City's drive to resolve disputes attracts interest across world

HULL'S scheme to bring victims and perpetrators together as a way of settling disputes will be recognised this week when it hosts an international conference on restorative practice.

The International Institute of Restorative Practice will stage its 13th world conference at venues across the city from tomorrow until Friday, with delegates travelling from as far as Australia, America, South Africa and Peru.

Hull was one of the first cities in the UK to embrace the concept, which is now used as a means of tackling conflict in schools, children's homes, foster care settings and other areas.

The Hull Centre for Restorative Practice was set up in the Riverside area in 2006 and now works across the UK and Europe.

Since 2007, more than 3,500 people in Hull have been trained in restorative practice, including staff in children's homes, community wardens, social services staff, foster carers, police officers and teachers.

Hull Council said the approach had paid dividends at two schools that have played key roles in its development, Collingwood Primary and Endeavour High.

At Endeavour, it has helped reduce verbal abuse by 70 per cent, physical abuse by 62 per cent and disruptive behaviour by 73 per cent.

Delegates at the conference will have the chance to visit both schools and other centres where restorative practice is being used.

Paul Nixon, strategic lead for restorative practices at the council, said: "Restorative practice has had a real impact on the lives of children and young people across the city.

"It is being used across schools, children's homes, foster care settings and in family group conferencing to resolve disputes and find longer term solutions to a range of different problems that people face in every day life.

"RP is all about taking responsibility for your actions and being part of trying to find a solution.

"Because of this it is more likely to achieve positive longer-term reductions in re-offending behaviour, as it addresses the underlying causes."

To accompany the conference, pupils from Endeavour are staging a film and photographic exhibition of their work on restorative practice, both in and outside the school.

The exhibition highlights the work being done with Hull's museum education service and residents in an attempt to steer people away from anti-social behaviour and offending.

During the course of the project pupils, parents and staff have also worked with Humberside Police, Hull Magistrates' Court, Hull Youth Justice Service and HMP Hull.

Activities included examining the 19th century justice system through the re-enactment of a Victorian court case, visiting local shops and talking to residents with community support officers to learn more about crime and anti-social behaviour.

Coun Christine Randall, portfolio holder for education and children's services, said: "The restorative practice work at Endeavour has attracted attention from all over the world after seeing positive results in the school.

"The idea behind the practice is to allow children to understand the consequences of their behaviour and make amends themselves.

"Pupils then took it a step further by creating their own campaign and exhibition with local artists and partners. which will also have a global audience as it will run during the conference."

The exhibition, Through a Restorative Lens, will be on show at The Ferens Art Gallery until October 29.