“What is the outcome you want? Is the outcome that they be made an example of or that they are punished or humiliated or shamed? Or do you want them to learn so that they become a better person? If you answer the latter, then I can't imagine why you would be not considering a Restorative Practices approach.”
Linda Evans, Principal, Fairholme College: advice for principals considering RP
"Restorative - It’s not a soft option."
Vicki Anderson, Fairholme Educator
Relationships are at the core of everything at Fairholme – how educators teach; how students interact in the boarding school; how staff conflict is dealt with; how school leaders talk with parents; how everyone deals with issues of harm
When harm occurs, there is a focus on honoring the dignity of every person. It is not about shame or blame, but about repairing relationships and supporting the girls to grow.
Restorative Practice is seen as flexible – it does not look or feel the same in all situations. But there is a coherency of practice across Fairholme that speaks to holding relationships at the centre of all policies and practices.
Restorative Practice is “simply the way that we do things here”
Restorative Practice is intergral to all aspects of Fairholme College’s learning culture. It provides inclusive learning environments for teachers and students in its classroom, guides housing supervisors and student residents in the college’s boarding house, it models and develops leadership skills for students and helps students constructively address, resolve, learn from and mature through the invevitable issues and conflicts in their lives and within the school.
Creating a strong collaborative learning environment
Circle time is used regularly in all years – to check in, build relationships, teach empathy, discuss class issues, problem solve collectively
Strong teacher-student and peer relationships are built daily and learning is viewed as a social rather than individual activity and achievement
Girls are on floors with mixed ages to feel more like a family
Common rooms are set up with crafts and other activities so that conversation can happen while engaged in activity
The Assistant to the Boarding House Pastoral Care has an open-door policy and facilitates restorative conversations or conferences between students when needed
Older students have learned the skills to problem solve and deal with conflicts and often resolve their own issues. They model honest, respectful conversation to the younger students
Older students take the initiative to mediate minor conflicts between other students
A coherency of values throughout policies and practice
School changed from a culture of hierarchy to one of collaboration
Teaches students and staff to be more reflective on their actions
Progressing their schooling, year by year, students learn to be more and more independently restorative
Staff can no longer imagine solving issues in a punitive fashion
Slows processes down so everyone has time to listen and learn
Allows staff and students to work in such a way that brings out best in everyone
Provides students with a set of lifelong, beneficial skills
The school takes a proactive approach with staff about Restorative Practices. All staff - teachers, administrators and support personnel - are provided with Restorative Practice trainings and workshops. Restorative Practice skills are emphasised in the job interview and during induction into the school’s learning culture.
All staff – teachers, boarding, administration, etc. – receive an induction into Restorative Practice
New staff members are all strongly encouraged to attend a 3-day Restorative Practice training
The focus on Restorative Practice is mentioned during job interviews
Workshops on Restorative Practice offered throughout the year
Fairholme College has, over time, developed its own suite of Restorative Practice techniques to suit its issues and needs. The stated aim for each process is for participants to all grow in understanding, take necessary responsibility for their actions, and work together to strengthen a sense of community.
The school has developed two templates. The first is largely reactive, a series of questions that are brought to bear - usually through a participant circle - to address and resolve conflicts. The second is more proactive, providing a template for older students to assume leadership roles with their younger cohorts. It should be noted that these templates are used flexibly depending on specific circumstances.
Issues or conflicts can be dealt with through an informal discussion, a structured conversation, a class meeting or a full conference. This might happen at the end of class, in a corridor, on the playground, in the boarding house, or in the office. The aim for these restorative conversations is for participants to all grow in understanding, take necessary responsibility for actions, and strengthen a sense of community.
Whatever form the conversation takes, they draw on these questions:
Was it the right or wrong thing to do?
Who has been affected, and in what ways have they been affected?
What can you do or say to assure us that this won’t happen again?
How can we help you?
What you were thinking at the time?
What you have thought about since?
What needs to be done to put things right again/or to fix the situation?
Is there anything anyone needs to hear from you?
Restorative processes to address conflicts are seen as the responsibility of everyone, students and adults, at the school. Older students, in particular, are expected to enact leadership in solving conflicts and assisting younger students in building relationships to address issues and conflicts.
A Restorative Practices Committee of Year 12 girls advocates for Restorative Practice throughout the school and teaches the younger students about restorative processes and conversations. The Committee also organises social activities such as Tim Tam Talks where younger students can ask their older peers for advice on interpersonal issues. The girls on Restorative Practices Committee use what Fairholme College calls the 5Fs to explain Restorative Practice to younger students.
Name and location: Fairholme College, Toowoomba, Queensland
Type of School: Independent, All-Girls, Presbyterian, Day and Boarding School, Prep-12
Demographics: Just under 700 students; 2% Indigenous Students; 7% Students from Language background other than English; School ICSEA value 1107
Length of Time Using Restorative Practice: 15 years
The 2020 COVID pandemic has delayed the school profiles planned for 2020 & 2021.
The Fairholme College RP profile is the first of a series of planned profiles of Australian schools making Restorative Practice an integral part of their learning environment.