Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice

Building relationships, improving behaviour and creating stronger communities

By: Mark Finnis


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Size: 198 x 126mm
Pages : 176
ISBN : 9781781353387
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2021

In Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice: Building relationships, improving behaviour and creating stronger communities, Mark Finnis shares a practical and inspiring introduction to the use of restorative practice in educational settings.

For those educators who are uncomfortable with the punitive world of zero tolerance, isolation booths and school exclusions, Mark Finnis – one of the UK's leading restorative practice experts – is here to show you that there is another way.

Drawing on his many years' experience working with schools, social services and local governments across the country, Mark shares all you need to know about what restorative practice is, how it works, where to start and the many benefits of embedding a relational approach into any educational organisation that genuinely has people at its heart.

Covering coaching circles and the power of doing things with (and not to) children and young people, to moving your values off lanyards and posters and into the lived experience of every member of the school community, this book sets out how restorative practice – when done well – can transform every aspect of school life.

The book shares advice on how to put behaviour right when it goes wrong in a more positive, less punitive way, and, more importantly, on how to get it right and keep it right in the first place. Furthermore, it advocates an approach that is collaborative, empowering and positive – and ultimately geared to improve motivation, engagement and independent learning in even the hardest-to-reach young people.

Suitable for school leaders, educators and anyone working with young people.

Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice is one of a number of books in the Independent Thinking On ... series from the award-winning Independent Thinking Press.

Picture for author Mark Finnis

Mark Finnis

Mark Finnis is an Independent Thinking Associate and one of the UK's leading exponents of restorative practice. With many years' experience working with schools, local government agencies and social services, he is in great demand as a speaker and trainer ' helping organisations adopt restorative practices in a way that is practical and achievable and that never loses sight of the children and young people they are all aiming to serve.


  1. In this enlightening, challenging and timely book, Mark Finnis sets out his vision and practical experience of cultivating a relationships-based school. Mark highlights the need for staff to build trust by building relationships, with the focus on creating and strengthening the ties of human connection to promote engagement, productivity and happiness. 

    His emphasis is on developing effective restorative practice as the key factor in strengthening relationships, alongside strategies of consistent behaviour management as the central approach to repairing harm when those relationships break down. Readers at all levels of experience in utilising restorative practice will gain greatly from the author's ideas and expertise on the subject. Mark discusses key issues such as developing a restorative mindset, modelling, creating a sense of belonging, knowing your children well, and also covers other issues which can, on occasions, blur the vision of staff - which can then result in a
    negative impact upon practice. Undoubtedly, Mark's ideas on restorative conversations and language will take some practitioners into new territory, with a clear emphasis on building bridges rather than brick walls. In this respect, Mark's case study of Carr Manor Community school serves as evidence that his vision of a relational school can work in practice.

    Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice is essential reading for all staff, particularly those senior leaders eager to create a stronger school community with an emphasis on improving learners' behaviour and engagement.

  2. In reading Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice I was struck by the book's simplicity of structure and messaging in its conveyance of complex ideas. By that I mean that, too often, books on restorative practice lose the practitioner in an academic rhetoric that leaves them unable to see how the ideas can be translated into practice in their context. This book, however, contains simple explanations and advice for those starting out on a restorative journey; and for those who have more experience it offers a chance to reflect on your own practice. It helps make the ideas easier to access and, as a result, easier to implement. Mark's empathy with, and understanding of, the education system means this book is grounded in the real-life experiences in classrooms, corridors, playgrounds and the family home. The book is also appropriately challenging. It challenges the idea of one-size-fits-all behaviour approaches; and it challenges us to reflect honestly on our own behaviours and language when we are working in schools. His proposition of "If your office was a coffee shop, would you be a regular?" is a perfect example of Mark's ability to use a simple image to open up a complex debate about relationships and their roles in the school's learning culture. Just as importantly he then uses clear examples from his own restorative story to offer approaches to implementing and embedding restorative practice. I highly recommend this book to all adults who touch the lives of young people and families.

  3. A must read for anyone interested in leading change and hoping to achieve a paradigm shift, to continuously improve outcomes for all in today's society. The author captures the essence of leading in an increasingly complex world, which requires an unswerving commitment to working in collaboration with others, to codesign solutions to seemingly intractable social challenges. The answers often lie within those we serve and in this publication, we learn how through collective visioning, relationship based practice and embedding positive cultural change, agents can consistently deliver outstanding results
  4. The principles and priorities set out in Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice have absolute resonance in the delivery of any people services anywhere in the world - and, what is more, are needed now more than ever, given the impact that the global pandemic has had on the very fabric of our society: our relationships. 

    Mark's book carefully sets out the need for us to understand each other through connection in order to strengthen the very relationships that keep us safe and enable us to do our best work. One strong point that I will be talking about with my Cafcass colleagues and within the wider family justice system - including policy makers - is what kind of processes and arrangements we would design if we were focused on strengthening human relationships, repairing damage and removing adversity. For many children and families, this sort of approach would transform their lives and futures. 

    In restorative practice, and the thinking associated with it, I always find a new energy in the acknowledgement that people and communities are experts in finding their own solutions. It is such a respectful
    approach to working with families especially, and if led with authenticity it really gives children and adults a chance to reach for the futures they want - rather than the one we think they deserve. 

    This quote - 'without relatedness, no work can occur' - is at the centre of Mark's writing. Let's now get on and try it. I think good things will happen!

  5. Mark trained me in restorative practices a decade ago, and he's worked with my teams on and off ever since. It's great to see the man in action on the page at last. His book contains all the important basics of restorative practices, along with the clear message that working this way is simple (although never easy).

    It's hard to comprehend the amazing achievements of a school like Carr Manor without going to see it for yourself (I paid a visit back in 2013), but this book does its best to convey the brilliant possibilities through real-world examples. I hope it will be an inspiration to many schools and school leaders.
  6. For those of us who have had the privilege of and benefit from working with Mark Finnis and L30 Relational Systems exploring the principles and premise of restorative and relational practice - i.e. working with people rather than to or for them - then this is the most long-awaited book that we didn't know we were waiting for! To be honest it is also a book that I was unsure could be written - or at least certainly not with the personal magic, energy or engagement of Mark's 'live performance'. I therefore opened this book with some trepidation as to whether that personal presence could translate onto the written page. It can and it does. Like the best and most authentic writing, the author's voice and indeed lived experience is heard throughout. The author is clearly passionate about his subject matter and, more importantly, about the role that schools can play in nurturing and developing children they have the privilege of teaching and caring for, 190 days of the year. The book champions, unashamedly, the power and transformative effect of relationships. Mark, a lad from Bootle, Merseyside, and I, a lad from Linwood, Glasgow, share an absolute belief in the effect of restorative practice and the relationships it builds to transform the lives of children and young peoples and the unique privilege that schools have in their role to help achieve this. This approach champions the 'square pegs' and maintains that adults and 'round hole' environments can change.

    In 'First Thoughts', Mark lists what this book is about: compassion, behaviour, change, children and young people, leadership, communities and collaboration. However, in my view he has missed something... This book is also about belief!

  7. Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice is an enjoyable, thought-provoking and, in some parts, laugh-out-loud easy read - and teachers and leaders at every stage of their careers need to read it. It explains restorative and relational practices with clarity, authenticity and warmth.

    Mark's vast experience and deep understanding of relationships and how they impact on children and adults has enabled him to make something that is easily misunderstood or misapplied refreshingly simplistic. The application of the principles Mark outlines will create a hugely positive impact on the lives of children in every classroom and school.

    Leading and teaching with love isn't a big thing; it's lots of little things. And Mark captures this perfectly. 

  8. Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice is a book about hope.

    For anyone working with children and young people, and who believe in the power of relationships, this is the book you have to read. Creating simplicity out of complexity, Mark beautifully captures the many different 1% changes that we can make on our ongoing journey to restorative practice. You will finish this book with the tools to proactively empower your 'crew' in school to know themselves, know one another, reflect on their actions, repair relationships responsibly and be better humans. This is a book about behaviour, belonging, connection, inclusion, listening and love.

    I was hooked from the first thoughts to the final thoughts, and I will carry this book with me to remind me that there is always another way: a relational way.

  9. Restorative practice is not simply a way of doing; it's a way of being, and it takes practice! In Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice Mark sets out key principles and their application, as well as the opportunities and challenges around their use, in this accessible, easy-to-read book. Furthermore, this book is not just for teachers - because restorative practice is not just for schools. It works for children, young people and families in a wide variety of contexts and settings, with young and old, with peers and colleagues, and in our work as leaders and managers. 

    In short, anyone interested in the power of human relationships to enable change to happen will find material in this book to help them.

  10. I adore the fact that one of the first things Mark addresses in this book is the 'L word' - love - and that in our school communities we need to 'spread it thick, like my mum spreads butter'.

    He uses strong evidence to show that when schools use restorative practice effectively, both attendance and attainment improve. This is no woolly idea, and he provides a cohesive strategy for changing schools towards becoming relational. A happy, well respected child is a child who can learn and engage.

    In these times of isolating pupils, he shows us that the way to reduce negative behaviours and communication is inclusion over exclusion and problem-solving over punishment. However, he doesn't share a one-size-fits-all mentality here; instead he offers a plethora of fantastic ideas to build this change.

    His writing is quite simply a groundbreaking dive into the importance of social capital, relationships, humanity and compassion - in fact all the things that we know bring out the best in a whole community.

    Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice is a compelling and articulate read, and by the end you are brimming with ideas and love.

  11. For far too long the education world has needed a thorough, authentic and expert guide to restorative practice, written by someone who really knows their stuff - and here it is!

    In Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice Mark Finnis harnesses his years of experience to bring us the perfect balance of theory and practical advice. He is a true champion of relational practice and shows us how values and cultural development can lead to strong relationships and therefore positive behaviour, of both adults and children.

    If you truly want to embrace relationships as the heartbeat of your school culture, then this book will show you how. This really is a book to change hearts and minds.

  12. In this book Mark Finnis guides the reader through restorative practice with clarity, insight, real-life examples and clear direction. It is full of practical ideas and advice on how to build relationships and create a restorative ethos at whole-school and classroom level.

    Mark's words inspire courage and a belief that small changes will have a huge impact. Restorative approaches are not just for resolving conflict, and this book suggests many ways in which it can be built into day-to-day interactions throughout a school. Restorative practice is not a 'soft' or easy option, and the structures suggested in this book guide the reader through its many functions and possibilities.

    Mark describes the challenges and successes of restorative practice with honesty and gentle humour, sharing his rich experiences in these approaches. The value of strong relationships underpins every chapter, empowering educators to build trust and reciprocity across their school community. 

    For any teacher or school leader, this is the handbook you are looking for on restorative practice.

  13. This must-read book is the perfect balance of the principles and theory underpinning restorative practice and relational leadership - and it is peppered beautifully with practical examples of how to make it happen. Mark's warmth, humour and non-judgemental manner is palpable throughout, and his writing serves up a -˜chicken soup for the soul'.

    We will definitely be buying Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice for all our MAT's leaders.
  14. Mark's common sense is remarkably uncommon. Detailing the -˜why?', sharing the -˜how?' and evidencing the impact, in Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice he takes you through working restoratively in a way that leaves you wondering why you didn't do it sooner and why you didn't read the book quicker! Mark's personal style of high challenge and high support echoes in dulcet Liverpudlian tones from every page of the book, provoking you to consider your leadership style, your values and what you really want to achieve.
  15. Part personal, part theory, part practical application, Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice is an eminently readable and always inspiring reminder of the power of working -˜with'. Writing with passion, humour and enthusiasm, Mark has successfully managed to capture the essence of restorative practice he so expertly and inspiringly talks about at his training events. While the content is primarily focused through an education/school lens, the theory and practice described in the book is equally applicable across all disciplines.

    If you are new to restorative practice, this book is a great place to start as a welcome and timely introduction to restorative practice from one of the UK's leading trainers. If you are someone who is more familiar with the subject, this is a really helpful -˜go to' reminder that you can dip in and out of for inspiration.
  16. Independent Thinking on Restorative Practice is a tour de force in restorative working. Practical, authentic and intelligent, this book is crucial for anyone serious about a relational approach to teaching.

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