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Operationalising the notion of a restorative school community : a case study in a socio-economically deprived area

Rhodes, Richard


Richard Rhodes


Gerry Johnstone


In recent years, schools have increasingly begun to opt for an alternative to traditional school punishments: restorative practices. As the practices developed, proponents began to posit that to unlock the true potential of restorative approaches, community involvement was key (this mirrors the opinion of those promoting restorative justice in the criminal system).
However, despite this central role for community in the restorative literature, many theorists argue that community involvement is inhibited due to lack of consistent theoretical definition. Additionally, another criticism is that whilst restorative practices are promoted as an effective response to wrongdoing in schools, much of the research has been undertaken in schools where the circumstances are conducive to the deployment of the practices, with amenable staff and a motivated Senior Management Team.
My empirical research deviates from these favourable conditions and instead, was undertaken in a school located on one of the most socio-economically deprived estates in the UK. School leaders reported the significant behavioural and social challenges they faced on a consistent basis. Their decision to implement restorative practices was primarily as a salve to mitigate serious challenge and a self-defined chaotic atmosphere brought about by a comprehensive change of management structure and ethos, high rates of staff turnover and historically high levels of violent, prejudicial and dangerous behaviour of students.
Through intensive participant and non-participant observation and thirty-three semi- structured interviews with participants involved in all aspects of the school (Senior Management, teachers, students and members of the wider community) my research provides an insight into this school’s use of restorative practices. What emerges from this research is the narrative of a wider community perceived by some participants to be apathetic and disengaged. It exposes the times where the approach of the school and its community contrasts or conflicts and the external factors that impede the school’s ability to utilise restorative approaches. However, this research also indicates the importance of individual relationships of trust between staff and students and how these relationships can exist as a substitute for an absent wider community. It reports the influence and necessity of key school pastoral staff in delivering a small-scale, informal restorative agenda and concludes with the notion that restorative approaches are both feasible and desirable in schools of this type.


Rhodes, R. (2020). Operationalising the notion of a restorative school community : a case study in a socio-economically deprived area. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Sep 1, 2020
Deposit Date Jul 8, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Law
Public URL
Additional Information Law School, The University of Hull


Thesis (1.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2020 Rhodes, Richard. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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