Restorative Practices in New Zealand Schools: Moana Emett’s Groundbreaking Journey

In a captivating presentation, Moana Emett, Professional Leader of a significant five-year project at the University of Waikato, enlightened her audience about the transformative impact of restorative practices in over 300 New Zealand schools. The ambitious initiative, known as the Positive Behaviour for Learning Restorative Practices project (PB4L RP), is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Education and has been monumental in reshaping the way school communities approach and handle conflicts.

Emett’s role is not only pivotal but also supported by an adept team with vast experience in implementing restorative practices (RP). Together, they work diligently to foster and bolster communities of learning, which encompasses staff, students, and whānau (families). Their collective goal is to infuse the educational landscape with a more relational and inclusive approach, where each member feels valued, understood, and integral to the school’s ethos.

Restorative practice, as Moana explained, stands firmly on the pillars of equality, dignity, mana, and the innate potential residing in every individual. The core tenet of the PB4L RP model is the creation and sustenance of positive relationships across school communities. Notably, it is not just about forming these bonds but also maintaining them, ensuring they thrive and grow over time. Moana underscored that while fostering positive connections is essential, the ability to restore them when disruptions occur is equally vital. The tools and techniques introduced under this initiative serve as a guiding light for school staff to mend strained relationships and address underlying issues.

One of the standout points from Moana’s presentation was the emphasis on how restorative practices contribute significantly to building peaceful and secure school environments. Such atmospheres are conducive to student engagement and overall well-being. They ensure that students are not just present but actively participating, contributing, and feeling genuinely connected to their learning communities.

Moreover, Moana and her team delved deep into the practicalities of their work. They shared the nuanced strategies employed to cultivate capability and capacity in schools. Their comprehensive approach involved engaging with a wide spectrum of school stakeholders: from school boards and leadership teams to lead coaches, staff, students, and whānau. Their interventions span regionally, nationally, and even extend to online platforms, ensuring that the seeds of restorative practices are sown far and wide.

A significant takeaway from this workshop was the holistic approach adopted by Moana Emett and her team. Rather than presenting restorative practices as an isolated set of tools or strategies, they positioned it as an ingrained part of the school’s culture and ethos. This cultural shift ensures that restorative practices are not just an afterthought but a central, guiding philosophy.

In summary, Moana Emett’s presentation illuminated the transformative journey of over 300 New Zealand schools that have adopted the restorative practices model. Her insights offer a beacon of hope for other educational institutions worldwide, emphasizing the profound impact of relationships on student engagement and wellbeing.