RP works brilliantly with children of all ages- even under threes. The articles below look at RP in Clifton Children’s Centre in Hull, where the children are not just young but have many first languages between them, and at Collingwood Primary, the first Hull school to use what came to be recognised as restorative practices.
I have been the Head at Clifton Children’s Centre for three and a half years. I attended an introduction to Restorative Practice during my first year in post. I can clearly remember the feedback I shared at the end of the day. This is how I believe in being and I now have a way to support me trying to explain it to others. The challenge for us was how to work in a restorative manner with very young children. As a children’s centre we provide services for children under 5 year’s old and work in partnership with other agencies such as health and job centre plus to provide services to support families as a whole to ensure children get the best start in life.
A child in our nursery approached me crying and told me that another child had pinched her teddy bear. I brought the 2 children together and asked each in turn “What happened?” and “how did it make you feel?” What transpired was that the ‘wrong doer’ had not intentionally caused harm, they believed they were continuing with the play and taking the teddy for a day out at the seaside. I went on to ask “what can you do to make things right?” the ‘wrongdoer’ walked away which immediately led to further upset. However, there was something I recognised as purposeful and intentional about his action, I calmly asked the ‘victim’ to wait. After a considerable amount of time (they were 3 years old) the wrongdoer returned with another Teddy. Further discussion took place to negotiate how the play could continue. On reflection I recognised that previously I may have tried other tactics such as suggesting taking turns, diverting attention to other activities, returning the teddy to the crying child or even putting the teddy away. On reflection I realised that all these actions involved me doing to the children and not promoting or supporting children to take responsibility to work together to repair harm.
With the support of the Restorative Head teacher network I strive to lead my staff team in a restorative manner. All staff at our setting complete the introduction to restorative practice, we use fun circles to develop community, we use what’s on top and problem solving circles to identify concerns and identify support and solutions.
Our lead practitioner takes responsibility for developing children’s skills at working restoratively. We have challenged ourselves to think about what restorative practice means for our very youngest children, those aged 0-3 and in particular those who have not developed verbal communication. We recognise that the principles can still guide and influence our practice. Staff use the language of restorative practice around the children. They have high expectations that the children are involved in repairing harm.
This is reinforced by our puppet friends who the children recognise as members of our community. They are used by staff to re-enact conflict and provide opportunities to rehearse and reinforce the concept of finding out what happened, how it made those involved feel and identify what can happen to make things better.
I am extremely proud when I see children checking in at the start of the session. Parents are also part of the process. As children and parents enter the setting you will see them having conversations with each other and staff about how they are feeling and what they may need.
I was extremely proud when I observed one of our 2 year olds approach his upset friend. He reached out his hand, gently touched her on the arm and asked “what happened?” Restorative practice is very powerful and it can be introduced to children from a very young age because it is about building community.
Collingwood, off Springbank in Hull, was the first school to use Restorative Practice, even before they realised that’s what it is called. The school is outstanding, and practitioners who are considering implementing RP can arrange a school visit to see for themselves the tangible difference that it makes to the school community. You can get an idea of it from the school’s video, linked here.