Restorative Justice (RJ) – it’s a term you may not be familiar with, but it’s happening in schools every day behind the scenes and Longhill Restorative Co-ordinator, Tom Cannell, is something of an authority on the subject.
Tom, who is based in Longhill’s Focus Centre, has spent the last six years working on and refining the framework used for restorative justice; the aim is to provide a safe, controlled environment for conflict or relationship resolution. This might be for one student to another, for a group of students, or for student and teacher – in fact for any situation in which relationships have broken down. Restorative Justice provides the framework in which participants can try to resolve what has gone wrong in their relationships; friendships, why did they fall apart? Bullying, if all parties are happy to attend – why did it take place? Teacher and student – what went wrong?
Restorative Justice forms part of the work of the Focus Centre at Longhill and all members of the team there have been trained in RJ techniques; this enables them to have a restorative focus in many areas of their work which allows students to reflect on their actions, consequences and outcomes.
Longhill is leading the way in this field and is something of a flagship and authority for secondary schools both locally and at national level. During Restorative Justice Week, at the end of last year, Tom was invited to speak at a prestigious city event, showcasing local and national developments and practices. Tom runs a city-wide group called Restorative Approaches in Schools (RAiS) and his presentation on this topic was highly acclaimed by delegates at the event.
The Restorative Approaches in Schools group (RAiS), meets termly to discuss what’s going on restoratively across the city. This group includes representatives from the city’s primary and secondary schools, as well as from the Youth Offending Team and from Children’s Services. Restorative Justice is practised in other schools across Brighton & Hove to varying degrees and Tom is on hand to give help and guidance where it’s needed.
He also belongs to a group which meets at the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office in Lewes, at which he represents education and how RJ is used in education across the city. “It’s interesting to see things from a different perspective” said Tom. “With this group it’s from the perspective of criminal justice, but the emphasis is still on providing a safe and controlled environment in which to repair relationships.”
“It’s really satisfying when I see a student going back into lessons; someone who has perhaps been out for a while or removed a few times, to see the relationship improving and healing. It’s rewarding to be the facilitator for that and to see the benefit to all parties happening. It makes me very proud!”