Shaping School Culture Through Restorative Practice: Insights from Mark Finnis

In an enlightening session, Mark Finnis, the esteemed director of L30 Relational Systems, delved into the essence of school culture and the transformative power of restorative practices. With more than two decades of experience in shaping organizations both nationally and internationally, Finnis provided attendees with profound insights, grounded in his rich journey from the Sefton Centre for Restorative Practices to guiding Leeds City Council Children’s Services in envisioning a child-friendly city.

The central theme of the presentation revolved around the question: Is a school’s culture by design or by default? Finnis eloquently defined culture as the intricate weave of values, attitudes, and behaviors that cohesively bind a community. In the context of schools, it manifests as ‘The way we do things around here,’ a sentiment resonated by everyone within the educational institution.

The challenge, as presented by Finnis, was not just about recognizing the existing culture but actively shaping it. But where does one begin this mammoth task? Mark’s answer was both simple and profound: Start with the classroom you’re in now. This personalized approach resonated, emphasizing that transformative change is both individual and collective.

One of the striking elements of the presentation was the emphasis on introspection. Before looking at student behaviors, Finnis urged educators to reflect upon their own. After all, if educators aren’t mirroring the values and practices they preach, they’re inadvertently transmitting a different message. In the realm of restorative practices, modeling isn’t just essential; it’s inevitable. As Finnis put it succinctly, “Modelling is like breathing. You can’t not do it.”

The session then pivoted to a more interactive approach, prompting attendees to evaluate their schools. To what degree do current institutions embrace a relational environment? How vast is the gap between the present culture and the aspirational one? And most importantly, what actionable steps can educators take to bridge this chasm?

Mark Finnis’s expertise was evident throughout the presentation, drawing from his vast experiences. As an original member of the groundbreaking Sefton Centre for Restorative Practices and then as the Director of Training and Consultancy at the Hull Centre for Restorative Practice, Finnis has been at the forefront of embedding restorative practices within communities. His contribution to national policy, best practice guidance, and upcoming book, “Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice,” added layers of depth to the discussion.

In conclusion, the session was not just an academic discourse but a clarion call for educators worldwide. Mark Finnis’s message was clear: To reshape school culture, one must first recognize, reflect, and then redesign. With restorative practices as the guiding compass, schools can transform into cohesive, supportive, and thriving communities where every member, be it a student or educator, feels valued, understood, and integral to the institution’s fabric.