Engagement is Key and other thoughts from the UCLAN conference

Earlier this month I was privileged to deliver a workshop and sit on a Q and A panel at UCLANS inaugural RJ conference.

It was well attended by a diverse group of professionals who work with children and adults along with the academics who try to make sense of Restorative approaches.

There was plenty of food for thought for the academics to get stuck into.

Could RJ be used as an online app to resolve issues?  From Cyber bullying to Cyber Resolution.  ‘Never say never’, is my motto (actually its one of my many mottos) However, RJ, at the conference stage is a very powerful, emotional, human interaction. It could be argued that Cyber Resolution (you heard it here first) could be used in very low-key incidents. Nevertheless, the act of resolution involves empathy, decision making and a great deal of preparation. Moreover it requires both parties to pluck up the courage to face their fears. A click of a button requires no more than well………… a click of a button.

Also on the panel were Geraldine Martin from Cumbria and Lancashire Probation and Melissa MacFarlane, who met her brothers killer through an RJ conference.  They have produced a short film which focuses on Melissa’s journey through the restorative process.  For anybody that thinks RJ is a soft option this film will convince you otherwise.  Geraldine and Melissa facilitated a workshop and screened the film. It certainly created a buzz. Here is a link to the Cumbria and Lancashire website where you can view the film. What a powerful story: www.clcrc.com

Our workshop focused on engagement and creativity. The three key points that emerged from the session were: Interaction, humour and engagement.  I worked with Resource Creatives, a company which uses the arts as an engagement tool. They were commissioned by Lancashire Constabulary to go into primary schools to talk about the dangers of joining gangs. We worked with over one thousand yr 5 and 6 pupils over full morning or afternoon sessions.  To get the message accross, requires a great deal of skill and knowledge of the subject.  However, keeping the audience engaged is just as important. We use storytelling and the odd magic trick.  Our sessions use restorative approaches as a preventative measure. Here are some of the comments from head teachers:

“Very well delivered. Length and timing just right for most of the children” Mr Entwistle Head of St Augustins Primary

“The children were immediately engaged by the enthusiasm of the people leading it” Mr Mitchell Head of Penwortham Priory

“Fantastic workshop. Thank you” Head of Yr 6 Kennington School

“Fun, entertaining. Well cool” Children from Lea Primary School

“Helped self-esteem. Made pupils think more about what they are good at and how they can be even better” Mrs Dornan Head of Ingol CP School

If you would like training on engagement techniques, Arts based RJ sessions or the Writing Wrongs Programme please get in touch.

Does every prisoner deserve to be in Prison?

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a very eventful time for Writing Wrongs. We recently trained Newport Youth Offending Team and we are currently working on implementing the use of Writing Wrongs across the Fylde area of Lancashire. All our evaluations show that our Programme is an invaluable tool for engaging young people in Restorative Approaches. We firmly believe that engagement in the process is key to preventing young people entering or re-entering the criminal justice system.

Talking about the criminal justice system, last week I spent the night in Lancaster Prison’s ‘A Wing’.  The cramped cells were set back on narrow oblong landings. Huge white netting like giant cobwebs stretch across each level to prevent anybody falling onto the cold concrete  ground floor.

This is an unforgiving environment.  However, fortunately, Lancaster Prisons ‘A Wing’ is now an entertainment venue and I was there to watch a Johnny Cash tribute act.  A lively band and a rowdy crowd ensured a great night.

Nevertheless my night in ‘A Wing’ got me thinking.
Is the cost to society worth it?  It could be argued that a person who commits an offence is aware of the consequences. As the old saying goes.  “ Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time’.

Yet the ‘consequences’ are far reaching than a spell inside prison. Does a person who commits an offence truly appreciate the wider implications of their actions? Do they realise that it will affect their life choices? their family?  friendships? and employability? Do they understand the damage done to their victims?, both direct and indirect?

Surely it’s time that all schools and Young peoples services adopted a restorative approach.

Research suggests that Writing Wrongs can prevent internal school exclusions. The Youth Courts in Lancashire are now using Writing Wrongs as a requirement on the Youth Rehabilitation Order.

As Johnny Cash sang of his experiences of San Quentin Prison:

‘ What good do you think you do? Do you think I’ll be different when you’re through?’

I wonder just how many prison cells would remain redundant if restorative approaches were firmly embedded within today’s society. Wouldn’t it be great if other prisons opened their doors as entertainment venues or arts and education establishments.

Over to you Johnny:

‘May all the world forget you ever stood. And may all the world regret you did no good’.

 SPECIAL OFFER: We can’t make it to the Youth Justice Board Conference this week due to our training commitments. If you attend the conference we will give your organisation 12 FREE Programmes  when booking a days training. 

Past Evaluations of Writing Wrongs

Article in The Teacher


Our school came into existence five years ago with the amalgamation of two single-sex schools. We were all crammed into one dilapidated building

while a new school was built. We have 960 students and aim to reach 1,050.  Last year on an Inset day we learnt about how teachers can use restorative

justice to help students understand the impact their actions have on others.  I felt it was something we could get involved in and two of our staff attended

restorative practice training.  At the same time the Writing Wrongs team, who had devised a multimedia resource pack to help teachers, contacted the school.

Writing Wrongs is aimed at students and how they can approach difficult situations or conflict in a restorative manner. We were attracted by the philosophy

of the scheme and agreed to try the programme with our year 9 students.  There was a group whose behaviour in year 8 had been quite challenging, so it

was an ideal starting point.  We used the tools in PSHE/citizenship classes once a week for six weeks.  The Writing Wrongs pack includes interactive activities

and case studies.  The programme generated a lot  of discussion among the pupils.  They took a hand-on and practical  approach to help students identify the

consequences of their actions.  Students were happy to talk about  issues, consequences and the impact of their actions – for example, a disagreement between

students, or at home. In one case where a student had had an argument with a teacher, the student came up with a solution. In another, two students who had

fallen out were able to understand the impact their behaviour had had on other pupils and resolved their conflict for the good of the class. Everyone was positive

about the experience and we are now running the programme with year 8, with similar outcomes. The best news for us is that internal exclusions have reduced

by 50 per cent in a year and we have one of the highest pupil attendance records in Lancashire. Our recent Ofsted inspection gave our care, guidance and support

an outstanding report. I am a firm believer in the restorative approach. It is extremely powerful and teaches pupils to take responsibility for their actions and how

they can put right a wrong.


Helen Campbell is Assistant Head at Sir John Thursby Community College, Burnley

Restoring life chances


In the last blog I was full of enthusiasm for England’s chances in the World Cup. As we all know they made a pretty swift exit. Despite all the negative press they received, at least they tried. Both of their defeats were marginal and in the end only one team will win.

As the great Charlie Chaplin once said:

‘Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself’.

The England team might feel a tad embarrassed. However, they can now go on holiday and return to their clubs and carry on with their careers.

Not all children are going to be top of the class. Not all children will be fortunate enough to be born into a family that values education. Moreover, not all children will be fortunate enough to have a family or a stable environment.

Over the years I have worked with many Children who are Looked After (CLA) Often they were moved out of area. Sometimes they had complex needs and unenviable backgrounds. Nevertheless, like all young people they want attention.  They need positive role models, they also need and deserve a good education.

The fact is, many of our CLA are not all given these very basic requirements.

Even more worrying is that they can quite easily become criminalised whilst in the CLA System.

If a young person who lives at home, challenges the authority of their parents through breaking property in the home (criminal damage) or physically pushing a parent (assault) then it is often dealt with in house.

Sadly when this happens in a CLA home it is often dealt with through the Criminal Justice System. This can result in a criminal record, which can have far reaching effects on life chances. For instance, a 12 year old girl who physically assaults a care worker will have to declare this in later life when applying for a job.  Therefore many adults who were once CLA are prevented from working in that field.

Surely it is time to review the way that young people are criminalised. We all make mistakes, especially when we are young.

The England team can now move on.  They still have their jobs and there will be another World Cup.

Lets use Restorative Approaches so that our young people get the chance to move on.

I’ll be in London next month working with a group of CLA. The venue is where a young Charlie Chaplin was brought up in a workhouse.  I love my job.

The World Cup of Restorative Practice

Hi Everybody,

As the World Cup rears its beautiful head, (or not so beautiful head for some of you).  There is much excitement and expectation in the air for England to perform well in Brazil.

Whatever your views are on football there is no getting away from the fact that it is a universally recognised sport, an international language for both males and females. Recent research shows that football is the most popular sport for girls in the UK.

There are few people in the world who have not heard of Pele, Finney, Beckham, Rooney, Ronaldo or Messi.

Moreover, as I often explain when I deliver training for Writing Wrongs, Football along with other team sports is a restorative process.

How can football, hockey, netball etc be described as a restorative process? I hear you ask.  Bear with me and I’ll explain.

Football is 90 mins of conflict.  Before the match both teams come out and warm up on their own side of the pitch. At the start of the match the arbitrator ie the referee brings the two sides together and the match begins until the referee blows the final whistle there is an outcome. Win, lose or draw, both sides shake hands and move on.

Using this analogy is a great way of explaining the restorative process to young people.  Anybody who currently uses Writing Wrongs will be aware that we use a sports theme.  However, many YOT’s are adapting it as an arts based Programme.

I recently worked on a UNITAS Arts College.  I was lead practitioner and we used Writing Wrongs as a framework for behaviour management. All the young people who attended were open to the YOT. We didn’t want to just promote the arts we also wanted to educate the young people and show thaem that any negative behaviour or outlooks can have a detrimental effect on their life chances and on those around them.

All the young people on the Arts College learned photography, screen-printing, poetry and radio broadcasting.  More importantly, throughout the College they completed sessions of Writing Wrongs which enabled them to take a much more positive approach towards their day.  We started and ended each day with circle time which I believe is one of the best ways in which to evaluate a session. I’m happy to report that all the young people who attended the course achieved an award.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, some time ago I wrote a poetry writing resource and a rhyming dictionary for the National Football Museum.  Here it is.  Please have fun with it.  Please get in touch if you would like me to give a presentation on Writing Wrongs or contact me to purchase a pack and training.  By the time I write my next blog I hope that I will be strutting around with chest puffed out and head held high after watching England lift the World Cup. Now that would be a great outcome.

Andy Winters

To download the free resource, please click the link below. Poetry Resource



What’s new ………


Again, its been a while since our last blog.  Things have been busy.  It’s great news to hear that Youth Offending Services have been awarded funds to enable them to further imbed RJ practice.

As many of you know our Director and the creator of Writing Wrongs, Andy Winters, has, for the last 10 years been a practitioner at Lancashire Youth Offending Team. We would like to take this opportunity to announce that Andy has taken VR and is now going to concentrate full time on writing and training.

During his time at Lancashire Youth Offending Team, Andy was Education Representative and he also held a variety of cases. He co-wrote and designed ‘It’s Your Life’ a knife/weapons crime  programme  which took a restorative approach towards violent crime.  The DVD and resources are being used by most Youth Offending Services in England and Wales.  It is also a YRO requirement for Lancashire Magistrates.

Whilst working at Lancashire YOT, Andy won numerous awards for innovation, best practice and training from Lancashire County Council and he was also invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a Butler Trust Commendation for his work in engaging young people.

Andy wrote Writing Wrongs for Youth Offending Teams/Probation using  his experience as a YOT practitioner.  The schools version was written by Andy using his experience as an RJ practitioner and teacher within  mainstream teaching and the Pupil Referral Service.

Writing Wrongs is a leading resource for Youth Offending services, Probation and Schools.  Where possible, Andy will deliver training at your venue. Please get in touch.

Oh yes, on our last blog we mentioned our Koestler Trust entry which used Writing Wrongs a a framework.  The entry won the U18’s prize and will be exhibited at the Koestler Snail Porridge Exhibition at Castlefield Galley Manchester


The Writing Wrongs Team

RJ conferencing in practice

This week I was privileged to meet Pat and Dave Rogers.  Pat and Dave’s 24 year old son, Adam, lost his life in 2009 as the result of a single punch to the head. I arranged for Pat and Dave to visit Larches House School in Preston to talk about the events of that fateful evening and the consequences.

Pat and Dave have produced a DVD which tells the story of their sons life and untimely death. They showed the film and then took questions from pupils and staff.

This, along with SAMM Merseyside is the most powerful session I have ever sat in.  Pat and Dave are committed to spreading the message to young people that alcohol and violence can change peoples lives for ever.

Dave met up with the boy who struck the fatal blow. He talked candidly of his feelings and how RJ has helped both parties to come to terms with what happened.


Please visit Pat and Dave’s website.  This DVD should be seen by every teenager in the UK.  http://www.eahconsequences.com/

Restorative Justice and the Arts

Hello Everyone

Long time no blog, however that is not to say that it has not been a very busy and productive time.

Summer Arts College – We are excited to be able to tell you that Writing Wrongs has been successfully used as part of a Summer Arts College that supported nine young people through the Bronze Arts Award.  Resource Creatives used the Writing Wrongs programme with the Arts College for young people in Lancashire.  Writing Wrongs provided the framework for the restorative process that was embraced  by both staff and young people, the impact of which was noted in quality reports and maintained attendance on programme.

Here is a sample of some of the great work produced by the young people.

Koestler Trust – We are over the moon that an under 18 entrant to the Koester Trust Awards received the special under 18’s award in the craft category.  The theme was forgiveness, the young person had completed the Writing Wrongs Programme and created a fantastic piece of artwork (pictured) entitled ‘Mend my Heart’.

Here at Writing Wrongs we are working on the front line with practitioners and understand the cutbacks faced by many organisations.  Therefore, following consultation we are now able to offer cost effectiveness solutions to using the Programme.  Adil will be keeping everyone informed via social networking, phone and newsletters.

Notes from the Conference


What a great week.  I attended the IIRP Conference in Salford on Thursday. Writing Wrongs held a workshop which had a full house and included Dr Dennis Wong who had travelled all the way from China. He was one of a wide group of notable speakers who all come from different angles of Restorative Justice yet all share the same values.

Lesley and Les Davey along with John Boulton made the conference one of the best I have attended. Their passion and knowledge of RJ is truly inspirational and the IIRP are now spreading their wings across Europe.

Belinda Hopkins’ keynote speech bordered on performance art.  The whole conference were treated to a a very special talk by a woman who lives and breathes Restorative Approaches. By the way Belinda’s speech also involved, John Boulton,  Dr Dennis Wong  Pauline Copeland and myself doing a bit of a workout at the front of the stage.

Pauline Copeland of Salford YOT introduced the conference to Clare Topcu.  Clare was the victim of an extremely nasty aggravated burglary. Clare bravely told the story of her harrowing ordeal and how the restorative process helped her through.   LInk to her interview on Panorama http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9641000/9641966.stm

There was a brilliant performance from pupils at Buile Hill High School, Salford and it was great to catch up with lots of old friends such as Val, Graham and Hilary and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet new ones.

Other news is that two young people who I have been working with have received feedback on their Koestler Trust entries.  They have been given certificates on the under 18’s fast feedback programme and have received a Commended and a Highly Commended.  Fingers crossed that the judges like their work and they can progress further.

IIRP Conference Salford June 20th 2013

Hi, it’s been a long time since the blog has been updated. It actually seems like a lifetime ago but it’s only been a few months. A lot has been happening.

We are developing some exiting new resources which focus on engagement.  Can’t wait to showcase them later on this year.

We have secured a contract with Birmingham City Council to provide Writing Wrongs Programmes and training. Andy had a great time in Bromley, training staff on the WW Programme. The team there are really receptive to the restorative process. If you are ever visiting Bromley YOT just mention the wiggly worm…. they’ll know what you mean.

We’ve also been working with UNITAS to find out ways of using Writing Wrongs alongside the Summer Arts Colleges. As I mentioned in a previous blog I worked with Ealing YOT on a Summer Arts College and Lancashire YOT will be using it this Summer.

We have a stand and a workshop at the IIRP Conference in Salford on Thursday 20th June. If you are attending please come and say hello.

Looking forward to training the staff in Barry,South Wales next week.