The case was messy and complicated. Shavings of WhatsApp group chats and Instagram DMs compiled together to form a patchwork of information which only led to further confusion and blur as we pieced it together. The blizzard of more information came our way in confetti-like doses. This led to more and more rabbit warrens which bemused two fairly intelligent people. Revolving doors. Houses of more mirrors. My colleague and I attempted to muddle our way through the information like two hard-boiled detectives. We got nowhere fast. It was then that I declared this madness must stop. Stop before I walk out of the door a defeated man.

“The only way to get to the truth is to get them together in one room, mediated by us two, and have them have share their perspectives about what happened”. With no other solutions, my colleague agreed.

It was perhaps in the mid 2000s that I first came across restorative practices. I hadn’t even begun my teaching career but was working as an academic coach in a London comprehensive. I distinctly remember a colleague of mine, with palpable enthusiasm, lauding the benefits of this approach.

What is a restorative approach?

For those unfamiliar with restorative practices I will explain as concisely as possible. In short, a restorative approach brings together the perpetrators of an offence face to face with the victim in an attempt to redress any harm caused. In essence, it is a practice of healing and restoration. It allows the broken to be fixed; lies to be replaced with truth; debts to be repaid. To see it in action is deeply moving and fulfilling.

Why is it my go to practice?

It just works. I mean, it works as predictably as the plot in a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie. One of the main benefits derived is that of establishing truth and the facts of messy and subjective human interactions. I always joke that it takes a sociopath or abject psychopath to lie about a series of events in front of their victim. I am always reassured by the young people who commit to telling the truth when faced with those whom they have hurt. It somewhat restores my faith in humanity.

8 Principles for Facilitating Restorative Practices


  1. Ensure that all parties are willing to participate in the restorative conversation. Sometimes this can be particularly challenging when there is deep and egregious wrong committed. Without being coercive or manipulating, it might be necessary to explain the benefits to those unwilling to participate. On very sensitive  topics, it is advised that parents are contacted and their consent sought.
  2. If consent is established, ensure a quiet space is reserved where you are unlikely to be disturbed or interrupted.
  3. Establish the rules of engagement before the restorative discussion takes place. As a suggestion, you might state the following:
    • Each person is allowed to speak without interruption for one-two minutes, with the exception of clarifying questions or asking the speaker to repeat something.
    • Each person is allowed to speak freely without fear of judgement.
    • We make a commitment to stay calm.
    • In addition to this, I always start by thanking both parties to agree to engage in the conversation.


  1. Practise active listening skills during the conversation. Hesitation in someone’s voice might require you to encourage them to speak openly. Through observation, you may  sense that someone is closed and uncomfortable in their body language which may require you to facilitate more openess.
  2. Ensure that no one leaves the room with things unsettled. When people have been hurt, one of the most significant things for them is closure. Open wounds have a tendency to fester. Your role as the facilitator is to ensure that all parties start their journey of healing. Be very explicit about this as you signpost the conversation with things such as “Is there anything else you’d like to mention?” or “Does anyone have burning questions they would like answers to before leaving this room?”. One of my favourite questions is “how do you now feel having had this conversation?” as it encourages participants to be more mindful as they evaluate how they are feeling in that precise moment.


  1. Only necessary for very complex and layered cases, a follow up check-in may be required.
  2. Reflect on the practice.This is particularly useful if you have conducted the conversation with a colleague as facilitator. Aim to refine your restorative practice.


So, that messy case including the WhatsApp and Snapchat DMs? It all got resolved .What seemed like an interminable string of conflicting perspectives became almost crystal clear as one-by-one we facilitated restorative conversations with all those that were harmed and those accused of causing that harm.

If you are interested in finding more about restorative practices, there’s a wealth of information on the internet including some helpful academic studies which not only explain the rationale but provide guidance on implementation.