The Experiences of Restorative Justice Practices for Those Attending an Alternative Provision: A Thematic Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Bentley, S. 2019. The Experiences of Restorative Justice Practices for Those Attending an Alternative Provision: A Thematic Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsBentley, S.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Restorative practices can be traced back to the Maori communities in New Zealand and have their historical and cultural origins in those communities. Restorative practices were then applied in the criminal justice sector throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and a decade later in the education sector. The argued benefit of restorative practice in schools is that it can help to shift the focus from ‘zero-tolerance’ approaches to less punitive approaches, providing young people with the opportunity to learn and develop skills when conflict occurs.
Current research in the UK tends to focus on the evaluation of restorative practices, with a focus on its effect on reducing exclusions and other sanctions. There is good evidence that restorative practices are successful in reducing exclusions and that it is a good alternative to the ‘zero-tolerance’ behaviour policies in mainstream schools. However, there is a distinct lack of research being carried out in specialist settings such as pupil referral units and alternative provisions. Additionally, much of the qualitative research has focussed more on the adult’s perceptions and does not give a lot of detail on young people’s experiences of restorative practices.
I conducted my research in an alternative provision with six young people who had experienced at least one restorative meeting. I gathered the young people’s views through semi-structured interviews and analysed the transcripts using thematic analysis. Three major themes were identified, with several subthemes. Theme one highlighted that the young people had knowledge of restorative meetings, but that their understanding of the purpose of these meetings deviated from the underpinnings of restorative practices. Similarly, theme two showed that the young people were broadly critical of the process and spoke about areas such as equality, feelings of disempowerment and the application of restorative practice. Theme three demonstrated they had both positive and negative reflections on their previous education setting.
These themes raise questions on how restorative practice is being used in this setting and how the young people have interpreted and responded to its use. The findings suggest that, at least in this setting, young people’s experience of restorative practice is not always being applied in a way that aligns with its underlying principles. The potential implications of this misalignment are discussed and suggestions for evidence-based practice are outlined.

PublisherUniversity of East London
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Online24 Jul 2020
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Deposited24 Jul 2020
SubmittedApr 2019
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