Overcoming barriers to learning in Alternative Provision through relational and restorative practice

This project seeks to introduce restorative approaches into a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) over a 12 month period. Staff and pupils will receive training and mentoring from Transforming Conflict, one of the UK’s leading providers in the field of trauma-informed restorative approaches in schools, residential care and other youth settings. We will carry out an evaluation to assess the impact that this training and mentoring has on the PRU overall – staff, students and the wider school community. 


  • To undertake research into the current state of restorative approaches in PRUs and Alternative Provision (AP).
  • To disseminate the findings of this research through local and national events.
  • To further discussions around the use of restorative approaches in PRUs and Alternative Provision.
  • To introduce restorative approaches into a PRU through high-quality training and mentoring.
  • To empower staff at all levels in their use of restorative approaches.
  • To help create a trauma-informed, restorative culture in school where children feel safer, more resilient and more engaged in their education.

What are we doing?

In phase one of this project, we will commission a research study which explores how restorative approaches are currently being used in PRUs to prevent and address violence. The research will focus on the perspective of senior leaders and other stakeholders who work in or with PRUs and APs. Data will be collected via a questionnaire (shared with over 250 AP settings), semi-structured interviews and a focus group. Data will be analysed using Reflective Thematic Analysis and key themes will be identified. The chosen methodological approach is one that chimes well with the values and principles of restorative practice.

The findings of this study will inform the work to be undertaken in schools in phase two, and will be publicised through a range of events, both local and national, to further the discussions around the use of restorative approaches in PRUs and Alternative Provision. To ensure you hear about these events, sign up to our mailing list.

We will undertake baseline, midpoint and end-point evaluations of our training and mentoring in the school to assess:

  • the staff’s developing knowledge and competence in the use of trauma-informed, restorative approaches
  • the pupils’ improving participation in school
  • an increase in pupils’ sense of safety and mental wellbeing 

Why are we doing it?

In September 2023, NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, published the findings of an online survey that had been completed by over 6,000 union members. 37% of respondents reported experiencing physical abuse or violence from pupils in the previous twelve months. Less than 5% of those affected rated their school’s policy or approach in dealing with violence as ‘excellent.’ 

Two months later, the Youth Endowment Fund published its findings from a survey of over 7,000 children between the ages of 13 and 17. They found that a large minority were involved in violence over the previous 12 months. 1 in 6 had been victims and a similar proportion had committed violence themselves. Whilst the majority of those surveyed said that they felt safe at school, 20% admitted to skipping lessons over concerns for their personal safety. Children from marginalised groups were overrepresented in those reporting both having perpetrated and having suffered violence. 

For many years, Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provision settings have been exploring innovative ways to prevent and address violence in the lives of the highly vulnerable children in their care. As part of the London Back on Track project (2009-2011), staff and pupils in a selection of PRUs across London were introduced to restorative approaches in a developmental, whole-school manner. At the end of the project, all staff reported a positive impact on student behaviour, staff response to behaviour and the general atmosphere in their setting. Other benefits reported were improved communication between staff and between staff and parents.


For more information or to discuss the project, please contact info@why-me.org. To stay up to date with the latest updates, sign up to our newsletter

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