Case Study 43, May 2005

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.Enlarging Schools' Supportive Capacities
through Developing Restorative Practices

The theme for the 2004-05 SSEN School Case Studies, of which this is the third and final issue for this session and the final Case Study from SSEN, is 'utilising nationally promoted developments as part of the drive to improve ethos'. This Case Study, of Our Lady's High School, Cumbernauld, recounts the school's experiences of building on its own pupil support and school discipline policies and practices with the development of 'restorative practices'. These are defined in the background introduction to the Case Study itself (see next page). The development required the school's staff to undertake specific professional development. Although restorative practices related closely to existing school practices and systems, the introduction of Restorative Practices presented some challenges as well as many positive opportunities for pupils, parents/carers and staff. SSEN has produced a linked Reflective Learning Supplement (enclosed) to accompany the school's account of its progress and to challenge readers from other schools to think about their own practice.

This Case Study was published by the Scottish Schools Ethos Network.

Contact for this Case Study
Our Lady's High School
Head Teacher: Michael Currie
Dowanfield Road
Cumbernauld G67 1LA
Tel: 01236 721612
Email: ht.@ourladys.n-lanark.sch.uk

SSEN Case Studies allow schools to look behind the doors and into the playgrounds and communities of other schools to see how they develop a positive ethos that enables well-being and achievements on a broad front. In doing this, they have taken forward a wide range of initiatives and ideas. This Reflective Learning Supplement asks questions related to Case Study 43 that may be used to help schools illuminate and explore their own activities, policies and practices. Reflective Learning LinkThe questions focus in particular on the theme of the Case Study: Enlarging Schools' Supportive Capacities through Developing Restorative Practices- and its aims but other issues are also proposed for possible debate. When you see the Reflective Learning image, click on it to read the supplementary information.

Visit North Lanarkshire's website


1. Introduction

1.1 Our Lady's High School is a Catholic comprehensive, opened as a new school in 1968. It is associated with six primary schools and serves the areas of Cumbernauld, Muirhead, Cardowan, Condorrat, Moodiesburn and Castlecary - a wide and diverse community. Our Lady's High School's roll is 895 and it has a teaching complement of 66. The school takes great pride in its examination results but also feels it provides well for its pupils in other ways. The school was inspected recently and its ethos and high quality of relationships between staff and pupils were commended. Visitors, too, comment on the school's very positive atmosphere. The school was recently awarded Charter Mark status for the second time.

Reflective Learning1.2 The school's approach to inclusion has been recognised by a recent visit from HMIe to look at good practice within the Better Behaviour, Better Learning initiative. The school has championed many other North Lanarkshire and national initiatives and was the first secondary school in North Lanarkshire to achieve Green Flag status for whole school approaches to environmental issues (see Picture A). It was recently presented with a bronze award as a Health Promoting School.

Reflective Learning1.3 Other whole school curricular and social activities strive to develop in each child an enterprising approach and this was recognised when Our Lady's reached the national Finals of the Executive's Determined to Succeed initiative in June 2004.

Reflective Learning1.4 The school has been selected by North Lanarkshire Council to take forward the Scottish Executive's pilot programme on Restorative Practices.

 
Restorative Practices try to create an ethos of fairness in schools
where staff and pupils act towards each other in a helpful and non judgmental way
where they work to understand the impact of their actions on others
where there are fair processes that allow everyone to learn from any harm that may have been done
where responses to difficult behaviour have positive outcomes for everyone
  (Definition from the leaflet of Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities' Action Research Project that is evaluating the SEED pilot programme)

Reflective Learning1.5 Staff readily intervene in situations to help restore a sense of fairness and equality for all children. For example, when friendships break down or individual pupils feel that they have not had the opportunity to have their opinion heard, staff involved organise a circle to allow all parties the opportunity to have their say and to listen to how others in the circle feel. This method of conflict resolution certainly encourages pupils to engage in a formal process allowing all parties concerned to move forward.

1.6 Restorative Practices are seen as formalising practices already operating in Our Lady's High School. The approaches link to other aspects of provision already well-established in school, for example, pupils' views are taken into account in planning and policy development via Pupil Councils, and peer support and buddy systems are widely used. The invitation to be a pilot school probably resulted from our track record for implementing initiatives related to building a positive climate, e.g. Discipline for Learning, Staged Intervention, Reasoning and Reacting, Co-operative Learning and Buddy System.

2. Other related initiatives

Reflective Learning2.1 Discipline for Learning (DFL)
Our Lady's High School operates a system that supports and encourages all pupils to be aware of their role in the development of a positive ethos for learning and development of the whole child. In our school's case this is contextualised within our Catholic faith. A DFL Reflective Learningrecord is established for every child from S1 to S6 that enables staff to record positive praise but also allows them to record loggings and punishments issued, with the emphasis being on positive outcomes. It ensures that every child feels valued and supported. The information is easily accessed in a database and can be shared with Reflective Learningparents during interviews about their child's progress. The whole initiative relies on parental support and negotiation. Pupils are rewarded regularly with Praise cards and certificates and those who achieve a high standard of behaviour are rewarded with a trip to Alton Towers in the Summer Term. Teaching staff feel further empowered to support and assist all children within the classroom environment by adopting the ground rules integral to the DFL system.

Reflective Learning2.2 Staged Intervention
A 'staged strategies' approach to any issues gives those involved a structure of stages/levels of response through which they may work as necessary. Our teaching staff are supported in a non-Reflective Learningthreatening way by a trained colleague who has the opportunity to review classroom management and resolve, in a restorative way, low level indiscipline. Following classroom observation, suggested staged strategies -including seating arrangements, room layout and teacher interactions with pupils - are offered to teachers to help with problems encountered. This initiative is also supported by North Lanarkshire's Inclusion Support Base which helped establish the programme. The school now operates a well embedded system.

Reflective Learning2.3 Reasoning and Reacting
This Canadian cognitive skills programme teaches adolescents a series of key cognitive and pro-social skills. The programme is based Reflective Learningon the belief that antisocial and disruptive behaviour is a result of under socialisation. Pupils are encouraged through role play to:

  • consider all factors,
  • look for the positives, and
  • interpret body language before any decision making.

The delivery of this programme within our school aims to enhance pupils' key values, attitudes and social reasoning skills, thereby improving their social understanding and the quality of their behaviour and learning across departments.

Reflective Learning2.4 Co-operative Learning
North Lanarkshire aims to have every teacher trained in Co-operative Learning approaches to classroom management. Co-operative Learning encourages children to work together to accomplish shared Reflective Learninggoals. Our Lady's High School has already involved all members of the Senior Management Team along with other members of staff from a variety of departments. The goal is to encourage self-motivated, confident young learners.

Reflective Learning2.5 Buddy System
Introduced over the past five years, this method of mentoring S1 pupils in their transition period is very successful and rewarding, both for S1 pupils and S6 buddies. The programme has developed from simple mentoring skills to advanced support and counselling both on a Reflective Learningone-to one basis and also in a classroom capacity. Activities include paired reading (see Picture B) and buddy support for S1 pupils across the curriculum. Buddies also assist at the Summer School for vulnerable children and on adventure activities where they assume the role of group leaders.

3. Restorative Practices

Reflective Learning3.1 Why restorative practices in our school?
Restorative Practices appeal to Our Lady's in part because of existing practices. Historically, the SMT already used a restorative approach when dealing with breaches of school discipline. Where a formal exclusion is the likely outcome to a discipline issue parents, pupils and staff have the opportunity to discuss and review the possible Reflective Learningoutcomes. This prepares the ground for restorative resolution post-exclusion. Pupil Support staff, too, already work in restorative ways. For example, issues are discussed with parents and pupils before decisions are taken about supportive interventions. Pupil Support staff engage readily in restorative conferencing - a planned and sensitively managed meeting with all those pupils involved - to resolve Reflective Learningissues such as bullying and broken relationships. This approach aims to ensure that all children are heard, that their input is valued in resolving the problem, that the process is non-judgemental and that all parties feel satisfied. Staff engaged in such practice have a raised awareness and appreciation of the theory. The school aims to make Restorative Practices a whole-school philosophy that will be adopted as the norm in classrooms across the school and by all staff -teaching and support. This aim is consistent with the school's intention to treat everyone as valued and respected members of our Catholic community and links in well to the Charter for Catholic Schools, some of the points of which are listed below:

a commitment to the integrated education and formation of the whole person, in close partnership with parents as the first educators of their children
an inclusive ethos which aims to honour the life, dignity and voice of each person, made in the image of God
a commitment to the search for wisdom in life and to the pursuit of excellence, through the development of each person's unique God-given talents
a commitment to communicate Catholic social teaching and thereby to promote social justice and opportunity for all
a commitment to support the continuing professional and spiritual development of staff
  Extracts from the Charter for Catholic Schools

Parents are made aware of the school's commitment to the implementation of Restorative Practices in all dealings and contacts. They understand that staff use a conferencing approach in many of their meetings. Parents are always invited to participate in formal conferencing with regard to resolving individual pupil issues and are kept fully informed of meetings involving their child and staff members.

Reflective Learning3.2 Training
Three members of the Senior Management Team and one Principal Teacher of Pupil Support have attended the formal training in Restorative Practices provided by North Lanarkshire. In addition, North Lanarkshire's Principal Educational Psychologist provided training for all staff during an in-service day in August 2004. Responses from staff were exceedingly positive, not least because they recognised the links to existing good practice. This has been followed-up by on-going twilight training programmes offering insights into the philosophy and techniques involved, delivered by our trained members of staff. The target group is all interested teaching and support staff. The school appreciates the support offered by the Authority's Inclusion Support Base as a supplementary resource.

North Lanarkshire Council will be providing additional in-service training for those staff who received earlier training. A visitor from the Institute of Restorative Practices in the United States of America will offer further training to a minimum of six members of staff from across the school in May 2005, to further permeate this initiative. He will also address a wider group of staff from the Our Lady's High School Cluster. This is seen as another exciting way forward in bridging the transition for the young people from our associated primary schools. It will give Cluster members a first-hand opportunity to see how much Our Lady's High School has invested in this development. It will also give them confidence in the strategies adopted to allow children to mature and develop to their full potential in our school community.

Staff who have attended training have been refreshed by the opportunity to take part in the training programme because it has given a new perspective on conflict resolution. Comments on the training include:

"It is an effective and more satisfying way to resolve conflict. You do not need to be seen as a bulldog in your dealings with pupils. The techniques of restorative enquiry learned at the course can be used in the classroom as well as to investigate incidents. I feel that the final outcome is more satisfying for everyone as it does not erode the self esteem of victims and perpetrators. I have been able to use the skills acquired on the course to help resolve and diffuse problems involving pupils in school and/or within their community. I have found that parents as well as pupils are committed to adopting this new conference approach".

 

 

 

Achievement of Green Flag Status

Picture A: the wider school community, as well as pupils and staff, celebrated the achievement of 'Green Flag' status for our commitment to, and achievements in, environmental matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paired reading

Picture B: Paired reading is an enjoyable and productive activity in our S6-S1 Buddy System.

 

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