What was your school like before relational practice?

  • In writing this, it fills us with shame! Prior to beginning our relational practice school children were exposed to huge amounts of public and personal shaming. This could include names being written on the board, children’s names being moved from sunshines/clouds or happy to sad faces and even worse, children sitting outside offices being tutted by staff members walking by.
  • Punitive measures were in place.
  • Children were not taught behaviours but expected to conform to social norms. If children were unable to follow these expectations, they would be punished.
  • Harm was often left unrepaired with missed opportunities for perpetrators to learn from their mistakes and reparate.
  • Staff culture was not one of our strengths. Poor relationships resulted in gossiping, cliques and poor communication. There were often ‘favourites’.
  • All children were treated in the same way and little thought given to any unmet needs of children.
  • Shouting by teachers wasn’t heard on a daily basis, but nor was it a rare event.

What triggered the change?

After being made aware of the Paul Dix book, alongside the work at Carr Manor School and a local authority offer to train in relational practice, we recognised that the approach may work at our school. We knew that there were some aspects of our culture which needed addressing and saw the need for something which was both radical and practical.

What were the expectations/hopes?

  • Our starting point was the wish to use leading-edge pedagogy and research to inform our next steps.
  • We were looking for deliberate and explicit plans to develop all our relationships with all our stakeholders.
  • We were adamant that parents and the wider community would be fully aware of the changes and why they were important to the school and their children.
  • We wanted to ensure that, at a bare minimum, all children felt listened to and understood.
  • We wanted all staff to understand and aspire to high behaviour expectations.
  • We hoped that staff would have access to different strategies to support behaviour instead of punitive measures.
  • We wanted to build a school community where behaviour expectations were established clearly and communicated effectively.
  • We wanted to move towards a future where all staff were able to be emotionally consistent and available.
  • We wanted to develop a cadre of emotionally available adults who are trauma-informed and are able toco-regulate.

What happened – what have you done, how did it pan out?

  • We have created 4 school rules based on the ones from the book.
  • There are currently no exclusions and no child has been excluded in the period since 2017.
  • Our Relationships and Behaviour Policy has been rewritten to reflect our new approach, an exercise involving the whole community. This included scripted processes from the Paul Dix book in our Behaviour and Relationships Policy appendices.
  • 15 copies of the book were purchased and all teachers read it.
  • We established a Guiding group of staff who had oversight of the rollout and the development of our strategic plan. Involved 14 staff from different roles – we included everyone who showed an interest in making these changes work.
  • All of our SLT members have been enrolled in Restorative Practice Training.
  • Whole SLT 2-day Trauma Informed Relational Practice T training.
  • Emotion coaching training for staff and parents
  • Sensory room to support regulation, calm areas, ZOR, brain model, RP assemblies, Restorative stars.
  • Staff check-ins and check-outs to build and maintain relationships, having fun and laughing together.
  • The use of circles to celebrate achievements and problem solve, everyone has their voice heard and opinions valued.
  • This approach has been included in all staff training on many occasions.
  • Relational Practice forms a large part of induction processes which were rewritten to reflect our change in approach
  • We provide Refresher training twice yearly for new staff and anyone who refers themselves to have a fresh of energy/purpose
  • We work hard to ensure that all of our children are aware of these important changes
  • We have conducted Parent Workshops and used survey questionnaires to measure attitudes and knowledge and to assess the impact.
  • The first two weeks of the year are focussed on relationship building and setting new expectations before moving to timetabled lessons.
  • Regular Restorative Practice assemblies to keep training the children and help ongoing training/immersion for all staff
  • All visual shaming processes stopped overnight.
  • We are now a leading school for Restorative Practice in Gloucestershire and have trained local headteachers/schools in setting their strategic vision and in change management.
  • We work alongside the Local Authority to develop RP at a high level.
  • We welcome schools from neighbouring local authorities to see Restorative Practice in action.
  • High priority is given to staff relationship building, to enable us to be genuine role models for the children.
  • Adults now:
    • 1) IDENTIFY the behaviour we expect
    • 2) Explicitly TEACH behaviour
    • 3) MODEL the behaviour we are expecting
    • 4) PRACTISE behaviour
    • 5) NOTICE excellent behaviour
    • 6) CREATE conditions for excellent behaviour
  • Scripts have been created to ensure consistency amongst staff and to provide confidence that all children are receiving an equal offer.
  • We have high expectations of appearance and we expect children to have pride in their uniform and the way they move around the school.

What was easy, what was hard?

EASY

  • Reading and understanding the ‘why’ in the book.
  • Knowing as a leadership team that this was absolutely the right thing to do!

HARD

  • Getting everyone on board and willing to change. We had a lot of comments ‘it never did me any harm!’

Where are you now?

We are now a guiding light in Gloucestershire, sharing good practice, training others and welcoming others in to see Relational (restorative?) Trauma-Informed Relational? Practice in action.

What advice would they give to others?

  • This is absolutely the right thing to do!
  • Even when there are tough moments and you feel like you should give up because of the naysayers… don’t!
  • Ensure everyone reads the book, make time to review reading (a bit like a book club).
  • Pick your guiding team/advocates – who will support you in making the changes?
  • Consider how this will be shared with parents and when this will happen.
  • Think about training, when this happens, who you might need to speak to before sowing a seed.
  • Pre-empt the blockers people might put up and be ready to counteract this.
  • Changing hearts and minds takes time, don’t be disheartened by failure.
  • Constantly review where we are with people you trust and recap for people the balls that are being dropped, even slightly! High challenge, high support.

Any other comments:

Complacency is a powerful enemy and whilst we’re proud of our achievements we don’t intend to sit on our laurels!

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