Investigating the implementation of restorative justice practices through circle time
Oct 26, 2012
This project was undertaken at a Catholic single sex school. The school has a strong emphasis on student wellbeing and is continually looking at ways to improve the various programs offered and strategies employed at the whole school through a preventative approach to student management. Using restorative justice as opposed to retributive justice has grown significantly in schools recently. The values that underpin restorative justice complement very well the underlying values of our school.
The choice to focus on circle time was based on a personal interest fostered by research and something that was achievable within the context of the project. In my current leadership position I am also responsible for reviewing, developing and implementing student wellbeing policies so I found myself in the ideal position to develop and deliver a worthwhile project.
A Core Team was established of interested staff from the Middle and Senior Schools. After developing knowledge and understanding of the values underpinning restorative justice, professional development was undertaken in the running of circle time. Through regular meetings a program was developed to trial circle time in both sub schools. We evaluated our success as circle time facilitators and, through various types of surveys, the reactions of the students.
The Core Team now feel competent not only to continue running circle time sessions in classes, but are also planning to train other key staff and extend the use of circle time through our Pastoral Program next year. The reactions of the students were overall very positive towards the structure and process of circle time and they enjoyed the opportunities to engage in a structured discussion where everyone’s opinion was valued.
As a result of the pilot project a number of key personnel and committees have become aware of restorative justice and the Core Team now has the support of the administration to develop restorative justice practices with more key staff next year and eventually to develop a whole school approach.
The original goals have been achieved and the fact that approval has been given to continue to develop restorative justice eventually at a whole school level means that the project has long term benefits. The other benefit of the project is becoming aware of and skilled in the process of action research and aware of how it can be used in the future to bring about meaningful change in an educational setting.