Red Balloon

Bullied and can’t go to school? We can help.

Red Balloon (www.redballoonlearner.org) was established in 1996 to help recover severely bullied children who self-exclude from mainstream education, and become isolated. As a result of their trauma, these students often develop emotional and psychological disorders ranging from depression and anxiety, to anorexia, self-harm and suicide ideation.

There are five Centres in Cambridge, Norwich, Northwest London, Reading and Braintree which are ‘intensive care units’, where children take part in learning as part of an academic and wellbeing programme supported by counselling in an inclusive therapeutic community.

Red Balloon has three aims:

  • to raise children’s self esteem
  • to get them back on an academic track and
  • to return them to school, on to college or into an apprenticeship or other form of training.

In addition to the five Centres, Red Balloon has an online e-centre called Red Balloon of the Air (‘RBAir’), replicating the provision of the Centres and offering education and counselling online, coupled with a regional mentor who meets regularly with the student and his or her family, helps with socialising and friendships in the community in which they live and, in that way, reconnects isolated students with society.

Official estimates suggest that there are over 16,000 young people between 11 and 15 in England who don’t go to school due to bullying (NatCen, 2011). In response to this, Red Balloon commissioned an independent report to establish and demonstrate the effectiveness of its recovery programmes. The findings are summarised in ‘Red Balloon: Does it work and is it worth it?’, and can be accessed here

A more recent study showed that, since July 2015, 95% of students supported by Red Balloon for whom return to mainstream education had been planned have successfully reintegrated into mainstream education and 96% of 'post 16 leavers' have moved on to further education or training, which highlights the enormous return on social investment achieved.

In 2016, together with the Centre for Social Justice, Red Balloon hosted a roundtable discussion with 16 organisations involved with various aspects of bullying to discuss how the education sector can best support children who self-exclude because of bullying.  The group explored the most serious problems faced by children who find themselves in this situation and whether the current support system is fit-for-purpose. The subsequently published report, Bullying and Self-exclusion - Who Cares?, summarises the findings of this discussion and highlights the inadequate provision currently given to children who self-exclude from school because of bullying.  It is hoped that the report will help the Government look at current alternative provision and decide how to support children bullied so seriously they are missing out on school. It can be accessed online here.

In March 2017 Red Balloon won the Centre for Social Justice Award in the category Education, Employment and Skills. A brief film was shown at the ceremony, highlighting the work we do with severely bullied children. It can be viewed here. Red Balloon founder and president Carrie Herbert received it on behalf of Red Balloon from the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP and was delighted, especially because the Secretary said some very important things about the need for self-excluding children to be educated appropriately. 

Some short introductory clips about Red Balloon can be found here.

If you know someone in need of support and want to find out more about Red Balloon’s provision, please contact the Red Balloon team on 01223 366052. If you want to support Red Balloon, please contact the development team at devteam@redballoonlearner.org