Mediation in education


VERSO-programme offers training in restorative approach, restorative practices and mediation to children and professionals working with children in early childhood education, schools and other learning institutions.

Restorative practices and mediation are used as an alternative and child friendly justice processes in many level of society. Mediation is understood as a fundamental right to every citizen in every age and state. The aim is teach children to understand their rights as well as learn social skills by mediation. Looking at Child Friendly Justice, one basic focus is to give children information and experience of restorative practices and mediation even in kindergartens and schools.

Every conflict can be seen as a learning situation, which works both reactively as well as proactively. Individuals are seen as experts of their own living circumstances and therefore the important focus is to empower them for their lives and future just there where they live. School mediation is seen as learning situation where children learn not only to manage conflicts but also to use their right of participating and being heard. Main purpose of mediation is that conflict parties can meet in safe situation, that they are heard and that they can influence to process and commit to the solutions. This is proactive work for children to be active citizens and aware of their rights. The understanding of the access of justice should have roots in the daily life of schools.

The Finnish Basic Education Act and Core Curriculum are giving strong support for increasing participation of children in their schools, as well as for children to have opportunities to practice mediation and negotiation skills.

In Spring 2023 in Northern Ireland in Belfast took place the conference EA INAUGURAL RESTORATIVE PRACTICE CONFERENCE: WIDENING THE CIRCLE; Exploring relational and restorative schools through a local, national and international lens. See the key note presentation by our programme director Dr. Maija Gellin Widening the RJ circle from the perspective of Finnish experiences.

In 2022 was published the book Restorative justice from a children’s rights perspective edited by Annemieke Wolthuis and Tim Chapman. See the article by Dr. Maija Gellin Strenghtening rights and participation of children – A Finnish perspective on a restorative approach to education.

See also the presentation by Gellin in international seminari (webinar) ”Restorative Justice in Education” organized by Scottish Network of Restorative Justice Researchers with the support of the Scottish Center for Crime and Justice Research and the University of Edinburgh (2020). The other key speakers were Dr. Dorothy Vaandering, Canada, Mr. Chris Straker, England and prof. Gillean McCluskey, Scotland. See Dr. Gellin’s presentation slides here.

The Annual Report 2019 of VERSO-programme in English includes highlights of the activity and also some three-years comparison data from years 2017-2019. Read more here.

DR. Maija Gellin’s PhD dissertation ”Restoratiivinen lähestymistapa ja sovittelu peruskoulukontekstissa Kohti eheyttävän kohtaamisen toimintakulttuuria.” (2019) (in English ”Restorative approach and mediation in context of basic education. Towards culture of restorative encounters” is available online at University of Lapland’s database (in Finnish). Read the abstract in English here.

Read more in the article Gellin M. 2018: Mediation in Finnish schools: From conflicts to restoration

Read more about VERSO programme in Finland.

European Model for Restorative Juvenile Justice with Children and Young People – report (2015) is opening restorative approach and practices with children and young people. The report was published as a conlcusion of a research project by Tim Chapman (Univ Ulster, Norhern Ireland), Monique Anderson (Univ Leuven, Belgium), Maija Gellin (Univ Lapland, Finland) and Ivo Aertsen (Univ Leuven, Belgium). Finnish model for restorative approach and mediation in schools is included!

More references here.

Ongoing evaluation is an important part of the VERSO-programme.

  • over 900 schools trained by 2022: primary, secondary, high schools, and vocational schools
  • over 10 000 trained peer mediator pupils active every year
  • over 50 000 trained staff members
  • over 2300 adult mediators trained with advanced training
  • over 10 000 cases mediated yearly
  • over 25 000 pupils have solved their conflict succefully in mediation every year
  • over 2600 day care units trained to use mediation by the end of 2022

Learning by doing and participation are the important themes in our trainings. By working together we can reflect and learn from each other during the trainings. This is the way to implement the practices suitable for the daily life of a school or day care unit we are working with. During the trainings we also learn how to use the material developed by VERSO-programme to support the daily practice, on going evaluation and information as well as the implementation of the restorative practices as a part of schools safety plans. There are always 2 trainers from VERSO-programme working with staff members and pupils or children when starting the programme in a school or day care.
Our trainings for restrotive approaches are:

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