Restorative practice: How young can we go?
Nov 21, 2011
from the article by Charlotte Clerehugh:
...Three boys (aged 5 and 6) admitted collecting rocks from the perimeter of the school field and throwing them through the fence at staff cars.
The two members of staff, whose cars were damaged, were very angry. Initial discussions took place with them and myself, (as Head Teacher) as to how to deal with the problem. It was apparent that the feeling was that the boys needed to be made aware that their behaviour had consequences, and exclusion was mentioned several times. However, as a school that had been implementing restorative practices over the last 18 months, staff soon realised that to simply exclude, in this situation, would go against everything we believed in.
The little boys in question at 5 and 6 years, were very immature, and seemed to have little understanding of how their actions had affected those involved; therefore it was decided that to exclude them would no way address their lack of understanding.
It was decided that to hold a restorative conference that included everyone involved; the boys, the staff and their parents, might be the way forward.
I had attended training with the IIRP in restorative conference facilitation the previous year, and whilst our school had utilised many restorative practices such as mini conferences, class conferencing and informal restorative inquiry; along with training of peer mediators, this was to be our first formal restorative conference.
It was felt that we needed to get on and deal with the situation immediately, staff involved were anxious, never having done this before and feared of things not working out as hoped, but we had learned to trust in the process and stick to the script. The parents of the boys were invited in to meet with the Head that afternoon, to be made aware of the situation. Parents expressed their upset about the incident their boys had been involved in and were apologetic. It was explained that as a restorative school we wanted to try and deal with this through using restorative approaches and holding a conference.
Initially the parents were unsure, and felt that maybe the boys were not mature enough at such a young age, to benefit from this approach.
One mother felt that the three boys together would just make each other laugh and not take the situation seriously. Eventually, they all agreed to give it a try, even though one parent was sceptical, and said she wanted exclusion for her son, so that he could be ‘taught a lesson’.