Transforming School Culture: The Power of Relational and Restorative Practice

Belinda Hopkins, a renowned educator and founder of Transforming Conflict, delivered an inspiring presentation at the recent RJ World Online event. Her talk focused on the importance of relational and restorative practice in schools and how it can transform not only the way educators interact with one another but also the entire school community

In her presentation, Belinda shared her own journey as a teacher in the 1980s and 1990s, unknowingly incorporating relational and restorative values into her classroom practices. She emphasized that building a sense of community through regular circle activities helped teach pro-social skills to her students while immersing them in foreign languages such as French and Spanish.

It was during the mid-1990s that Belinda founded Transforming Conflict, paving the way for restorative approaches to be implemented across schools in the UK. Her groundbreaking book ‘Just Schools,’ published in 2004, became a beacon for educators worldwide seeking guidance on creating whole-school cultures based on restorative practices.

However, Belinda’s honesty shone through when she discussed early mistakes made during her attempts to implement these practices in English and Scottish schools. Her doctoral thesis serves as a testament to continuous growth and learning from these experiences.

Since 2019, Belinda has been actively forging partnerships across Europe, particularly Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries. This expansion allows her to share knowledge about restorative justice within diverse cultural contexts.

As deputy chair on Why Me?’s Board of Charity – an organization advocating for victims’ rights – member of UK’s Restorative Justice Council (RJC), European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ), she chairs EFRJ’s new Education Working Group. These roles highlight Belinda’s commitment to promoting restorative justice principles beyond just educational settings.

Belinda draws inspiration from Nonviolent Communication (NVC) principles throughout her work. In recent years, she has become a Master Practitioner in Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), further enhancing her ability to facilitate positive change.

Belinda now also serves as a life and business coach, leveraging her expertise to empower individuals beyond the education sector. Her holistic approach aims to support personal growth and professional development among leaders.

During her presentation, Belinda emphasized the significance of aligning relational and restorative practice with senior leadership team values and beliefs about their roles. By embracing these practices, leaders can foster stronger relationships within their teams while effectively addressing challenges that arise.

Furthermore, incorporating relational and restorative practices enhances leaders’ skills in engaging with families, carers, and wider staff members. These approaches promote open communication channels where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.

Once embedded in the leadership culture, relational and restorative practice naturally extends its reach throughout the entire school community. Leaders become advocates for these transformative methods by sharing their firsthand experiences with conviction.

By modeling best practices themselves before asking others to do so, they inspire teachers, support staff members, administrative teams – essentially all stakeholders involved in keeping the school functioning – to embrace this cultural shift willingly.

Belinda offers a systemic model that aligns core beliefs with models of practice and applications. This comprehensive framework enables schools to transform not only how leaders operate but also how staff members interact with one another ultimately benefiting students’ educational experience as well.

In conclusion, Belinda Hopkins’ presentation at RJ World Online was truly enlightening. Her insights into relational/restorative practices showcased how they can revolutionize school cultures when embraced wholeheartedly by educators at every level.