Central England Quaker area, meeting charities and Quakers have a very long standing commitment to peace, going back to 1600s. And one of their commitments to peace is to see it take root in the community. So that's what peacemakers is about. And peacemakers has been going for over 30 years now. And in that time, most of its work has focused around schools and young people. And we have a number of programmes we do in schools. This is an evolving charity. So we have programmes where our trainers go into schools and run a term length courts are called peacemakers around the skills of peace, which turn out to be social and emotional skills. And we also train young people to be mediators, peer mediators, so that in the playground, they can resolve conflicts between their peers rather than always going to an adult. And then we have a resource called Learning for peace which we embed in a school in a primary school learning for pieces and that is a programme that covers from reception through to year six, and is a sort of spiral curriculum around the skills of peace that is implemented by the teachers by to school and we support schools with that implementation. And then we have a sort of more targeted programme with at risk young people. And also we work with at risk women. And this is less of a course and more of a facilitated group whereby young people's experience, especially around conflict and violence can be explored within a peer group with an experienced facilitator who will bring in ideas around peace and get them to explore those and how they can make different choices and be better resourced in the choices they make that will lead them into a more peaceful engagement with situations that they face. And alongside that, we now have biggest programme, which is the restorative ethos in schools.

Simon Currigan  5:46  

So when you talk about the skills of peace, specifically, what kind of skills are we talking about here?

Sara Hagel  5:52  

Yes, they are emotional skills, social skills, for the main part. So emotional skills would cover things like emotional intelligence, being able to talk about your feelings, being able to describe your feelings to other people understand the impact of your emotions, on your actions, and how they affect other people. So empathy. It also includes the sort of social skills of building healthy relationships, cooperation, we spend quite a lot of time also on conflict resolution, and creative and non aggressive ways to resolve conflict.

Simon Currigan  6:27  

So that leads us nicely on to restorative practice for listeners that have not come across restorative practice before. How does it differ from other approaches to resolving conflicts between students?

Sara Hagel  6:39  

As a society, our main model for addressing wrongdoing or conflict is for some kind of an authority figure to find out who broke what law we would say in society, and then you have a suitable consequence punishment usually for that. And schools, Perhaps unsurprisingly, have in many instances adopted a similar approach. So you are looking to see what school rule maybe has been broken and who broke it, and then what the consequence for that is some sort of sanction. So a restorative approach differs from that. I should say restorative approaches are not new. They are originating from traditional societies, particularly the Maori in New Zealand, where a lot of restorative work originated. But restorative practice asks different questions. So instead of asking what rule was broken, it asks what's happened? Who did it affect? And what do those people need to happen in order to move forward to repair any harm or to resolve any conflict. And restorative likes to do things with people so that together, that people look at what's happened and who's affected and what's needed to repair it,

Simon Currigan  7:52  

it sounds like you're sort of teaching the children a process they can go through, that they can implement themselves more independently, and not be reliant on an adult and future.

Sara Hagel  8:02  

A lot of times, that's what happens, even if it's not the set outcome, because children learn and they do start to do it for themselves. And a large part of this programme is around building those skills of emotional intelligence in particular, that will support the process working. So if you just come in and try and do a restorative approach with children and young people haven't got that support. It's not impossible, we've seen it work. But it's, it's a lot trickier, because there isn't that grounding in understanding their own emotions, and being able to trace them back to their behaviours, what

Simon Currigan  8:36  

would you say are the basics the kind of emotional foundations that a student needs before they can engage fully in this kind of process?

Sara Hagel  8:44  

Well, I wouldn't say they need it, but that it supports it because this process is done in youth offending, for example, quite widely, where the young people may not have any of these bases and it is successful, but in order to to make it flow more easily in a school where time is short, and you need to be able to resolve things and move on the supports are a bit loud, but like I was saying what the skills for peace are the ability to emotionally regulate, to understand your emotions, to understand other people's emotions, and to be able to talk about them and of course, that crucial human ability to empathise with others and their experience.

Simon Currigan  9:23  

Up to this point, I just want to take a moment to tell you about our competition where you could get your hands on over 130 pounds worth of school behaviour goodies. We've got a stack of books by authors like Paul Dix, Tom Bennett, Stuart Shanker, Lee concept and Carol Dweck up for grabs, plus, a three month subscription to our exclusive inner circle online programme packed with hours and hours of video training about all aspects of managing behaviour in school. To win these prizes. All you have to do is leave an honest review and rating for a show on Apple Apple podcasts, grab a screenshot on your phone, and email it to me at Simon at beacon school support dot code on UK entries are limited to one per person. And no purchase is necessary. It's completely free to enter. But I must have received your email before February the 28th 2021. Remember, we can only accept screenshots from Apple podcasts will draw the winner at random at the start of March 2021. You can find more details at beacon score slash podcast competition dot php. So what have you got to lose rate review us and send me your screenshot today. And you'll be in with a chance of winning that fantastic prize pot. And now it's back to the podcast. 

When restorative practices done well, what are the outcomes? What kind of changes do you see in the kids that you work with?

Sara Hagel  10:57  

A lot of the change is around this emotional intelligence and empathy. So I thought one way to talk about this would be to give some examples from schools where we've been working alongside them to embed this. There's the story of Charlie, we'll call him who came in very worked up from lunchtime one day was very distressed about what had happened. And this adult in the school was saying Charlie is anything you want to talk about. So he wanted to talk about an issue that just happened between him and two other people around their friendship. And I said, Do you want me to help out with this? And he said, No, leave it with me, I think I can work it out. And he said, the adult said, Tell me what you're going to do? Well, I'm going to have my sandwich, I could sit with other person, I could say I'm really sorry about what I said I didn't mean it, I want to try and sort it out. So the adult check with Charlie at the end of the lunch break. And he asked how it went and he got the thumbs up and the smile. And the thing about that is what you mentioned before is that he's done it for himself. He'd thought about his behaviour, he thought about how important the friendship was to him. And he could stand back and reflect on it, and then go back and fix the problem that sounds

Simon Currigan  12:03  

very empowering.

Sara Hagel  12:05  

at its best, I think it can be very empowering, it's lovely to see these changes. And the thing we get reflected better lot is greater confidence in young people. So a lot of that sort of work is done in a circle. So the young people become increasingly confident to participate, to talk about their emotions to expand their emotional vocabulary. When I'm angry, I get it in my tummy, I feel kind of hungry, which I think is quite a nice way to talk about anger. When I'm happy I scream when I'm scared, I scream and when I'm angry, I scream, you can sort of see the point that they're used to talking about how they're feeling and trying to explain it to other people.

Simon Currigan  12:40  

There's an underlying truth there isn't that that's how he experiences that. Yep.

Sara Hagel  12:44  

That's the honesty of that. And then on the sort of hard data side, we do find that our data varies from school to school. But we do have evidence that exclusions gone down from one school from the term before we started to the end of the year when we ended exclusions went from five to one. But I do have to say that lower level incidents don't. And that's partly because we're not trying to get rid of conflict. Conflict is actually a good thing. Conflict just means that we don't all think and feel the same way. And as one child put it, conflict isn't always bad as people are different. And they think and feel different things. And it would be boring if we were all the same. So the conflicts continue, but they don't escalate in the same way.

Simon Currigan  13:27  

So that's interesting. So the conflict doesn't go away, but the nature of the conflict becomes less intense.

Sara Hagel  13:34  

Yes, I think they escalate less into physicality or into needing to be referred upwards, if you like, but the conflicts remain.

Simon Currigan  13:42  

Do you see that then affects the relationships between the students and the adults in the school?

Sara Hagel  13:48  

Yes, you could say there's more humanity in the school people treat each other more like human beings rather than as adults and students or teachers and students.

Simon Currigan  13:58  

So you've done a lot of work with schools on restorative practice. But you What's the secret to making this approach work in schools,

Sara Hagel  14:06  

it works best when it's really part of the school ethos and culture. So that means it's a long term project. It's not a quick fix, you would see proactive learning around the skills that we talked about, you'd see an increase or an emphasis on social and emotional learning, you'd see a lot of emphasis being placed on relationships in the school. Some schools we worked with have renamed their behaviour policies to relationship policies.

Simon Currigan  14:33  

What would you advise schools looking at launching a restorative approach? What's the single biggest thing they can do to get everyone on the same page at the start of the process?

Sara Hagel  14:43  

We recommend that there is even before there is a first full day in set which we would encourage all staff to be invited to attend. And I mean, all staff lunchtime supervisors, secretaries, admin people, but even before that, we would recommend somebody who is going During the training to come in, and explain it to the staff and get their sense of how interested they are, whether they think the school is ready. So again, you're doing this process with staff rather than doing it to staff so that they're involved from the start in this thinking,

Simon Currigan  15:17  

Okay, then let's move on to the key steps involved in a restorative conversation, say after there's been an incident in school. So let's imagine there's been a bit of a physical tussle at lunchtime between two boys.

Sara Hagel  15:28  

So that brings up a couple of elements. So the physicality of it, first of all, there is this baseline of getting people to safety. And that is true for restorative as well, and giving people some space to calm down, nobody is in a good place to resolve a conflict creatively if they're still in the height of emotions. So those would be things that I think would it be in place, whatever you are going to do? And then the other thing you usually what to assess is, how much time do you want to give to this right now or later. And I think if you've got a relationship that's been strained for a while, you might decide to give it time because it does crop up again. And again, I think one way to show would be to go through the key questions that are part of a restorative script, what would happen is that an adult in the school would talk to the two boys individually, first of all, and the first question is beautifully simple. What happened? So it's a non judgmental, curious, neutral question that just asks the person what happened from their perspective. And the key thing is, of course, to ask everybody who's involved that same questions that everybody's perspective is taken into account.

Simon Currigan  16:37  

And that's just the two children that were involved,

Sara Hagel  16:39  

it depends, you would start with the two people involved, and then ask them who else was involved. But that's something you sort of find out as you go through. And then you've got to sort of dig a bit deeper into what happens sometimes this just emerges naturally, especially if there's a proactive programme in the school. And part of this question is to try and bring out some of that so that they would understand for themselves why they did what they did, perhaps, but also in time that others can understand that. And then we get to that question, well, who else has been affected by this who's been affected? And this is where other people might be named? Or you might find out some more about what's going on. And then when you've gone through who's affected and how they're affected, we can then go to sort of the problem solving of Well, what do you think this situation needs to move forward? What do you need, so that will have happened with both parties. And then in that conversation, you're starting to see whether or not it's a good idea to bring them together. And it isn't always, sometimes the one to one conversation is quite helpful or transformative for the young people. And sometimes you just know that it's not this is part of the training of whether it's a good idea whether there is some understanding that the other person has a valid perspective as well. And particularly if somebody is harmed the other that they can take some responsibility for that. But if that is in place, then you might meet face to face with a third party, facilitating it, going through the same sorts of questions. But here, of course, they're hearing each other, and they can respond to each other. And that's where you might be able to dig down into some of what's going on.

Simon Currigan  18:12  

And it just shows you how a traditional conversation about what role has been broken, that's never going to get down to that is it so that underlying kind of Festering Wound of whatever happened is going to continue to be there. So you're going to continue to get incidents in the future?

Sara Hagel  18:25  

That's right. I think key for me about restorative is that it involves learning on everybody's part. And I think that's so essential in our society, we need to learn from our mistakes, we need to learn how we affect other people, we need to learn how our behaviour is driven by what's going on under the surface, and then be able to learn for the next situation that comes along.

Simon Currigan  18:48  

What would you say to teachers or parents who are kind of sceptical about this approach? Of course,

Sara Hagel  18:54  

we need that. And that can come from different perspectives. It can be that it sort of as a soft answer, honestly, if you ask young people, whether they'd rather do a detention or talk about their thoughts and feelings and how they've affected other people, quite honestly, a lot of the children would choose the detention, they don't see it as a soft option. It's quite hard, isn't it to own up to yourself about what's been going on and share that with another person. And the consequences are still there. But the consequences are decided by the people affected. And of course, the school can be one of those parties. This is another objection we get the schools but standards or and then other people, teachers can often be very tired of the next new thing. And I quite get that. And that's part of the timing of when is this right start introducing into school because it is a big shift. It is a big mind shift. I'm pleased to say we have got some people who would self identify as having been sceptics at the beginning of the process, who are now champions of restorative approach.

Simon Currigan  19:52  

We were talking earlier about preparing to launch a programme like this and you're talking about looking at to make sure that cultures are good fit and you're preparing everyone What kind of specific ways have you found that are effective of getting parents on board, 

Sara Hagel  20:04  

We have worked with some schools in trying to involve parents from the very beginning. So we often have an assembly where this scheme is launched with the children as well. And some schools have invited parents to that. We also have schools who have had coffee mornings, where they invite parents in to hear about this new approach that they're going to be using and answer questions. Obviously, we have newsletters that go home. And one of the most successful ways which I think is happens a lot in primary schools is that some schools have sessions, which parents are invited to a club might be a math class, or an English class that parents are invited to, so that the parents could see the activities and the learning that underlay the approach. And that was particularly successful, and parents really enjoyed it and enjoyed seeing their children involved in the process.

Simon Currigan  20:55  

Have you ever seen this used to repair a relationship that's gone wrong between a parent and a school?

Sara Hagel  21:01  

I haven't. But I do know that those have happened, there is actually going to be a World Conference on restorative approaches in education. And there'll be details of that on our website. When it's finalised.

Simon Currigan  21:15  

If you're a teacher, or a school leader listening to this podcast, what's the first step you can take to start looking at implementing restorative practice in your school? How do you kick this process off? Where would you start,

Sara Hagel  21:27  

I would start with doing something to start strengthening relationships at all levels within the schools and check in check out is a great way to do that. So we introduced this to schools who were working alongside, perhaps it's on checking on a Monday morning and check out on a Friday afternoon where every child in the class and the adults have a quick check in. It's sometimes on a scale of one to five, where are you, and these very quickly start building relationships and giving you insights into what's going on. So that's one practical thing that you don't really need any training or outside help or advice to start doing. But if you're at the point where you do you want that I would suggest what our website And we have a one day introductory training online that people can join and get a sense of what it's about in a bit more detail, or the restorative justice Council website, which is the accrediting body for all types of restorative practice in the UK. And they have information about all sorts of trainers and standards for restorative practice.

Simon Currigan  22:33  

What's the real strength of this process?

Sara Hagel  22:36  

I think the strength of the process is that it involves everybody who is affected in a situation with coming up with a solution to it. So it involves a process of learning and the opportunity to put something right. And I think that's very important for us, as human beings, we can't afford to give up on each other. And I think that's true and restorative process as a way of not giving up by giving people a chance to give their perspective of what happened it put it in a context and take some responsibility for it and find ways to put it right with other people with support.

Simon Currigan  23:14  

Finally, we asked this of all our guests, who's the key figure that's influenced you? Or what is the key book that you've read that's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with children when

Sara Hagel  23:24  

I arrived at peacemakers, and I had worked mainly with adults, and I'd worked in human rights education. So when I came in and saw the way that the trainers who were there were working in the classroom that really impacted me, I was so impressed by the sort of hair raising moments that would sometimes come when you'd have a breakthrough with a young person, or when somebody who hadn't spoken at all would suddenly have the confidence to come into the circle and start speaking if I can have two I would also say Belinda Hopkins, who is a pioneer of restorative approaches in education in the UK, two books that are key, or just schools and the restorative classroom, which had been very influential.

Simon Currigan  24:05  

Sara, thank you for coming on the show you've given us some really useful practical insights, the difference that restorative practice can make in schools, thank you very much.

Sara Hagel  24:14  

Thank you

Simon Currigan  24:17  

I got a lot from running that interview. And I feel we really got an insight into how to get everyone on board with a restorative approach to get maximum success in a school.

Emma Shackleton  24:26  

And of course, if you have experience in lots of disputes and off task behaviour during lesson time, there may be some simple tweaks that you could make to the way that you've organised the environment, or even the format of your lessons and that could improve behaviour in class. If that sounds interesting to you, we've got a completely free download that goes with this episode called the classroom management score sheet. Inside the score sheets, you'll find a list of 37 factors that have an impact on classroom behaviour,

Simon Currigan  24:56  

The score sheet's a list of things that you're clearly doing or not Doing so you can think of it as a clear roadmap to improve your presence in the classroom. And it's based on 1000s of observations that Emory and I have conducted between us. So you know, it's based on sound classroom practice. And if you're supporting a colleague with their behaviour management, their classroom management, it can help make your feedback and action points even more clear and objective.

Emma Shackleton  25:23  

Get it now by going to beacon school, clicking on the free resources option in the menu, and you'll find it near the top of the page. It's completely free. So go and get it today. Thank you for listening to the show today. Next week, we're going to look at the issue of whole class rewards. Do they really work? Do they actually make a difference to classroom behaviour? Or would most kids just behave regardless of whether we had rewards in class

Simon Currigan  25:51  

when you finish listening? Don't forget to enter our competition. We've got just shy of 100 pounds worth of books about behaviour in schools to give away including running the room by Tom Bennett assertive discipline by Lee canter and take control of the noisy class by Rob plevin. We're also going to throw in a three month subscription to our own inner circle online programme containing over 20 videos and resources about successful behaviour management in schools that's worth almost 40 pounds by itself.

Emma Shackleton  26:20  

If you want to win, all you've got to do is give this podcast and honest rating and review on Apple podcasts and email a screenshot to Simon at beacon school support and we'll pick one lucky winner at random one entry per person, no purchase necessary. Get your entries in before February 28 2021. And remember, we can only accept screenshots from Apple podcasts.

Simon Currigan  26:43  

Finally, if you like what you've heard, and you don't want to miss that episode next week about do whole class rewards work. Open your podcast app now and press the subscribe button. This will encourage your podcast app to automatically download each and every episode of the school behaviour secrets podcast when it's released, so you never miss a thing.

Emma Shackleton  27:03  

Thank you for listening to school behaviour secrets. Have a great week and we look forward to talking to you again in the next episode. Bye

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)