Principal's Message

7 March 2019

Dear Parents and Carers,

Restorative Practices – the next phase

As you are no doubt aware, in 2016, the College embarked on the introduction of Restorative Practices as its primary means of challenging and responding to harmful or anti-social student behaviours.

Marist Schools Australia and Catholic Education Melbourne promote Restorative Practices to schools as one of the best means by which school communities can create healthy relationships. Encouraging young people to take responsibility for their actions and become peaceful, positively contributing citizens.

Research suggests that the introduction of Restorative Practices (RP), and development of a school culture where it is accepted and well utilised, takes about six years. In 2016, we spent considerable time educating staff about RP and training them in the methodology. In 2017 and 2018 we worked with students and some parents to begin embedding the practice and using it in the daily management of student behaviours.

In 2019, we now turn to the broader community, inviting parents and carers to engage more fully with this program, and contribute to the way it works within our school.

What is Restorative Practices?

In short, Restorative Practices seeks to repair relationships that have been damaged.  A restorative approach allows practitioners to focus on unacceptablebehaviours rather than the moralcharacter of students who have offended or hurt someone. This can lead to healthier interpersonal relationships among members of the school community and more effective learning.

At Assumption College, we use two key facets of Restorative Practice:

(a) ‘circles’ – a means of changing the dynamics of a conversation to reach understanding and agreement about expectations and behaviours; and

(b) Restorative Conversations, which are used formally and informally to prompt a reflective response and a desire to fix any harm that may have been caused by particular behaviours (you may sometimes hear these Conversations referred to as ‘the seven questions’).

The most frequently asked question about Restorative Practices

‘Where did the consequences/punishments for poor behaviour go’? Truthfully, they are still there, we just use them in different ways. As we discuss with students their behaviours and the outcomes of those behaviours (usually in the presence of their parents), the best outcomes for each student tends to become apparent.

For some it is community service, for others, time away from their peers, for yet others, a more traditional ‘detention’. Arbitrary consequences for particular behaviours have long been known to be ineffective in changing behaviour. With the support and input of parents, more ‘customised’ responses of acknowledging any harm caused, and acting to respond to that harm, are worked out and implemented.  

Interestingly, at the same time that Assumption has been introducing Restorative Practices, the Privacy Laws in Victoria have changed considerably.  Our efforts to ensure that the outcomes of Restorative Conversations maintain the privacy of those involved has necessarily increased considerably, and this has perhaps lead to the impression that students no longer receive consequences such as detentions.

Should your child be involved in a Restorative Conversation about their behaviours, and the redress that is needed to repair the harm, we will do everything in our power to ensure their privacy, whilst finding a means of amends that makes the best sense for the given situation.

Doesn’t it take up a lot of time?

Sure does! It would be significantly simpler to go back to the old days where “behaviour X = punishment Y”. This, however, does not achieve our goal of creating young people who can consider with empathy the feelings of others and work peacefully with others to solve their differences. We all want a world where young people are learning these skills, and so we need to take the time to teach them, to model the reflective and forgiving behaviours that create a peaceful society and to create an understanding of the ways harm can be repaired whilst dignity is maintained.

Of course, we still reserve the right to remove for periods of time (or indefinitely), those students who appear not to be developing empathy or remorse, or who cause considerable harm to another or to our community. We have policies and procedures for this, and again, the use of such responses are considerably bound by privacy legislation (as they should be).

Where to from here?

Next Wednesday we have Adam Voigt from ‘Real Schools’ here to work with parents at an evening workshop, focusing on the goals of the College in Restorative Practices, and how you can use RP at home. Adam has worked with many schools throughout Australia and is very well regarded in this space. We already have 80+ parents enrolled, and we encourage you to come along and get involved. Please RSVP (details found later in this newsletter).

Lent is upon us

On Wednesday of this week (Ash Wednesday) we began the Church season of Lent. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, which is the most important event on the Christian calendar! We have forty days (or thereabouts) to prepare our hearts and minds for celebrating the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. During Lent, we take an extra effort to review our behaviours and mindsets, and commit to acting and praying in new, more positive ways. In Australia, the Church also sets aside this same time to focus on the work of Caritas Australia, which is the international aid and development arm of the Church.

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that we all get tempted to act in ways that do not align with our values. Even Jesus faced this trial. This week then, we review our life with a critical eye, attuning to those things we do, say or think that leave us less that we know we could be, and week seek to rectify them.

God who forgives, I know I sometimes act in ways that hurt others or myself. Help me to be strong enough to change my ways and to look for new ways of being that only bring out the best in myself and others. Amen.

Peace and Blessings

Kate Fogarty