Restorative justice provides an opportunity for empowerment – your voice
can be heard.
Primary Learning Support Assistant
Sitting in a circle with members of one's community, most of whom share a common interest in restoring harmony, care, safety and respect to that community, is the starting point for many restorative practices. Advocates of restorative justice draw inspiration from Native American peacemaking circles and the community problem-solving traditions of Maori peoples in New Zealand (Johnston 2002). However large or small the circle, the principles remain the same.
This chapter considers the place of circles in a whole school approach to restorative justice. It begins by suggesting that regular circles, across the school community, form the seedbed from which can grow the restorative skills and approaches described in the book so far. Restorative justice works best when there is a commitment to community, where there is already mutual respect, a willingness to listen to each other, a need to belong and be included. This cannot be taken for granted in any modern community and cannot be taken for granted in a school. In order to have a community, and relationships that people want to restore, we need to work to create that community in the first place, and the relatively discrete community of the school is an ideal environment to start.
The chapter advocates regular circles for every part of the school community and describes the different roles the circle can play. It considers the community building potential of circles as well as its uses when there are problems to solve in groups or even large group conflict.
Working in circles in the UK is often given the name 'circle time' and has many enthusiastic advocates (e.g. Bliss et al. 1995; Kingston Friends Workshop Group; Mosley and Tew 1999). These people have produced excellent books full of