What is Restorative Justice?

The Traditional Approach to School Discipline

The traditional approach to school discipline asks three questions in response to wrong doing:

•  What happened?

•  Who’s to blame?

•  What do they deserve?

This traditional approach, borrowed largely from the criminal justice system, leaves those who have been most affected by the wrongful behaviour without a voice, and without their needs being addressed as part of the ‘solution.’ It also doesn't effectively challenge the wrongdoer to be accountable to those he has harmed.


The Restorative Approach to School Discipline

The Restorative approach, on the other hand, starts from a different set of questions:

•  What happened?

•  Who’s been harmed? and 

•  What needs to happen to repair some of that harm?

In this approach to dealing with wrongdoing, then, the focus is on the harm that has been done and the obligation this brings on the part of those responsible to ‘right the wrong’ as much as possible. It’s an approach that seeks to develop in the wrongdoer an understanding of the breadth and depth of the harm their behaviour has caused to others so that they can best try to make amends to those most affected. In this way, it’s an educative approach.

It also ensures that those who have been most affected by the wrongdoing have the opportunity to be involved in working out what has to happen in order to move forward.

Put simply, Restorative Practices (RP) is a way of viewing relationship-building and behaviour management in schools that works to strengthen community among students and between students, teachers and parents, through educative processes.

In the RP philosophy, conflict or wrongdoing is seen as causing harm to people and relationships, and there is an obligation first to repair this harm in order for the people involved to move forward. It is a way of educating students towards self-regulated right behaviour that is respectful of all concerned. In particular, it puts the onus back on the wrongdoer to be truly accountable for their behaviour and to repair any harm caused to others.


How does this work at St Matthews?

St Matthews Catholic School endeavours to provide for each member of the community – students, parents, staff and clergy – the experience of high quality interpersonal relationships of care and support. From time to time in any community, relationships can be harmed in various ways and to varying degrees. It is therefore essential that St Matthews Catholic School is a community that promotes resolution of conflict between community members and the restoration of relationships.

Restorative Practice at SMCS is based on the belief that when relationships are harmed we must work with students, teachers and parents involved to restore the relationships.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another”. (John 13:34-35)

At SMCS we do not simply do things to people, a punitive approach, nor do we simply do things for the people involved, a permissive approach. Restorative Practice is a commitment to inclusiveness so that we make every attempt to reintegrate our troubled students, even those with severe behavioural difficulties. It is a commitment to a high degree of discipline with clear limits and consequences, coupled with a high degree of support and care.

Restorative measures assist students to learn from their mistakes, reconcile their differences and resolve problems with others. Restorative measures can effectively address a wide variety of harm done in school settings including truancy, bullying, harassment, classroom or playground misbehaviour and many other cases.



·  Acknowledges that the responsibility to act justly is expected of all members of the school community.

·  Seeks, celebrates and affirms the giftedness within each person.

·  Recognises that quality relationships are fundamental to effective learning and genuine pastoral care.

·  Ensures correlation between the rhetoric of Gospel values and the reality as expressed in structures, procedures and practices.

·  At times, when the nature of the behaviour or action of a student is explicit, deliberate, and carried out with full knowledge, fairly strong consequences such as suspension may be required. When imposed, suspension should be viewed and explained as an opportunity for reflection and growth on the part of the student, ultimately aimed at assisting the student to make the necessary changes to facilitate his or her success at the school.

·  It is the act that is wrong, not the child who is bad.



St Matthews Catholic School, through this Restorative Practice Policy aims:

·  To create within the school community an affirming climate that gives value to the Gospel teachings of love, compassion, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, reconciliation and justice.

·   To give expression to the relationships of faith, care and support that characterise the school’s vision, ethos and practice.

·   To ensure that Restorative Practices are integral to and permeate the total environment and culture of the school.

·   To develop structures and practices that support the individual student and all members of the community.

·   To promote resilience in both the person who is harmed in a given situation and in the person who causes the harm.

·   To assist those who cause harm to learn from their mistakes, reconcile their differences and resolve problems with others.

·   To guide the application of all discipline at the school.