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This newsletter was edited by Kate Betney and designed by MALTS.

Anti-Bullying Network, Moray House School of Education, The University of Edinburgh, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ. Telephone 0131 651 6103, Fax 0131 651 6088. Email:


Free Resources

Free resources

Just phone Elise on 0131 651 6103 to request free single or multiple copies of:
'Ethos is Here to Stay' - a handbook of printed and electronic resources.
Back numbers of SSEN (Scottish Schools Ethos Network) and ABN Newsletters
SSEN/ABN 'Democracy in Schools' publication
ABN/CERES 'Welcoming Newcomers - Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Scottish Schools'
SSEN Case Studies 36-43 (go here to view these). Includes Case Study 43 about the development of 'restorative practices'. Case Studies 40-43 include reflective learning supplements.
Anti-Bullying Posters for primary schools.


In Scotland, the term 'Restorative Practices' is used in education to mean 'restoring good relationships when there has been conflict or harm; and developing school ethos, policies and procedures that reduce the possibilities of such conflict and harm' - see this website.

The 'Restorative Justice in Scotland' website has information about the wider application of Restorative Justice principles and methods, including in Youth Justice and Children's Hearings contexts.


Shawlands Academy
Developing a school ethos that reduces the possibilities of conflict is vital - students from Shawlands Academy, Glasgow.

Restorative Approaches to Bullying Behaviour

There is an unfortunate polarisation of views about what to do in cases of bullying in schools. Many people believe that the situation needs to be tackled by punishing those who have been bullying. Belinda Hopkins believes that punitive responses can be either ineffective or downright dangerous, breeding resentment and making matters worse.

Why not punish?

Punishment makes a person resentful, not reflective, and so people who bully are not made accountable, in the true sense of the word - they do not have to face up to the reality of just how many people have been affected, directly and indirectly, by their unacceptable behaviour. They are not given the chance to hear, first hand, about the pain, hurt, distress and anger they have caused.

Teachers wonder why victimised young people are frightened to report bullying - it is because the perpetrators and their friends make life very unpleasant for these 'tell-tales' - either immediately or later. Punishment does nothing to restore any of these relationships, and indeed makes them worse, so no wonder there is retaliation.

Punitive responses do not help to answer any questions. All those affected, including the families of all involved, want to know - 'Why me?' or 'Why my child?' ' Will it stop?' 'What can we do to help?' And possibly even - 'Where did I go wrong?'

We have a duty of care towards all young people - to understand what is behind the bullying and to help young people who bully to learn more pro-social behaviours.

Punishment repeats the cycle of power and domination that breeds a bullying mentality. 'You made that person suffer so now we will make you suffer. It's OK for us to do it to you, but it's not OK for you to do it to someone else.' It does not offer an alternative way of doing things which can educate young people in a more effective parenting style in the future.

The restorative alternative

There is widespread evidence, including a Home Office sponsored evaluation, that a restorative approach can address all of the issues raised above. The Home Office National Practice Guidelines for Restorative Justice ensure that a full risk assessment is made, with careful preparation, so that those victimised and their family, the wrongdoer and their family, and school representation, are only brought together if it is safe and everyone is willing.

What actually happens?

An experienced facilitator will take time to meet with everyone affected, individually, and ask each person a similar set of questions - what has been happening? What have been their thoughts and feelings at various stages of the situation? Who has been affected by the bullying, what do they need to move on from this and, to those for whom the question is appropriate, what could they do to put matters right?

These questions give those who are accused of bullying a chance to put their side across. Some people feel coerced to be involved in order to avoid being targeted themselves. Some assert that the so-called 'victim' in fact contributed to the situation in the first place. Even in cases where full culpability is acknowledged this type of conversation allows the wrongdoer to start to reflect on what they have done in a non-judgemental atmosphere, and they are more likely to open up in such an environment and less likely to display one of the common 'shame avoidance' behaviours - denial, self-harm or attack and blame others. They are also more likely to agree to take the next step - meeting those they have harmed - because although their behaviour has not been condoned they, as people, have been treated with respect.

Just SchoolsImportantly this one-to-one preparation provides a unique opportunity for members of the family to be heard and to express their distress, their fear, their anger and helplessness. It also allows members of the school community to share their own feelings and needs in the situation.

Following full preparation with individuals, during which time the facilitator gauges the willingness of all to take the next step, a meeting is convened and all affected come together, sitting in a circle, according to a carefully thought-out seating plan to maximise safety and confidence in the process. The facilitator follows a structured format that initially involves giving everyone present a chance yet again, to talk about the same issues raised in their private meetings. This process is a very difficult one for wrongdoers to sit through, and also useful where responsibility has been disputed as issues get clarified.

The facilitator then gives everyone the opportunity to discuss ways forward and ensures that those who have caused harm are encouraged to come up with proposals themselves to put matters right - an important step that helps people move on from shame and remorse to a place of new beginnings. The meeting usually ends with a contract being agreed and signed by everyone, a date for review agreed, and everyone being invited to share refreshments.

At no stage has the facilitator taken sides, expressed disapproval, given advice or even offered sympathy. They remain impartial but empathetic, assertive yet respectful.

A restorative response is a 'full accountability - damage repair' response - which punishment can never be. We must develop strategies for preventing bullying in the first place and respond promptly and consistently if it happens, but we must remember that punishment can be dangerous and ineffective, and could well be reinforcing the very values and behaviours we seek to discourage and denounce.

Belinda Hopkins
March 2006

Belinda Hopkins is Director of Transforming Conflict, National Centre for Restorative Justice in Education and author of 'Just Schools, A Whole School Approach to Restorative Justice', Jessica Kingsley. UK, 2004.

Belinda Hopkins