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Restorative Justice Principles: Facilitators and Barriers to Implementation in Schools

11 January 2021

Author: Rhiannon April (University College London)

Restorative Justice (RJ) is regularly used in the criminal justice field to give victims the opportunity to communicate the impact of crime to the offender. RJ methods are increasingly being used within educational settings. This thesis explores how schools use RJ and highlights the advantages and potential barriers to its implementation.

The systematic review paper explores the use of RJ in schools internationally, with a focus on the impact of RJ on school discipline data (which includes the number of detentions, exclusions and reports of bullying).

Twelve studies were systematically identified and critically evaluated. Findings suggest that implementation of RJ by schools is associated with a decrease in the number of behaviour sanctions awarded, including detentions and exclusions. This in turn appears to have a positive impact on school culture and climate.

There were no studies included in the literature review that were undertaken in the UK. Considering the positive impact of RJ on school discipline data and environment, the empirical paper sought to address the gap in the literature. This study provides a unique contribution by exploring school use of RJ through the lens of key restorative principles.

A case study methodology was used in three London-based schools. Each school represented a single case, with representations from a primary, secondary and special school.

Data collected included documentation, in-depth interviews, focus groups and observations. Using thematic analysis, themes and sub-themes were identified, and pattern matching logic was used to decide whether the propositions developed could be accepted or rejected.

The findings suggest that when staff and students discussed RJ, they made reference to the RJ principles which suggest that the principles have been embedded in the school. Both staff and students identified positives of using RJ, which provide some explanation as to it continued use in these settings.


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