We returned to the topic of Restorative Practice this week and spoke to David Lisowski about his experience of implementing the approach in different settings.
David’s first role was as a member of Special Needs Support Staff and then his first teaching post was at Sidney Stringer Academy in Coventry, UK, as an SEN teacher. After teaching elsewhere, he returned to Sidney Stringer Academy as Head of Learning Support responsible for behaviour and rewards. This is where he feels he found ‘his niche’. David is now working for one year as headteacher at Riverbank School, part of the Sindney Stringer Multi-Academy Trust.
Sidney Stringer Academy is a school for 11 – 18 year-olds in a deprived area of the UK and has 1,300 students. The school is recognised for the amount of progress children make, often from a low baseline and they are involved in offering training programmes to other schools.
What drew David to the concepts of Restorative Practice?
When David looked at the systems which were in place, it was clear they were primarily punitive and were working for 95% of the students. So it was time to concentrate on that 5%.
After a pilot, Restorative Practice has now grown to be part of the daily routine at Stringer. In behaviour management, David believes you need to have different approaches and Restorative Practice is one which can work with the most challenging pupils but in terms of emotional awareness, it benefits the whole school. However, Senior Leadership Teams have to be behind Restorative Practice and it must be linked to values.
This was an original problem David experienced – when they started to hold Restorative Conversations, the children didn’t have the emotional awareness or emotional literacy to use the language the staff wanted them to so they could think and learn about their behaviour rather than being punished by their behaviour. When they were asked what they needed to do, they said that they needed to improve their behaviour. Then a series of careful questions allowed David and the other teachers to start teaching the children about their behaviour and agree what it was they needed to concentrate on in order to improve.
To give the students the language they needed, they came up with three core values after a consultation process in which the whole school community was involved. They came up with:
Every half term they focus on one value which is threaded through the tutorial system so every student has that education in the values and what they are comprised of.
This means that when dealing with the ‘repeat offenders’, the school can use the common language that is displayed on the walls and constantly referred to. This helps the staff have purposeful conversations with the children – there is a consistent approach because everyone is using the same set of language.
A culture of Restorative Practice
This is imperative, according to David. Restorative Practice is a useful tool but you have to have buy-in from staff.
David describes how he works with new staff and uses the example of a pair of scales to illustrate the importance of balance in approach…
David on Twitter – https://twitter.com/staff_david
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