Rosehill College (2007) RESTORATIVE PRACTICES Australian Study Trip

THIS PAGE IS AN OVERVIEW AND DAILY LOG OF A RESEARCH TRIP TO AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS IN APRIL/MAY 2007. THE TRIP HAS BEEN ENTIRELY FUNDED BY ROSEHILL COLLEGE (AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND) WITH THE GOAL OF FURTHERING UNDERSTANDING OF BEST PRACTICE IN RESTORATIVE PRACTICES WITHIN SCHOOL SETTINGS.

Ethical Considerations

Postings on this site have been made with the permission of the schools/staff/students/parents concerned. To contact me, provide feedback, make suggestions or anything else, please email: b.hubbard@rosehill-college.co.nz Thanks, Bill Hubbard

Finding Your Way

This web-log reads in reverse chronological order. In other words, the first posting that you come to is the most recently written - and you will have to move to the bottom of this page to read how this whole blog began. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

OTHER SITES YOU MAY ENJOY

If you found interest in this site, you may also enjoy another couple of my web-publications which focus on different parts of the 'restorative umbrella'.

They are:
1. http://schoolcircles.blogspot.com/
(discussing the concept of 'talking circles' within a school context to build social and emotional capacity within students - enough details are provided for you to begin to run circles).

2. http://undercoverteams.blogspot.com/
(discussing the antibullying approach first launched by Maines and Robinson as 'No-Blame' - this approach is reinvestigated, looking through a 'restorative lens'. Enough details are provided for you to be able to run Undercover Teams in your school).

3. https://sites.google.com/site/hubbardaitkenfellowship2017/
(advocating for the consideration of mindfulness to build the psychological capacity of school leaders. It investigates the history and contemporary uses of mindfulness, and the research base behind current use).




PROCEDURAL JUSTICE and SCHOOLS

Another aspect of discussion that I would really like to hear being used more in schools is 'procedural justice'. In some circles, there are considerable links made between restorative and procedural justice but in the school sector there seems to be little. Before I continue further, we need a definition:
The notion that fair procedures are the best guarantee for fair outcomes is a popular one. Procedural justice is concerned with making and implementing decisions according to fair processes. People feel affirmed if the procedures that are adopted treat them with respect and dignity, making it easier to accept even outcomes they do not like.
http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/procedural_justice/?nid=1016

Not only is it easy to assume that 'justice' is only of one flavour - but it may be assumed also that procedural justice is also only of one kind. Wrong again. (read Wikipedia or other sources for more information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedural_justice). But, it is not necessary to get too complicated here and I will continue using the term in its general sense.

Retributive and Restorative Justice - Procedural Fairness
A justice situation can be judged as procedurally fair by several criterion. By one text (http://www.set-up-to-fail.org/pdf/justice.pdf), they enumerated six and they are represented in the table below. In the table, I have tried fairly to compare retributive and restorative justice using these criterion. Beneath the table I have put some annotations for my opinions which are probably controversial in some quarters.


( ) indicate a conditional 'yes' or 'no'

Let me give some commentary to my opinions represented in the table:

Firstly, both 'justices' could be considered consistent - but in entirely different ways. Retributive Justice in schools seeks consistent outcomes for each act of wrong-doing - e.g., for swearing at a teacher in circumstance X, the student is stood-down for Y days. In Restorative Justice, consistency is sought in the process. Because the context of the wrong-doing is different in every situation, the outcome from Restorative Justice processes can often be different, even between apparently similar events.

Secondly, 'Unbiased' - Restorative Justice wins this one with its eyes closed! Let us use the example of a student vandalising school property. In a retributive process within a school setting, the person who will investigate the event, pass judgment upon that person and ultimately decide their punishment will be a representative of the school - even if this person is of supremely ethical standards and can distance themselves from the harm done to his or her own workplace, it is likely that the offending student will feel intimidated by the immense power this one staff member has over his or her life at school. Conversely, in a restorative process, it will be a collective voice that the offending student has to answer to, with a school representative being just one of the opinions (albeit an important one) heard.

Thirdly, I have suggested that a restorative process will be accurate and a retributive process less so. I have made this opinion on the basis that, generally speaking, restorative processes invite honesty and retributive processes discourage honesty. Every restorative practitioner has been witness to restorative events where courageous honesty on behalf of some participants has significantly changed the path of the justice process - exonerating innocent students for example. And of course, once students are honest about their involvement in a harm event, accuracy is a natural follow-on.

Fourthly, it seems as though both 'justices' are correctable within a school setting, but with an advantage to RPs. It will be the case that the restorative processes are more likely to have students, their families and the school working together to resolve a harm event - which means that the communication is already open between family and school should correction be required. In a retributive event, it can sometimes be the case that the student has been either excluded from the school community or has been placed in an adversarial position to the school - in both circumstances, discouraging the communication required for a 'correction' to take place, should it be required.

Fifthly, 'representative' - this is not a contest. The retributive process does not seek to involve representation (or 'participation') from every person involved in a harm event. For example, victims are given little or no voice in a traditional justice event - this is one reason why retributive processes can leave victims feel reoffended against. Conversely, RPs encourage the involvement of all parties in the resolution of the harm event - including the offending students and his/her family.

Lastly in the all important matter of ethics - I give the bronze medal to Retributive Justice and the gold to Restorative J. Why? Because the premise behind a retributive process is that if the institution can introduce sufficient deterring pain to a student, that student will have 'cleared their debt' that that institution and will be discouraged from repeating their act. This appears fundamentally to be a flawed ethical position because most people would agree that there is already excess suffering in the world without deliberately introducing more! If we can use justice processes (such as restorative ones) that satisfy the requirements of all parties without inflicting deliberate harm, then we should employ them - and this is especially the case for schools who are in the role of caring for young people. This of course is not to say that offending students find restorative processes 'comfortable' - in some circumstances, restorative processes are some of the most difficult moments of their lives. But emotional challenges (and thereby, 'pain') are a byproduct of the process, not a primary focus.


The Damage of Ignoring Procedurally Fair Processes
What damage can result by an organisation using justice procedures that are inherently unfair?
"...breaches of procedural justice can result not just in the withdrawal of citizenship behavior, but in negative behaviors specifically designed to punish the organisation and its representatives." (http://www.set-up-to-fail.org/pdf/justice.pdf)
I am sure that all of us working in schools know what the authors mean here! "Withdrawal of citizenship behavior" seems to be a perfect description for the sulking, obstructive student behaviour that can cripple a class or school climate. And, "negative behaviors" appears to me to be a good description of the disheartening property damage in schools that is so hard to stop.

To provide a clear illustration (albeit from a commercial perspective), please read below:
A striking example occurred in a company announcing pay cuts of 15 percent in two sister plants.
In neither plant were the employees given any say in the matter; they were just told that the loss of two large contracts were to blame. Yet in one plant the person making the announcement expressed remorse, clearly described the basis for the decision and the alternatives considered, and fielded employee questions.
In the other plant, the announcement simply warned employees that the pay cut would take effect from the following week and would probably last ten weeks. Employee theft rates in both plants increased but in the plant where procedural justice was not respected they increased by more than twice as much as in the other plant.
A follow up study showed that although all underpaid people stole, those who were treated in a perceived disrespectful manner stole objects that were no value to themselves, but that were of value to their employers.

POST TRIP THOUGHTS - BACK TO THE FUTURE

Ignorance is the Enemy
Witnessing harmful behaviours at school mean different things to different people – for some observers, harmful student behaviour is interpreted as a flaw in character, to others, the same behaviour is interpreted as a flaw in thinking. To gather some insight into this vital argument, maybe we should look back to the Fifth Century BC, to one of the most famous teachers of all times. Socrates is credited as being the philosopher who laid the foundations for Western thinking. Although a full analysis of his doctrine is beyond this document, one of his most powerful beliefs was surrounding the connection between knowledge and morality. In short, Socrates suggested that the degree of morality shown by individuals was little more than a reflection of the level of wisdom enjoyed by that individual.

“…. for no one knowingly prefers what is evil; and, if there are cases in which men seem to act against knowledge, the inference to be drawn is, not that knowledge and wrongdoing are compatible, but that in the cases in question, the supposed knowledge was after all, ignorance.”

http://www.2020site.org/socrates/method.html

Hence, the suggestion therein is that the students in our schools who do harm are in fact ignorant, rather than inherently evil - anyone who has facilitated many restorative events will accord with this concept. It could be said that the key focus of a restorative event is the stripping away of erroneous assumptions - personally I have witnessed many students in conference situations whom others have labeled as ‘bad’ reveal ignorance as their core deficiency. The cure for ignorance can never be force, but education – and restorative events are inherently educative in nature.

The Socratic Questioning Style
There is a universal law that states that force can never resolve ignorance. So too in the classroom, punishment alone can never build understanding within a student who is blind to the hidden harm that they are doing – force will only ever suppress that behaviour that is associated with that ignorance (at best), for it to reappear at a later date, maybe with renewed vigour, and with more damaging consequences.

So, how does an educator get inside a teenagers head to address damaging attitudes? - should we have subjects like 'empathy' and 'remorse' in our curriculum? I believe that it is unnecessary - because we can use every moment of wrong-doing as a moment of learning. But hard-working teachers may say, "How do I turn conflict into learning? - I'm not a psychologist!”

Socrates contribution to the restorative cause continues. Perhaps his greatest gift to restorative justice is his theory about the manner in which wisdom can be best gathered.

Socrates engaged in questioning of his students in an unending search for truth. He sought to get to the foundations of his students' and colleagues' views by asking continual questions until a contradiction was exposed, thus proving the fallacy of the initial assumption. This became known as the Socratic Method, and may be Socrates' most enduring contribution to philosophy.

http://www.law.uchicago.edu/socrates/method.html

So, asking questions may initially seem like a powerless position to take in the face of student behaviour that is rooted in ignorance, but in reality, it is one of the most powerful. There is a website that gives a transcript of how a Maths teacher gives an entire lesson on binary arithmetic by Socratic questioning – and all without ‘telling’. It makes fascinating reading and can be found at http://www.garlikov.com/Soc_Meth.html

So, Socratic questioning is understood by many to be the basis for the communication pattern that is associated with many Restorative Practices models – questions such as, “Who do you think you hurt when you did _____? - in what way?” (etc.). You may wish to pursue your own reading about the Socratic style but even in the commercial world the power of this approach is recognised – the implications for education and conflict in the classroom are very clear from the following account.

When your clients discover answers to their problems, rather than simply hear them from you, they will own the answers. Their ability to hold onto the concepts, apply them, and improve their situation will skyrocket. Improving your ability to help them discover (through the use of Socratic questioning), is a critical, though often overlooked skill.

Using more questions will cause you to lose the feeling of power that you are providing the “right” answer. But the client gains far more than you lose. While you may feel like you are losing emotionally, you win with the client, and probably strengthen your relationship with them too.

http://ezinearticles.com/?Eight-Skills-of-Highly-Successful-Consultant/

Although the above quote is from a sales perspective, it acknowledges that it feels unusual to adopt this style – but reflects the success that it brings if a person persists in incorporating this style into their personal communication repertoire.

Back Home

So, the Restorative Practices Study Trip is over. I am back at Rosehill College and painfully aware of how much work there still is to do here to keep RPs ‘on the agenda’ and progressing.

In the brief moments that I have had to reflect, I recognise fully how many people it took to make this trip possible. Although I am clearly not able to specify each and every person, I will attempt to pay tribute to the people who were in the middle of it all .

Firstly, my sincere thanks goes to Graeme Macann (Principal) and the Senior Management Team of Rosehill College. Their support of the trip was to me an endorsement of Restorative Practice itself, or at least, the potential of RPs. And within the SMT, two people probably deserve particular mention:

Dave Ormandy (Associate Principal) is rapidly becoming an authority on RPs and has lent his total backing to this project. Beyond that, Dave has been actively looking after the depleted Student Support team during my absence. Thanks Dave – your support has been very important to me.

Secondly, James Clarke (Deputy Principal) has Professional Development as a significant part of his portfolio and has ‘walked the talk’ by getting behind this project. Thanks, James. In the same breath, thanks goes to the members of the PD Committee who also provided their approval for the concept of the research trip.

‘My’ Student Support Department is still standing tall despite the staffing challenges of late. The ever capable Heidi Morgan (Student Support Admin) has been a power of strength as usual – Thanks, Heidi - I knew that things were safe in your hands. Paula Crisinel has stepped courageously out of her counsellor training programme to take on the work of two counsellors – Paula, by all accounts you have excelled yourself. My counselling colleague Janet Milne has recently re-entered the fray at work after some much required convalescence time - sorry for my timing, Janet. Bonny le Grice (Resource Teacher – Learning and Behaviour), Matua Charles Hohaia (Kaimanaaki) and Anna Ngawharau (School Nurse) have also shouldered extra burdens in my absence – thanks to you all.

And, of course - thanks go to all the wonderful people in Australia who shared so much of their time and energy with me in the midst of their busy days. It is probably unnecessary to pay tribute again to each of you for your efforts because your stories are all recorded in earlier sections of this web log but I wish to once more say thanks to Marg Thorsborne who helped me get this trip ‘off the ground’.


In finishing, I suppose the above tributes are a reminder that some things matter more than others. In the words of a Maori proverb,


He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people, it is people, it is people.

FRIDAY 11 MAY - SIPPY DOWNS, QLD

Chancellor State College near Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast was the last school visit on the research trip. Roger Pearson (Behaviour Support Worker) gave a generous amount of time to me during the day and I am afraid that I even interrupted some restorative conferences that required running – hopefully they can be completed on Monday with success.


CSC is a virtually a brand new school in a growth area. The Junior school is on a separate campus a short distance away and with the Middle School and Senior School sharing a campus. Although the school is designed to eventually accommodate around 1300 students, there are less than half that number currently enrolled – and with no students in yr 12 (final schooling year) until 2008. The school has been modelled as a ‘technology school’ – with a firm emphasis on IT and associated fields.

Chancellor State College works to a charter that recognises the 5C’s: Care Courtesy, Cooperation, and Challenge. At the heart of the school’s approach towards fostering positive behaviour is an emphasis on responsible thinking which reflects the need to provide:

  1. Whole School Behaviour Support – to reaffirm relationships
  2. Targeted Behaviour Support – the repair (damaged) relationships
  3. Intensive Behaviour Support – top rebuild (damaged) relationships.

This hierarchy of proactive to reactive processes is a model developed by Brenda Morrison – I have often seen this model appearing in school literature on my travels and is a simple yet insightful way of understanding the importance of connections between people in the functioning of a high-achieving school.

CSC works with a horizontal pastoral care structure with Year Level Coordinators given some time allowance for their duties. CSC has a comprehensive and active school life that works at the lowest level, affirming relationships. The list of activities that bring students together in positive ways is long and need not be listed here but include class meetings, award systems, special events, anti-bullying programmes and more.

Much of Roger’s work represents the ‘targeted behaviour support’ (#2). Roger staffs the ‘Re-Think’ room which is central to the Re-Think process – a similar provision to the one that I saw at Elanora the day before. In the Re-Think process, teachers who are troubled by students who are constantly disrupting the teaching/learning process can temporarily relocate the student to the Re-Think room. In the room, Roger will assist the student to reconsider their behaviour choices and give ‘coaching’ for the student to negotiate with the teacher their re-entry to class. If required, Roger will help the student create a Personal Management Plan which is a document that stipulates realistic and specific actions towards better behaviour.

As a vital element to the targeted and intensive relationship restoring initiatives, Roger runs considerable numbers of conferences. This may be between students or between staff and students. I happened to meet Barry Dittman (Deputy Principal) who enthusiastically declared that the use of RPs has allowed him and others to negotiate tricky situations with confidence. In Barry’s opinion, the biggest block towards the adoption of the philosophy by some staff is the inclination to talk ‘to’ students rather than ‘with’ them. RPs are used as a process to reintegrate students back into class or school following traditional discipline responses such as suspensions.

Roger described some defining conferences involving outside events that did much to build the school’s confidence in this way of working. CSC has a neighbouring university that students have conditional approval to walk through to get home. Teenagers being teenagers, a very small group took liberties with this privilege by interfering with university property. This clearly put the ‘access arrangement’ at risk but following a very successful conference with security staff from the university, the current arrangement still stands. In fact, so impressed was the Head of Security (also oversees security for the college also) in the restorative process that he has adopted elements of it for dealing with issues within his own staff.

Another conference that proved the value of working restoratively was following a sports dinner where some students did minor but significant damage to the facility The school’s name had been harmed but following the conference, the owner of the restaurant re-declared his faith in the school for allowing such a satisfactory solution to be arrived at.

Roger believes that although parents have not yet been involved in many full conferences, this will probably be an area of development.

Thanks to Roger and the friendly staff at Chancellor State College for a very encouraging finish to my study trip. Best Wishes to You All.

WEDNESDAY 9 MAY - TOOWOOMBA, QLD

Today I was the guest of Fairholme College, Toowoomba (about two hours drive west of Brisbane) where the day’s events had been very well arranged by Linda Evans, Deputy Principal. Toowoomba is a unique city – some time ago it overtook cities interstate to become Australia’s most populated inland city (100,000) and is known for its gardens, more moderate temperatures and its slower lifestyle. Toowoomba hosts 13 independent secondary schools from a total of 16 within the city. This is an inverse ratio to the usual balance between private and public schools in Australia.

Fairholme college is special for it is Australia’s largest boarding school for girls, working with a proud Presbyterian tradition (840 students in total – about 280 boarding). Stan Klan (Principal) showed me a map in his office with a coloured pin indicating the place of origin for each of its students. Rural Queensland was well represented but so too were the other states – although diversity is celebrated at the school, this demographic represents an unusual challenge when RPs are concerned (more later).

Stan said that despite some of the perceptions that outsiders may have of Fairholme College being a ‘rich school’, it is not especially so. The school has fees only a fraction of what Brisbane independent schools ask and 20% of the FC students are sponsored by the state. Indeed, although the school was extremely well presented and had some marvellous facilities, Stan placed credit for the impressive academic and sporting results upon a supportive school environment and good teaching/coaching. Fairholme College has many claims to fame – but perhaps most understandable for Kiwis is that Cathy Freeman (Olympic champ) is a past student.

Later in the morning Linda and I spent time with Niki (yr 8 co-ordinator), Cathy and Vicky (both Heads of House). Fairholme College has just begun the process of moving towards a vertical pastoral care system – the rationale being the same as for so many other schools (promoting ‘family’ feeling, encouraging leadership, and so on). The current structure has been a junior school (Kindy to yr 6) and senior school (yr 7-12) but the school is moving towards adding a ‘middle school’ (yr 7-9) formation to best address the needs of this critical age.

The house system has already appeared to be fostering positive qualities among the girls – there being less peer-initiated ‘trouble’. In leading the House care groups, all the teaching staff participate – including the Principal. In matters of school leader, Stan works with a team of eight, including the Head of Boarding and the School Chaplain.

When Linda arrived five years ago, there was an expectation by significant numbers of staff that if there was conflict or suchlike, the school executive (management) would take the issue away (I wish that I had a $ for every time I have heard this in the last 2.5 weeks!). But from extensive experience in other schools, Linda could see that complying with teacher’s wishes would be reinforcing undesirable teacher behaviour – ie. Avoidance of addressing the source of the conflict and avoidance of addressing the relationship damage.

About the same time Linda came across Margaret Thorsborne in her travels and immediately recognised that RPs were the philosophy that was required to build a more productive teacher/student and student/student relationships. Because PRs were inherently harmonious with Christian ideals (the basis behind FCs ethos), Stan and the governing board had no hesitation in endorsing their implementation

Since then, there have been several large conferences and many smaller ones – run by trained staff. As Principal, Stan usually attends the large conferences to articulate the school’s viewpoint and to explain the harm done to the school. An unusual (for Rosehill College) dynamic is that it can sometimes be difficult to have the attendance of a parent at a conference – they may live 10 hours drive away (or further) and occasionally parents will fly in to Toowoomba to deal with serious issues. For even serious offences (with rare exceptions), the schools default policy is to deal with the issue restoratively rather than by the traditional suspension or other punishment. Because of the firm Presbyterian views of the board, students involved with drug or alcohol offences will be expelled without exception.

Linda suggested that whilst the Fairholme College school context does not demand major interventions as often as schools of a different population, it does benefit from the language of restorative practices which underpins daily practice. The culture has shifted significantly to include an expectation that problems are solved with all stakeholders and through a restorative conversation.

Today’s posting may be a bit shorter than most because the information was more a two-way process than in other schools. I was asked to share some details about Rosehill College’s current journey and whilst acknowledging our natural shortcomings, I was proud to talk about our RP accomplishments of recent times. Linda and the others were fascinated to hear about the tagging dilemma and how a restorative approach solved an apparently blocked process and I was asked to repeat the account in the staffroom during recess (interval) for the benefit of other staff.

Today was a reminder for me (once again) how RPs work best within a school environment based upon people-focused values, Christian or not – RPs cannot save a school from itself!

Many Thanks to Linda, Stan and the many friendly and gracious people I had the pleasure of meeting today – best wishes to staff and students.

TUESDAY 8 MAY - BRISBANE

Today was my first day in a Queensland school and things started very well with a totally engaging visit to Villanova College, near the centre of Brisbane. Hosting me today was the Vice-Rector (Deputy Principal equivalent) Graeme George, who is currently 2IC at the college. Also giving time to me while Graeme taught was John Goodwin, the Head of the Middle School (yrs 7-9). VC is a quite unique school in that it is one of only two in Australia following the Augustinian Catholic traditions – the other being in Sydney. It is a boys school of approximately 1100 students, from years 5-12 (ages approx 11-18).

Prior to major school reforms beginning in 2003/2004, student’s behaviour (misbehaviour) was managed using a mixture of detentions, ‘write-outs’ (writing lines, I presume – I never checked) and suspensions. Back then it was a ‘two-school’ system only (not the junior/middle/senior structure of today) and the secondary school in particular was caught in a recurrent pattern of punishing students who would often reoffend. John said that some students would turn up for detentions even if none were assigned, so conditioned they were to ‘living’ on detention.

Things began to shift in late 2003 when the school leadership acknowledged that the different elements of school life were not in accord with each other – and some times working antagonistically. There was a sense that the progress made in the first 55 years of VC had come to a natural conclusion and a new plan was required to reposition VC for the next 55 years. Arising out of this challenge came the Schooling Project which Graeme explained as a process of throwing all the pieces (of VC school life) into the air and letting them settle into a coherent whole.

This bold process was described by Graeme as an enormous leap of faith by the Rector (Principal). Part of the investment required came in the form of a small two-person research team (Graeme being one of them) that would ensure that the Schooling Project was founded upon a synthesis of ‘best practice’ in the necessary fields. As part of the change process, the school was closed for a week and the staff were immersed in three days of consultation and training – after which the direction forward was clear (95% buy-in).

As my focus must necessarily stay with RPs, I will not go into details but the other main strands besides RPs decided upon by the end of 2004 were:
-Dimensions of Learning – as a pedagogic framework (social/emotional development)
-Curriculum Framework – aims, beliefs about learning
-Augustinian Pedagogy.
Besides VC placing importance upon ‘Habits of Mind’ they have gone an extra step – and a vital one, I believe. VC has acknowledged core beliefs around, Habits of Mind and Heart’ – thereby drawing emphasis upon ethical elements to the cognitive process.

With historic management of behaviour using a ‘centralised’ (essentially depersonalised) punitive system, the college was in quandary. Although the college had always stood beside the Augustinian notion of “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, the punishment approach contradicted this powerful call. Serendipitously, at this time Graeme happened upon restorative justice authorship by Ted Wachtel (USA) and Terry O’Connell (AUS) which clearly represented an ideal framework for this vital element of VCs Schooling Project – RJ affirms the person whilst challenging the wrong-doing.

Although the indication was that (RJ) restorative practices represented the ‘missing link’, the school leadership was cognisant of some staff’s apprehension about losing the familiar approaches towards errant behaviour. Following the maxim of “Evolution, not Revolution” the historic punitive system was not dismantled but shifted to the extremities of the behaviour management systems, giving room for restorative practices to address the root causes of conflict.

A decision had to be made about which sector of staff to align training with. Approximately 5 % of staff fell into the category of ‘early adopters, 5% indicated no intention of quickly reconsidering their attitudes towards discipline, and the other 90% or so were ‘fence-sitting’ in the middle, waiting to be convinced either way - accordingly, the training was targeted at the ‘middle’ group. Most of the acclaimed Australian practitioners were involved in some level during the development of VCs systems and processes, either in a consultation role or as trainers: Marg Thorsborne, Terry O’Connell and Peta Blood - John Braithwaite and Brenda Morrison of ANU gave great support too.

Although outside presenters were of vital value in early years of staff development (circa 2004), the school has increasingly found it more useful to run training ‘in-house’. This was in keeping with the VC tradition of valuing staff expertise and allowed very ‘Villanova College specific’ issues to be addressed. The commitment to RP training in staff development sessions has been significant, and ongoing. The intention of the school is to have all Year Level Coordinators and Heads of School trained in full-conferences – this has been achieved but required constant attention with movement of staff.

I was highly engaged by Graeme’s theory about how best to train staff –it was fascinating to me because Graeme is the first person who I have met who has the same opinion as me – this is that for staff to best run the low-intrusion (and preventative) aspects of RPs in the classroom/grounds, they ideally require participation in the full-conference training. By understanding the subtleties of a full conference, Graeme believes that staff are able to translate their learning highly effectively into lower-intrusion practices. Doubtlessly, there are resourcing implications for this ideal.

What has been the end result of this large commitment by the school and staff? In the words of John, within one year there was a significant reduction in student behaviour issues and 2-3 years later the numbers of students on ‘Friday detention’ has dwindled to “almost nothing”. Incidents in the classroom are largely handled by the teachers. If things are getting tricky, there is a ‘mediation room’ where students are asked to reflect upon the choices they have made – and the student is expected to put the damage right with his teacher (accountability is an important element of RPs for Villanova College). The focus at all times is attempting to use the wrong-doing as an educative opportunity.

By John’s opinion, most (90%) of the 1100 students are on-board with the school’s values, a smaller number require restorative interventions and a very small number (2-5%) actually require full conferences. In major incidents such as fights, students are never suspended automatically because there is the recognition that there was a root cause for the conflict that needs to be addressed. Parents receive a copy of any agreement that arises (as for ‘mediation room’ processes) and if students do not engage with the restorative opportunity, the detention/suspension process remains an option.

Parents are kept abreast of all significant concerns in the child’s schooling, including behaviour. Graeme has provided training to staff at a special information evening and has also followed up during regular parent-group meetings.

Currently VC is undertaking a major awareness-building and support programme surrounding bullying. Between John and Graeme, it was explained to me how students are surveyed and apparent victims and offenders identified – support is provided for the ‘victims’ and accountability demanded of the ‘offenders’. Recognising the consistent findings of research, considerable effort is given to the ‘bystander’ group – acknowledging that bullying almost never happens without an audience of some kind.

I left Villanova College with my head bursting with impressions. I saw some wonderful moments of interaction between staff and students and was deeply impressed by Graeme’s depth of understanding re RPs. Thank you, Graeme – Thank you, John. Best Wishes to you both.

AND ..... MORE IDEAS

'Student-centred discipline'
This concept really is borne of the NZ scene where the educational theme of ‘student-centred learning’ has been gaining momentum for some time. To firstly discuss SCL – this is the notion (strongly supported by research) that teachers being at the centre of a student’s learning is actually an impediment to the learning processes required by a fully functioning member of the 21st century. This movement is probably one of the foundations for the increasing call towards co-operative learning strategies in NZ classrooms.



By the teacher re-roling himself/herself as a guide towards knowledge acquisition, rather than the dispenser of knowledge the student becomes the centre of his/her own learning process. There can be no arguing with the suggestion that the sooner young people take responsibility for their own mental growth and development, the more confident, happy and resourceful they are likely to be as adults/parents/employers/employees, etc.

Now, moving back to this idea of ‘student-centred discipline’. The behavioural analogue to SCL is surely a process where students become the central figures in the resolution of their own conflicts. Staff re-role themselves in the secondary (but extremely important) roles of environment providers. By this I mean that staff provide policies, procedure, support, encouragement, resources (rooms, etc.) that will allow every possibility for students to join together peaceably to sort out their disagreements.

Probably the single biggest resource that schools can provide for student-centred discipline (SCD) is a school culture that values people, values peace, and clearly makes the connection between peace and academic achievement. As you can imagine, a philosophy such as RJ/RP will be at the heart of such an environment.


The Guidance/Discipline Dichotomy
Some months ago I came across an article by Wendy Drewery (Waikato University) and John Winslade (ex-Waikato University, currently in US) that I believe deserves mention and more consideration by the school restorative practices community.

From memory, in this article (which has since become lost in my generally reliable filing system) Wendy and John question the division that has steadily formed between the discipline and guidance functions within a school. They acknowledge the well-intentioned beginnings of guidance within schools and the then useful distance that was planned from discipline functions – giving students a facility within their own school that could advocate freely for them.

But I believe that RPs put a new light upon this distinction between ‘guidance’ and ‘discipline’ and it is probably best explained by reference to Wachtel and McCold’s Social Control matrix. The discipline functions within most schools currently operate from within the high control/low support and the guidance from the high support/low control. But I am highly aware that when I am facilitating a conference (more so than a circle), I have moved out of both these windows. What is maybe more revolutionary (and wonderful to witness) is that when staff with traditional ‘discipline’ roles facilitate restorative events, he or she also is in that same window (sometimes to their unease and discomfort – for some time). This therefore is probably what Wendy and John are suggesting – the melding and moulding of roles within a schools so that there is no real distinction between the people who dispense guidance and discipline within a school.

This brings me naturally to another key concept which fits perfectly with the above discussion of SCD. The acknowledgment is often given that integrative shaming experiences are really what healthily functioning families provide, hence the term that RJ is the ‘family model’. And is it not true that the mother or father who dispenses consequences is also the person who dispenses guidance? This then is the challenge for schools – for us to use the model of the healthy family. Schools like Salisbury High School (Adelaide) and North Ainslie Primary School (Canberra – their ‘enrichment’ programme) are probably the closest that I have seen yet as the ‘family model’ at work within a school (in Australia, at least) – well done.


Quality Control
I remember Howard Zehr bring up this issue at an Auckland RJ conference (‘New Frontiers – 2001?). Maybe one of the biggest threats to the development and success of restorative practices is not narrow-mindedness, bigotry, vengefulness or egoism – it is the gradual ‘creep’ of RJ standards, moving steadily away from base foundations such as empowerment, hope, faith, and accountability. It is the law of nature that things will move from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration, purity being tainted with impurities. If we leave a bowl of clean water outside, how long does it take before it becomes impure?

In one of the schools that I recently visited (but I can’t remember which), the staff member said that one of her concerns was the slipping of standards towards RPs being RPs in name only. At another school, someone mentioned that he/she had already witnessed (not within his/her own school) RP’s being used in a punitive mode. Once RPs move from being an inherently respectful process of affirmation and accountability, it will only be days before the critics expose these events to the cry, “See, I told you so – Restorative Justice doesn’t work”.

Schools only have limited resources to do anything, including RPs – so how should the limited resources be spent so that standards are kept high? Does this mean that instead of spending time/money all staff to a moderate level, resources are distributed so that a core group of people are undoubtedly operating at a level of quality – that approach certainly has dangers attached. Should there be an accreditation process for schools or staff? – if so, who will accredit? – and who is going to decide who is worthy of accrediting (who accredits the accreditors?). It is probably clear that there are more questions than answers at the moment but unless we start asking these questions, we will never find the answers.

INTERNATIONAL RESTORATIVE PRACTICES CONFERENCE - SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA, OCT 2007

I take this opportunity to do a promotion for what should be an excellent conference later this year. Please peruse the details below:
Restorative Practice International
An Association for World-Wide Practitioners

Inaugural Conference
Best Practice in Restorative Justice – Transformational Change
Twin Waters Resort, Sunshine Coast, Qld., Australia
16 – 19 October 2007


Conference Program
Practice areas:
Justice, Policing, Corrections, Education, Families, Systems and Communities.

Tuesday 16 October
§ Registration from 2pm
§ Conference Welcome Reception
Wednesday 17 October
§ Conference opening ceremony
§ Plenary session and concurrent workshops
§ ‘Cocktails on the Deck’ evening function
Thursday 18 October
§ Plenary sessions and concurrent workshops
§ Conference Dinner
- Guest speaker - Judge David Carruthers, NZ
- Launch of RPI
- Entertainment by ‘Key Element’
Friday 19 October
§ Plenary sessions and concurrent workshops
§ Conference closing 1pm


Visit our website http://www.rpiassociation.com/ for full program, accommodation and registration information
Or contact Jackie Kyte - Conference Organiser - #61 7 5482 4368
Email: rpinternational@optusnet.com.au

WEEK TWO - REFLECTIONS

So, the second week has come to an end. As has become the tradition, I will capture a few concepts that have stood out for me:


Assumptions
The questions could be asked, how much do we take for granted that students have the skills to handle complex situations and how little do we take for granted students capacity and willingness to learn new ways of handling conflict? During this trip I have been reflecting often on assumptions that some educators can often make – that students know how to sort conflict situations out but fail to do so by choice – this may be especially so with secondary schools who sometimes forget that we are often dealing with children in adults bodies. The reality may be that the errant student has a skill deficit - in other words, doesn’t know how to address their own shame, put themselves in a place to accept mercy, and fulfill their obligation to their victim. Alternatively, the student may suffer a performance deficit in some situations (knows how to address conflict responsibly – but not in all contexts). But to staff (who maybe take for granted their own cognitive capacity to deal with stressful situations), the assumption often is that the student is willfully bypassing their own capacity to deal with the situation.

Unless schools create the macro and micro environments where shame can safely be explored by students, they are unlikely to employ their own emotional capacities to the fullest – if at all. If this is the case, is it not a skill or performance deficiency on behalf of the school, not the student(s)?


Persecuted Heroes
In the last two weeks I have been the victim of school’s generosity – they have been kindly plying me with large piles of documents that will be enormously helpful when I return home. However, the Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane to Auckland will not leave the ground if I keep them all in my suitcase and so I have posted most of it back to college. I kept one or two papers to look through and one by Denise Lane (Lonsdale Heights Primary School, SA) captured my imagination. In particular, I hooked onto the discussion surrounding boy’s behaviour and the unfortunate truth that schools may be unwittingly supporting their behaviour.

Let me share a great quotation from the paper. “ … and punishment allows boys to successfully avoid any guilt feelings for bad behaviour by setting up a cycle where punishment cancels the crime, and having paid for his crime, he is free to offend again without the attendance guilt feelings. A boy who does all possible to provoke some form of punishment is carrying a secret debt on the sin side of the ledger which the teacher is invited to wipe out by means of a punishment. Punishment is just what the boy doesn’t need”. William Pollack, cited in, Lillico (2000) Boys and their Schooling, p.13

In fact, I would go further than Pollack’s description. I believe that for significant numbers of students, there is the notion that the school is an adversary (if we judge schools upon their intentions, this is rarely true – but if we judge schools upon their actions, this is often true). And in the development stage (seeking autonomy) that teenagers are in, it is necessary to have a regime to be autonomous from. By responding to challenging student behaviour through disciplinary force, schools unwittingly place high profile students into the ‘persecuted hero’ (my term) role amongst their peers.
Although I am no historian, I understand that most true heroes and heroines (Ghandi, Mandela, etc) have been the product of an individual’s struggle against an oppressive regime. People may believe that it is unfair to compare British Colonial or South African Apartheid rule with the running of a busy school, but there are some parallels – in the words of Peter Ross (see yesterday’s posting), the school appoints itself as judge, jury and executioner, then wonders why students rebel.

This is not the exclusive domain of boys – I believe that there are plenty of ‘persecuted heroines’ out there too. These heroes and heroines naturally congregate ideologically and socially to form a subculture within the school that represent a constant thorn in the side of the school – and the community too, no doubt.

I believe it is time for schools to change their outlook towards student behaviour and thereby put schools in the position to finally be recognised as the ‘overlooked hero’ of society (I am sure that there is a cinematic analogue to this – but I don’t watch enough movies). How?
1. Schools must create a climate so patently fair that the school cannot be reasonably accused of bullying students (several adults that I have met over the past few years have told me that their secondary schools had been the biggest bullies that had ever encountered).
2. Schools must compete for the hearts and minds of the ‘peer group’ (that 80% of students who are essentially bystanders in the daily battle that unfolds between the school and the heroes/heroines. I have often seen bystanders swap allegiances from the hero to the school during a conference because the school was being more honourable than the hero.
3. Schools can do more to give students something to be grateful for. From what I have seen in my trip so far and from what I have witnessed in conferences at Rosehill College, I believe that students are genuinely grateful to the school for building their character through restorative experiences.
4. By better marketing restorative practices as an element of ‘character education’ – which I believe it is. Every parent want their child to become a fully functioning and responsible member of adult society. If these same parents understood that the restorative practices that their son/daughter was involved with on a consistent basis at school was character building, schools would better win their favour and support.



Collaborative Working
One of them is the obvious truth that one or two people working alone with restorative practices in a school will achieve little. Schools working in a ‘cluster’ such as I saw this week have greater opportunity for good practice to flourish because individuals from different schools can support each other until the practices can be recognised and valued by the schools. The wonderful team of Jude Moxon and Stuart Newby (from Massey High School, Auckland) have been very good friends to Rosehill College but in many ways, Rosehill College has made progress with relatively little management interaction from other schools. I suppose this has brought us the benefit of being self-reliant – but also exposed us to the danger of ignorance to new ideas.

FRIDAY 4 MAY - CANBERRA

The day started in dynamic fashion by a visit to Peter Ross (Principal) at Charnwood-Dunlop Primary School. Peter is a straight-shooting guy from a secondary school background who faced the challenge of rebuilding the reputation of a school that was known by many parents and educators in the ACT as being an extremely tough school to teach at. When the journey began five years ago and in his first year there as Principal, he advertised four teaching positions and didn’t receive any applications. As I walked around the classes with Faye and Peter, it was hard for me to imagine that – students were working industriously and calmly in their open-plan classrooms to the accompaniment of that healthy sound of students engaging productively together. And in the last five years, the roll has increased 50%.

Peter said that the greatest results in building C-DPS’s academic achievements have come from RPs – students feeling safe in the classroom and teachers being able to teach. Peter was quick to add that there are still challenging situations on regular occasion, but even the eight or so students who present with mental health concerns respond “beautifully” to practices such as informal ‘corridor conferences’ or more formal events. Even the students who pushed the boundaries furthest knew the questions off by heart, and would quickly enter the process with familiarity.

Peter has experienced frustrations with people’s misunderstandings about RP’s - feeling that RPs are described by some people as only suitable for discrete aspects of school life. Eg OK for dealing with harassment but unsuitable for violence. I could only agree with Peter’s summation that RPs (if based upon commonly held values, agreed upon by a community) can solve any issue because it addresses the root cause of the problem.

I heard a wonderful account that illustrates how embedded RPs are at C-DPS. A yr 4 child (approx 10 yrs old) approached a relief teacher to request a conference with the aim of sorting out a conflict involving several classmates. The reliever did not have a clue what the student was talking about, and said, “What’s a conference?”. The student replied, “I’ll show you” and proceeded to invite four students into a conference situation, ran the conference and reached a mutually satisfactory agreement, all by himself. In fact, most of the schools that I have visited in the last two weeks had stories like that – revealing how the social competence of even young children can be lifted to extraordinary levels through using these processes routinely.

Peter says that RPs have positively transformed the working environment for his teachers – “Teachers are no longer fair game” (for students), and teachers now openly acknowledge the power of this way of working with students. But apparently, old habits are hard to shake and Peter explained that even though his staff were well trained, a few found it hard to drop out of ‘teacher mode’ during a restorative event – teachers doing the talking for students rather creating opportunities for students to speak.

Peter even described a situation where a student had approached a teacher to ask for assistance in running a conference following conflict with another boy. Undoubtedly with the best of intentions, the teacher took matters into his/her hands and reverted to punishment mode, sending the ‘offender’ to do laps around the school field. The ‘victim’ got hugely agitated because he could not express his viewpoint as he had become accustomed to do (through conferencing) and returned to his class where he created havoc. This reminds me of a wonderful quotation (John Braithwaite maybe….?) that we (administrators of justice) ‘steal’ conflicts from the participants of a wrong-doing event.

Peter has found RPs a valuable tool for addressing staff conflicts. He had previously employed the ‘shuttle mediation’ (talking to each complainant in turn, sometimes several times each) but had moved almost entirely to a conference situation where the staff could meet, face each other in a respectful and safe environment and hear first-hand how their actions had affected each other. Parents have seen how powerful the restorative approach can be and numerous families now have the restorative script on their fridge door.

Although Peter will still suspend if he has to, it is now a rare event. In fact, even full conferences are rare events these days as virtually all conflict situations are conferenced on the spot, whether in the classroom or the grounds. Peter says that in many conferences, all he needs is four questions for the victim and two questions for the offender – and the talking/listening that follows does the rest. A highly effective mentoring programme run by Nick (who I never met) rounds out a sound school programme.

Great work, Peter, Wendy and team.




Later that morning Faye and moved on to the relatively more affluent environment of North Ainsley Primary School. Although some families in the community are settled and well-functioning, there are nevertheless significant numbers of migrant children and other students to test the robustness of the school’s systems. Christine Pilgrim (Principal), and senior staff Louise Owens & Carolyn Waters took time out from their busy schedules to share some powerful ideas with Faye and I.

Several years ago RPs ran alongside the traditional responses to wrong-doing – but RPs has essentially entirely replaced the old processes now. It has become such a relatively safe environment that relief teachers actively seek relief work at NAPS. In times gone by, students would relate their RP stories with parents at home – because students now accept RPs as a way of life, they no longer brought every account home and parents even began to contact the school to inquire if NAPS were still using this philosophy.

Louise says that working in a respectful stance towards the school community had meant that staff had to put themselves under scrutiny – and do things differently. For example, there was a staff perception that students were not acknowledging staff – until staff decided that they needed to make a firm practice of greeting students in the corridors (and so on). Needless to say, the students adopted the consistently modelled behaviour and now warmly share courtesies with the staff. Also, Louise said that by regarding their relationship with parents in a fair and honest light, the school could see that there were some issues where parents deserved an apology – the RPs process provided the framework to make amends and move staff and parents on as a united group.

When the move towards a more respectful school culture began several years ago, Peta Blood did considerable staff training, beginning with an investigation of prized values amongst the school community. What was revealed was that the values that were of greatest importance to people were actually being inhibited by the current school policies and procedures. ‘Cascaded’ training followed and the school has now embedded social responsibility so soundly that the focus has turned to academic achievement (without abandoning social priorities).

I was intrigued by a creative school system relating to pastoral care – it reminded me somewhat of concepts I saw at Salisbury High School (Adelaide) earlier in the week. North Ainslie Primary School call the system ‘enrichment’ – with an intention to build a mentoring spirit and create strong connection between all members of the school community. All students are members of enrichment groups (15 students approx., of mixed age, mixed ability, mixed culture), meeting once a fortnight. Following a ‘check-in’ process, the groups join individual teachers around the school in a rotation that takes about 18 months to complete.

The students may learn anything from knitting to guitar to social skills programmes (anything that teachers feel confident to share that is manageable and positive) – the end result is that every student will eventually have a close and positive relationship with every teacher within the school. Before enrichment had begun at the school, there was some staff apprehension about doing duty in unfamiliar areas of the school but nowadays the staff enjoy the confidence that comes with knowing each student as an individual, not just a face.

Communication with parents has deliberately been ‘stepped up’ so that the community have a transparent view of the school ethos and school activities. When ESL children require conferences, interpreters are hired so that a fair process can be followed for everyone.

Thanks to Chris and her entire team for their time and energy – and whoever it was that bought me lunch, thanks!




Final school of the day was Chisholm Primary School which is one of the many schools in Canberra that is facing amalgamation. Although the movement towards a restorative philosophy only began in 2004, Principal Marli Aryton has found that RPs have been vital in moving though moments such as a tense school beginning to 2007.

On one occasion this year Marli held a circle of 55 students and 3 staff as a means of responding to an unsatisfactory learning environment. The circle was held over three different times – following the first circle, many good ideas came to light from the students themselves. Teachers had been open about their frustration and the circle process eventually finished with some students in tears and teachers embracing each other. In Marli’s words, “The power of circles is incredible – that structure has helped claw the situation back. They (the students) were part of the problem – so they had to be part of the solution”.

Marli has used RPs for addressing staff conflict and has found that bringing staff together has brought a level of self-awareness that has been required. Data is collected wherever possible to keep the process grounded upon evidence rather than anecdote. The data has shown that the first hour of each day is a critical time for a group of high risk students who bring conflict from home regularly. To attend to this challenge, Marli uses Life Space Crisis Intervention to deal with the tensions, significantly reducing conflict later in the day.

Good Luck with the amalgamation process, Marli.

THURSDAY 3 MAY - CANBERRA, ACT

I have been very fortunate in Canberra to have the kind assistance of Faye Bormann who had pre-planned an extensive itinerary for me. Faye’s work title is Executive Officer, Student Support Services Division and has involved herself considerably in RP development in the ACT.

One of the most significant aspects of the day was that all the schools had assembled themselves into a cluster for school development and staff training purposes. The ‘Tuggeranong cluster’ consisted of four primary schools and the ‘feeder’ secondary school, the intention being to create consistent expectations for the children - beginning at kindergarden level and leaving school 11 or 12 years later. Naturally, this creates quite unique training situations such as requiring the booking of a large club premises for staff training.

The analogue for Rosehill College would be for us to meet regularly with Rosehill Intermediate, Papakura South School, Opaheke, Drury and so on – to agree on commonly held values and beliefs and to plan consistent approaches to behaviour to welfare and behaviour. An exciting and mind-boggling concept but a bit intimidating. When I asked myself why it was a somewhat overwhelming idea, I realised that I was working on the assumption that some of the schools within our ‘cluster’ work quite differently from Rosehill College - and then the penny dropped that this ‘differentness’ in expectations is behind many of the problems that youngsters get into when they make the transition to RC (therefore all the more worthwhile to work collectively).

The first school was Isabella Plains Primary School (180 students), led by the energetic Kim Darcy. When Kim began in 2005, it was common for teachers to pass their classroom management issues on to her and other senior staff. The key to turning things around appears to have been scrutiny of teaching approaches in the classroom, leading to an almost complete emphasis on a co-operative learning style based around ‘circles’ and an emphasis on restorative language. I was delighted to see many staff ‘wearing’ their restorative chat card around their necks (see photo).

The ‘circles’ concept can create some confusion because there are essentially two ways that circles (bringing all the students together in a circle) can be used – firstly , as a problem solving circle (aka class conference) and secondly as a teaching style. With the problem solving circle, the context is some harmful behaviours and exploration of how individuals are being affected. As the teaching approach, the context may be a spelling or maths concept, but taught in a circle, integrated with warm-up, warm-down activities and more. The circles style has been used successfully with staff concerns as well.

Kim and her staff recognised that as long as parents felt strangers within the school, a gap would also exist between staff and students. This was addressed through several means such as the creation of a ‘breakfast club’, where parents serve breakfast once a week – inevitably after serving breakfast the parents relax in the staffroom and the feeling of connection to school is growing.

Kim still occasionally suspends students but ‘time-out’ has been replaced with ‘alternative play’ which takes pressure off situations without the stigmatising of students.



20 minutes later Faye and I were at Calwell High School (430 students) where we met Sonia Marmont, whose current position there is ‘Staffing Officer’. It was necessarily a brief visit but several things sounded really valuable. Sonia had become a convert to RPs when she had a significantly scary incident with a student at school – Sonia refused to return to work until she had met the student (and family) in a conference situation which Sonia recollects as being “awesome”.

Working issues out with conferences is preferred as the method of responding to student wrong-doing, but suspensions are still employed – more likely so if the student refuses to engage in a restorative process. Problem-solving circles are used with classes that are experiencing/manifesting relationship difficulties. CHS have found the Life Space Crisis Intervention a very valuable aid to de-escalating student behaviour following a conflict situation – and a way of deceasing the likelihood that the situation will reoccur. Every student in the school participates in values lessons every week.

Thanks Sonia - and Best Wishes to You and your colleagues.



Next stop was Charles Conder Primary School – to be received by Terri Mountford. Faye and I were quickly invited into a class circle. Clearly, some of the students in the class had the potential to push boundaries but the teacher stuck to the principles of respectful language and inclusion – and the group settled well. Circles such as these have apparently made huge differences to the learning environment – by teaching the expectations required of students but simultatneously giving them the skills to meet those expectations.

Thanks, Terri – keep up the great work.




The day was finished by a short visit to Calwell Primary School where Faye and I were hosted by Rachel Matthews (Deputy Principal) and Sharon Hickey (teacher). A circle was arranged for us and once again, it was clear that the students knew exactly how to behave and how to respect other student’s opinions. I am afraid to admit that some of these young children (from exposure to this type of engagement) are probably more ‘emotionally intelligent’ than some of the 15/16 year olds that I have contact with – rather than feeling down about that, it should provide hope to all of us for a safe and orderly future.

Thanks Rachel and Sharon for your gracious hosting.

WED 2 MAY - ADELAIDE

Today I went up north to Salisbury High School which was quite a unique school. Ann Prime (Deputy Principal) and Terry Jarrad (Assistant Principal – Middle School) were endlessly helpful and loaded me up with all sorts of information and ideas.

Salisbury High (1000 students) is situated in an area of considerable student disadvantage but have managed to cover themselves in glory, winning many national and state education awards, including the Australian Business Excellence Awards. SHS are an International Baccalaureate school with a strong focus upon a ‘Care System’ – which is in effect an individual case management approach for each individual student.

This Care System had elements of other schools I had seen but had packaged things together in a really useful way. The entire school population is divided in Care Groups of maybe 14-15 students of the same year level. This group stays together with the same Care Teacher for their entire time at school. This necessarily involves every teacher taking a Care Group, including year level co-ordinators, Deputy Principals and Assistant Principals. There are also vertical houses but these are only really of significance during school sports or cultural events.

Before the school began their exciting developments, a whole year was spent in staff training by ‘unpacking’ values that the staff, students and parents held – rather than making assumptions about why students acted as they did, real exploration was made into cause-effect relationships that staff had often overlooked. The result was that SHS began to work harder at valuing relationships between all members of the school community.

What was surprising for me was the level of personal care and authority the Care Teachers had with members of their Care Group. Ann said that she had shared her mobile phone number with all of her students, she had their numbers and routinely made calls when required. Furthermore, every Care Teacher had the power to suspend a Care Group student – but this decision would be made in consultation with other staff including senior management and year level co-ordinator.

Sylvie (Human Resources) clearly took her Care Group responsibilities very strongly. She described how students who were suspended could not return to school/class until they had participated in a ‘re-entry meeting’ (shades of yesterday) involving parents and facilitated by herself as the Care Teacher. If this re-entry meeting exposes other harm that needs addressing, a further conference may be organised for later, possibly involving other students or other staff. Care Teachers who are finding their feet with restorative events such as these will be supported by year level co-coordinators or senior staff.

Terry and Ann explained that this level of personal contact with the students was often required because some students had difficult home lives that offered little stability. Considerable numbers of parents exerted control at home using punitive methods and many students were accordingly hardened to discipline by force. Every Care Teacher has been trained in Restorative Practices and is expected to address problems with his/her own students using this philosophy. ‘Care’ is even assessed as an area of student assessment – given equal weighting to their subjects.

In days past, the school had experienced in general an unsatisfactory relationship with the parent community – parent/teacher meetings were usually dismally attended and parent/staff contact tended to revolve around wrong-doing. To rectify this, SHS made every attempt to take responsibility for breaking down the barriers to parent participation – the school has reached the point where there is a 90% attendance rate by parents to parent/teacher evenings. Recently, one Care Group of 15 students had a turn-out of 49 caregivers!

Student Reports are only released during these parent/teacher meetings and food accompanies all parent events. The yr 8 information evening (new intake) is preceded with a BBQ – all the year 8s are supervised in play while the parents are attended to.

There is a whole school assembly every 3 weeks which are planned mostly by staff but run mostly by senior students. Since SHS began creating distinct vocational pathways for senior students, the reduction in student misbehaviour has been “astonishing”. There is also a distinct pathway for prospective university students who are provided their own room for study purposes.

To keep the school running smoothly there are several elements. To name a couple, a senior staff member is on patrol at all times, checking for floating students and to respond to critical incident requests from individual teachers.. Secondly, relieving teachers are highly supported including the provision of their own room. Another aspect of school life that really attracted me was that one of the staff special interest groups (Project Teams) was 'media relations'. That group had accepted the vital job of (supporting the Principal in) promoting Salisbury High School as a highly desireable school of choice. I saw many positive newspaper clippings about SHS students that testified to the successful efforts of that group.

I wish that I could have spent more time at Salisbury High School – there was doubtlessly much more to see. Thanks to Terry, Ann, Sylvie, Helen (Principal) and everyone else who looked after me. Keep up the inspirational work!

TUESDAY 1 MAY - ADELAIDE

In the morning I found my way down to Adelaide’s southern suburbs and spent time being warmly looked after by Phil Reid (Principal) and Keri Robinson (counsellor), of Reynella South Primary School. Several key staff have received 3 day training, and those three have ‘cascaded’ the training to all other staff. The school itself draws upon a catchment of moderately disadvantaged students and several years ago Reynella South PS were relying upon time-outs, suspensions and other punishments to control unsatisfactory student behaviour.

In the five years since the implementation of RPs, all the indicators of school conflict such as ‘yard incidents’ have dropped majorly. Some teachers had previously wanted the Principal’s Office to be a place that students feared, but Phil saw this as inconsistent with the inclusive and respectful stance required – his office is now seen by students as a place to be honest about their misdeeds, and a place where they can rebuild their reputations.

RPs have not been implemented as a ‘stand-alone’ tool (how often have I heard that in successful schools!) but as integrating tightly with a focus on universal values. The values that RSPS uses come from the ‘Virtues Project’ (USA) which I know is being used extensively by some NZ schools. These in turn are interwoven with mandated nationwide expectations upon schools. The end result is a blueprint for the school that can be followed consistently, year after year.

The start of the year is occupied exclusively with a social skills programme for all students. In Phil’s words, unless they have got the capacity to work with others, time spent on curriculum is empty time. If students do harm, there may conceivably be traditional sanctions as part of the total response, but the focus is primarily upon working towards avoiding stigmatising of students. One simple strategy that appears to work well for RSPS is an element of restorative conversation that is termed the ‘virtues sandwich’. It essentially is an affective statement that works on the familiar principle of beginning with a positive remark about the person, goes to a statement about concern of a specific behaviour, and ends with an affirmation of the confidence by the teacher that the student can make the situation better.
So simple, but so effective.

Another procedure captured my imagination – it reminded me of something that Geoff described from Geelong North SC. The Reynella South team pay respect to a vital element of restorative practice (and often overlooked) – that of the ritual of ‘re-engagement’. If a student has to be removed from a class for a particular reason, following some restorative work in the administration area, a senior staff takes the child back to class and takes the class while the teacher and student have some quiet time together to rebuild the relationship. This reintegration of the student back into class is often assumed by management to happen automatically. But it often does not happen – the student slides to the back of the room, with an invisible barrier still standing between the student and the teacher.

Furthermore at RSPS, if the situation requires it, the teacher will abandon what he/she was doing and pull chairs into a circle to give students the chance to talk in a safe way about how the event affected them – it also gives the offending student the chance to explain how he/she came to do the harm, and gives the chance for him/her to make amends/make commitments.

The staff have been “immersed” in RJ training – even relievers are expected to use RPs and as such receive training also. Phil and Keri believes that teachers give the best when they feel valued – so staff wellbeing is given as high priority as student wellbeing. Beside considerable autonomy given to staff in their professional interests, staff are provided with small but significant acknowledgements such as free massage, subsidised ‘Gold Class’ cinema passes, and time to eat together as ‘teams’ outside of school. The opportunity to meet/eat as a group during school time (extended lunch) is also extended to School Service Officers (equiv of Rosehill’s Support Staff).

Keri’s counsellor position at the school is seen by Phil as a key position – it allows the school to work with students and parents in a way that classroom teachers cannot (understandably) manage. One of the school development tools that Reynella South value is the FISH programme – I will follow this up as it sounds promising.

Thanks to Phil and Keri for their hospitality. Best wishes to you Phil for your aviation-inspired travels.



About 10 minutes down the road was Lonsdale Heights Primary School which has also won attention for its innovative and bold initiatives. LHPS is a smaller school than many (about 150 students) and draws upon a community of significant disadvantage. When Denise Lane (Principal) arrived 5 years ago, there were rules but little attention to values. In 2007, there is absolute attention devoted to values – in fact Denise says that they don’t talk about rules at all with the students, just values. RJ is a vital element to the school but the RJ fits around values rather than the values fitting around RJ.

Although based in another position now, Denise had huge support from one of the RJ dynamos in the Adelaide region, Bill Hansberry. Denise and Bill did much reading and research together, Denise travelling widely including to Europe. In 2004 and 2005 Denise and Bill did much staff training and involved key staff in restorative events as much as possible. Denise will still suspend students who disregard the school values but attention is given to the reintegration of the student back into the classroom/school upon return. The ‘re-entry’ meeting involves the student, parent(s) and the teacher.

Denise views the involvement of teachers in these re-entry conferences as vital, giving them the chance to understand better the circumstances surrounding the offending. Although it is difficult to free teachers from normal classroom duties to attend these conferences, Denise prioritises it.

While Denise and I were talking, a lovely moment happened spontaneously with a couple of students outside the Principal’s office. Two boys (10 years old, maybe 11?) had come to Denise unescorted to sort out a conflict that arose from a regular lunchtime soccer game on the field. Dale and Evander were sorting out their issues in this restorative manner because the entire lunchtime soccer routine has a comprehensive restorative process that all the soccer players have agreed upon and observe.

This soccer agreement fascinated me. I will not go into details because the agreement is very elaborate, but basically, the games are refereed by fellow students who can ‘card’ players if there is the perception that there has been disrespectful or unfair conduct. The offending student(s) are only allowed back on the field following a restorative mini-conference facilitated by a staff member. Fights and arguments on the field are now insignificant – a big change from the previous atmosphere.

Moving along, the school maintains a ‘bully audit’ twice a year during which students can anonymously name students who are aggressive in some way. Students whose names are prevalent will meet with his/her parent(s) and Denise in restorative event – and agreements made that are monitored.

I had a really good chat with Matt Richards, a dynamic young teacher who is clearly following in the illustrious footsteps of Bill Hansberry. Matt has been at Lonsdale for 3 years and loves the environment because it fits his philosophy of a focus on relationships, “It creates a positive learning environment so I can teach”. Matt has been overseeing the soccer agreement and also appears to have put much thought and energy into creating a healthy class environment.

Matt’s tools have been a classroom agreement (somewhat in the style of the soccer agreement) that maps the values for the class, as preferred by students. The students (‘intermediate age’ in NZ lingo) have class meetings of 40-45 minutes each week where the week is reviewed and people share their concerns. Students who constantly infringe upon others rights are given support and warnings during these regular meetings – but if they continue their errant ways, the class have the authority to sanction a fellow student from taking part in pre-planned class outings.

Although these class imposed sanctions clearly present an opportunity for young people to penalise students they don’t like, Matt has found that the students take the responsibility very seriously. I had the chance to speak to four of these boys and girls and found a level of social maturity that many 16/17 years olds lack. Two of the more colourful characters admitted that the class meetings and the agreements had changed their view on conflict and that in turn, their behaviours had also changed significantly.

Later in the day I attended an evening ‘Good Practice Forum: Restorative Practices in Schools’, organised by Debbie and Leigh from the RJC (see yesterday). This event was massively over subscribed by school teachers and school management – 160 people or so put their names down but there was space only for 80. The process is to be repeated shortly so that the other 80 people can also attend.

I was kindly given the opportunity to speak – I said some words about the climate of RPs in NZ schools and gave the example of how Rosehill College had responded intelligently to the school tagging problem by using conferencing. I showed a video interview of a couple of Rosehill boys from the ‘taggers group’ which shows that apparently insurmountable problems can be addressed using RPs.

To cap off a great evening a group of us had a tasty meal together.







Click on the 'Older Posts' link to the right to see the earlier part of the Research Tour.