The beginning

Red Balloon was set up in 1996 to support young people who’d been so badly bullied they could no longer go to school. We found that the way we do things also worked well for other students who were finding attending a mainstream school difficult for different reasons, and so we expanded our provision to support a range of students for whom wellbeing and dedicated support were vital.

True success

We recognise that a truly successful school cannot focus simply on top grades; real success is happy students who are well-equipped to cope in life and who are supported to reach their goals. We know that mental wellbeing and feeling valued are central to student happiness, so our provision is designed on a foundation of 50% mental well-being and 50% education, with a focus on being a valued part of the Centre community.

Life after Red Balloon

Our aim is always to help students rebuild their confidence, develop resilience and catch up on their education so that they can reintegrate with their peers. As such, we work towards and celebrate personal achievements that show progress in all aspects of our students’ lives, not just in education.

The first Red Balloon

Our first Centre was opened in a converted house in Cambridge, with space for 20 students. As word of Red Balloon spread people started contacting the Centre from further afield desperate to find a place like Red Balloon for their child to attend. We soon expanded, opening Centres in Reading, Norwich, and NW London. The number of students in need of our Centres far outstripped those able to attend, with many being too far away to commute, or simply unable to leave the house due to fear. To help those students unable to attend a Centre in person we created Red Balloon of the Air, an online Centre where students are able to log in and attend virtually from their own homes.

Growing strong

In 2021, both Red Balloon Cambridge and Red Balloon NW London expanded, opening second locations under the same leadership and registration, enabling both Centres to reach more students while keeping the small homely Centre atmosphere which is so important.

In 2022, Red Balloon Learner Centre Group changed name to become Red Balloon Educational Trust. In a first step to expanding and reaching more students RBAir merged with RBET to become one larger charity. RBAir continues to offer the same provision under the same RBAir name, supported by the Central Services team from RBET. Central Services provide support to all Centres while also working to open Centres in new areas where young people need our support.

In September 2023 RBET opened a new Centre in Worthing to support young people in West Sussex.

Our legacy

So far we’ve helped over 1300 young people, and our charity is growing fast, but we still only reach a fraction of those students who need our help. For many students who have self-excluded, we are the last hope. Many have been out of school for so long or are so alienated that the chance of successfully going back to school without intensive help is minimal. None of these students are a lost cause; with the right support, a focus on mental wellbeing and attention to individual needs and goals that we provide these students can, and do, turn their lives around again.

Our stories

  • "RBAir let me do all my lessons online and at my own pace, and they always listened."

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  • Red Balloon of the Air student

    "I don't know where I'd be without RBAir. The past doesn’t make me feel sad any more, now I just think about the future.”

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  • Anna - A Red Balloon of the Air student

    “One of the best things at the start was the online and face-to-face therapy Red Balloon offers. It doesn’t feel like therapy; it just feels like chatting to someone about your life".

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  • Red Balloon student, Ethan

    "If I could pinpoint one thing that’s made the big difference for me, it’s having a safe place to learn."

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