Tackling Bullying and Discrimination in Schools

Following a successful pilot project at The Linden Academy in Luton, the Signpost Hub and Anne Frank Trust UK now plan to roll out inputs aimed at tackling bullying, discrimination and prejudice in schools across the county using a restorative approach.

It’s International Restorative Awareness Week and the Signpost Hub and Anne Frank Trust UK are working on developing the innovative programme, which is funded by Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway using the feedback given by the school.
Year five and six pupils were trained to become peer mediators to act as mediators to resolve conflict or disruptive behaviour within the school environment. Staff members were also given information on how to implement restorative approaches in the school.

A restorative approach is a process focusing on repairing any harm caused. In schools it can be used to challenge the prejudice and discrimination found in hate incidents or bullying, before they escalate. As facilitators the students will enable those harmed to communicate with the person who caused the harm.

Victim Care Co-ordinator Sunya Hussain said: “It is most effective when used as a whole school approach, where there is a shift in values to create positive outcomes from negative behaviour.

“The training was very well received by the school and their pupils. Using a restorative approach addresses the needs of both parties - the person who has been harmed and the person who caused the harm. If the harmer takes responsibility for their actions and acknowledges the impact this has had on the person who has been harmed, it leads to a change of behaviour and the opportunity to make amends.”

Kerry Ward,  Director of Inclusion and SENDCo at The Linden Academy, added: “Pupils were also taught how to use a ‘talking stick’ and ‘circle time’ to develop positive relationships between themselves and improve communication and active listening skills. Role play was used as well as looking at the origins of restorative approaches in order to get the children thinking about how this approach can be used in their daily lives. They were also shown how to use key questions when resolving conflict and the benefit of not accusing someone of doing something, but looking into what happened, what they were thinking and feeling, who was affected and what needs to be done to put things right. It’s going to be a real benefit to the school and our pupils using this new approach to resolving any conflicts.”

The Linden Academy pupils are now working with the Signpost Hub and Anne Frank Trust UK to create a toolkit to support the rollout of the project into primary schools. The toolkit will include media clips to introduce RJ concepts and terminology from a pupil's perspective, an implementation pack for staff, information for parents/carers and a Peer Mediators' Journal to assist them in the important task of reflecting and growing in their role. The development and implementation of the project into secondary schools will follow.

Val Ross, Eastern Regional Manager for the trust, explained: "This project is a follow up to our anti-bullying and building shared values workshops we’ve been running in schools across Bedfordshire, where we directly explored the impacts of prejudice through the story of Anne Frank, as a way to enable pupils to understand prejudice in society today.

“Training young people in how to use restorative justice approaches is very much in keeping with our educational methodology which seeks to empower young people themselves with the knowledge, skills and confidence to confront and challenge prejudice. We are committed to working with Bedfordshire Police, the Signpost Hub and our partners, including our networks of ambassadors, to create a more cohesive, supportive and positive environment for us all to thrive.”

Commissioner Holloway added: "I’m a huge advocate of restorative justice, as it’s such a powerful process when used in policing in helping victims to get closure after a traumatic time and offenders to understand the impact their actions have had and provides them with the opportunity to make amends. By using this approach in our schools, which promotes tolerance and respect, this will be another massive leap forward in taking a stand against hate in Bedfordshire. Research also shows a restorative approach can help with early intervention, resulting in less exclusions in school as well as avoiding offending later down the line.”

Restorative Justice is facilitated by the Signpost Hub, which works in partnership with Bedfordshire Police, in helping victims deal with the emotions and stress caused by crime, by communicating with the person who harmed them.

Find out more about restorative justice by visiting www.signpostforbedfordshire.com/restorative-justice-bedfordshire

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