Restorative practice

What is Restorative practice?

Restorative Practice is all about relationships – making, maintaining and, when necessary, repairing relationships.

Restorative Justice constitutes an innovative approach that is taken to repairing harm that has been done to relationships. It prioritises meeting the underlying needs of the people involved above the need to assign blame and dispense punishment.

Benefits of restorative practice

Experience and evidence at local and national levels has shown that restorative processes have a positive impact in changing school cultures, especially regarding attendance and behaviour, when embedded in a wider restorative context, and within clear school improvement strategies.

A report published by the Department for Education gave whole-school restorative approaches the highest rating of effectiveness at preventing bullying, with a survey of schools showing 97% rated restorative approaches as effective.

An independent evaluation of restorative justice in Bristol schools found that restorative justice improved school attendance and reduced exclusion rates.

Source: The Restorative Justice Council

How does it work?

Restorative practice is a proactive way of working ‘WITH’ people, not doing things ‘TO’ them, not doing things ‘FOR’ them and ‘NOT’ being neglectful and doing nothing at all (Wachtel and McCold, 2001, p.117).  It’s about working ‘with’ people at every opportunity.

Restorative approaches enable everybody’s voice to be heard.  Restorative approaches enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right. 

The five core beliefs of restorative practice are:

1. Everyone has a unique perspective and a valued contribution to make – we need to hear what people have to say.
2. Our thoughts influence our feelings and both influence what we do and say – we need to unpick what is going on behind behaviour.
3. Our actions and deeds impact on those around us – we need to consider the consequences of our actions.
4. All our actions are strategies we have chosen to meet our needs at the time – we need to be part of identifying what we need and identifying how our needs will be met.
5. The people who are affected by an issue or problem are those best placed to find ways forward in collaboration with each other – we need to be enabled and empowered to make positive and sustainable changes for ourselves.

What are the five steps of restorative practice?

1. Tell the story - What has happened? Start from the beginning…
2. Thoughts and Feelings - What were/are you thinking? What were/are you feeling?
3. Impact – Who has been affected and how have they been affected? What has been the hardest thing for you?
4. Needs – What do you need in order to find closure/to move forward?
5. What next? What needs to happen now? What do you think will make things better? 

Restorative Practice promotes empathy, compassion and understanding and works to bring a sense of closure/repair to difficult situations. It is not always appropriate to bring people together and it should not be seen as inferior to work with people separately. If people are willing to come together, have sincere motives and don’t feel it will cause more harm, a restorative meeting is something that can be considered. Ongoing risk assessments are undertaken by trained facilitators to ensure no further harm is caused and those who have caused harm accept responsibility for their actions before restorative work is pursued. 

Becoming a restorative school

Oxfordshire County Council is committed to supporting schools in embedding restorative practice. Becoming a restorative school has many benefits, including increased attendance, reduced exclusions and improved achievement. Restorative practice is also an approved approach by Children’s Social Care and Thames Valley Police.

A restorative school allows time to listen to the voice of children and young people, staff and families. It wants to hear people’s stories, help them clarify their issues and needs, and empower them to find their own solutions to what is concerning them. Restorative approaches can hugely benefit children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing which is why Oxfordshire County Council chose to invest 2019 funding from Health Education England in Restorative Practice.

Visit Mental health and wellbeing for more information on whole-school approaches.

Ofsted will be judging all settings on the extent to which:

  • relationships among learners and staff reflect a positive and respectful culture
  • leaders, teachers and learners create an environment where bullying, peer-on-peer abuse of discrimination are not tolerated
  • staff deal with issues quickly and effectively, and do not allow them to spread.

Source: Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (May 2019)

Free school training offer

An Introduction to Becoming a Restorative School (1.5-2hr Twilight/Staff Meeting)

An introduction to Restorative Practice (RP), understanding the benefits of RP and RP techniques that can be used across school to embed the ‘WITH’ approach to minimising and resolving bullying and conflict.

Becoming a Restorative School (3hr INSET)

An introduction to Restorative Practice (RP), understanding the benefits of RP and RP techniques that can be used across school to embed the ‘WITH’ approach to minimising and resolving bullying and conflict. This training gives staff time to apply theory in practical exercises designed to emulate day-to-day interactions with children and young people affected by conflict.

To book whole-school training in restorative approaches, visit Learner Engagement - School Training Offer | Schools (

Restorative Approaches: Practitioner Course

This course is suitable for those members of staff who want to develop an in-depth knowledge of Restorative Practice, including facilitating restorative conversations and restorative meetings.  The course content has a large component of skills practice enabling participants to practice using restorative skills and exploring how this links to their own context. 

To book onto the above course, visit OSCB Courses - Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board


  • “One of the most useful CPD sessions I've attended.” – Secondary School Teacher
  • “Many thanks for all your help and support - once we get this training fully implemented across the school, it will have a very positive impact for all our children.” – Primary Headteacher
  •  “It’s been an excellent refresher on the value of restorative work.” – Primary School Governor
  • “It was a great training session which highlighted a great deal of ways to deal with situations restoratively.” – Year 6 Teacher

Community of Support for Restorative Practitioners in Schools

All schools who have received whole-school training in restorative approaches are invited to join termly network meetings which enable like-minded schools to link up, share successes and work together to overcome common challenges. Topical issues are explored (e.g. engaging parents, working restoratively with neuro-diverse pupils) and specialist workshops organised to enable and empower schools to fully utilise and embed restorative approaches.

To find out more about training and ongoing support available for all Oxfordshire Schools, contact (Lead for Learner Engagement).

Additional sources of support

Restorative support for victims of significant harm

SAFE! Support for Young People Affected by Crime is a local charity which provides free, individually tailored support (up to six sessions) for young people who have been victims of crime and bullying who are finding it hard to recover their sense of safety and confidence. For further information about the support SAFE! offers including how to refer please visit:

Should we involve the police?

If you feel that a crime may have been committed, for example under the protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, the Communications Act 2003, and the Public Order Act 1986, Thames Valley Police Schools’ Officers are on hand to advise and offer support.  Hate crimes are also illegal and should be reported to the police.  Referrals will be considered on a case-by-case basis and, where appropriate, restorative interventions offered.

Restorative approaches put repairing harm done to relationships and people over and above the need for assigning blame and dispensing punishment (e.g. exclusion and criminalisation).  Working in partnership with Thames Valley Police is part of Oxfordshire County Council’s commitment to reduce school exclusions and improve outcomes for all children and young people.

Restorative approaches can help to prevent and overcome the many barriers to learner engagement.

Contact (Lead for Learner Engagement) if you have an urgent need for support with learners who are not attending school or are at risk of exclusion.


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