The city of Hull, England, has declared it will be the world's first "restorative city." Led by the Hull Centre for Restorative Practices (HCRP) and the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP, located in Bethlehem, PA), the goal is for everyone who works with children and youth in Hull to employ restorative practices.
Hull is one of England's most economically and socially deprived cities. When this small city with a population 250,000 (including 57,000 children) lost its thriving fishing industry several generations ago, the city languished as the poverty rate rose and expectations fell.
In recent years, a process of rebuilding began with heavy investing in housing, the city center and secondary schools. But the city officials recognized the futility of rebuilding the physical infrastructure without social regeneration. They decided to invest disproportionately in children and young people, using restorative practices (RP) as the core element.
Hull's restorative practices program officially began in 2007, with the goal of implementing "an explicit means of managing relationships and building social connection and responsibility while providing a forum for repairing harm when relationships break down." Hull, UK: Toward a Restorative City
One of the first RP successes was at CollingwoodPrimary School. When Estelle Macdonald, head teacher (principal) of Collingwood, heard about restorative practices, she traveled to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for training and to visit IIRP demonstration programs. Upon her return, she began implementing restorative processes.
The entire school staff was trained in RP, restorative concepts were introduced to pupils, and classroom circles were employed twice daily. They began with "a nurturing program" using circle time and a positive vocabulary focusing on how they wanted children to behave, rather than what they had done wrong.
The initial results were remarkable. The above article reports that in 2006, before RP implementation, Collingwood was given Ofsted's (Britain's Office for Standards in Education) lowest ranking: "needing special measures." Within two years of RP implementation, the school achieved Ofsted's highest ranking: "outstanding."
RP having been fully implemented, Collingwood now has a highly positive school culture and an exceptional sense of community. Its students are developing the skills needed to feel respected, secure and happy. A DVD on RP at Collingwood is available at iirp.org/store (US) or iirpukonlineshop.org.uk (UK).
Next week I will be attending the 13th International Institute of Restorative Practices World Conference in Hull. While attending the conference, I will be presenting a workshop on a systems theory for reliably predicting the success of restorative justice programs.
The theory is based on the two model of justice, unitive versus the punitive, and the deeper patterns of Oneness and duality that they reflect. The extent to which a restorative justice program incorporates the elements of unitive justice (Oneness), it will succeed. To the extent the program reflects the punitive approach (duality), it will fail to produce lasting results, and old negative patterns will continue.
Next week, as I witness this undertaking first hand, I will have more to report on Hull's journey toward becoming a restorative city.
Posted on GenuineJustice.com on 10-4-10.