On 19th May 2022, WE heard an inspirational input led by Barrowford School headteacher Rachel Tomlinson on placing relationships and restoration at the heart of everything you do.
Barrowford School is a two-form primary school in Lancashire. The school’s population has a diverse range of needs with a significant number of pupils with SEMH needs.
The school has high standards and high expectations of behaviour. They have a zero tolerance policy to poor behaviour, but this is always considered in the context of inclusion. Each individual is given a high level of support and the focus for staff is resolving any harm done.
Barrowford School uses the term “relationship management” instead of “behavioural management”. This reflects how they see any behavioural incidents as a mistake in relationships. In the same way that you would not punish a child for making a mistake in an academic subject like Maths or Science, the school does not believe a child should be punished for a mistake in relationships.
Through this, the school puts repair and resolution as the focus of their behaviour systems instead of punishment and retribution. This approach is more accessible allowing every individual child to be worked with based on their individual needs. Behavioural incidents are seen as a learning opportunity.
When there is an incident, children are asked to reflect on these five questions:
What were you thinking at the time?
Who has been affected?
How were they affected?
How can we resolve this issue?
The purpose of these questions is to restore all those involved in the incident. This provides a valuable learning experience.
With the whole school adopting a relational approach, there are no rewards or punishments within the school. Without fear of punishment or incentive of reward, the children develop a deeper understanding of the intrinsic value of good behaviour. One attendee at the session questioned how the children responded to the removal of incentives and rewards. Rachel’s team actually asked their pupils how they felt when they received Learning Certificates to which they humorously responded, “We know you [the teacher] like it” and “We know we get it when it’s our turn”
The school’s restorative principles nurture each child individually by providing a safe and inclusive environment. In Barrowford School’s 2022 Ofsted report, behaviour and attitudes were rated Good with the inspector highlighting:
“Staff expect pupils to behave well. Most do. Pupils behave sensibly in lessons and around school. They are polite and well mannered. Pupils told inspectors that bullying is rare and when it does happen, staff are quick to deal with it.”
Thank you to Rachel Tomlinson for providing such a fascinating input on restorative practice. If you have any thoughts or reflections on how to introduce a whole school relational approach, WE would love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This session was part of our series of monthly WE Inspire network virtual meetings. These sessions are a great opportunity to hear from, and be inspired by, schools who are successfully providing a high-quality whole education.