What we offer

We offer full-time, term-based provision, either in Centres or blended online and face-to-face. Our approach puts well-being at the core of our students’ education experience, with strong emphasis on mental health, personal development and positive social interaction alongside academic teaching.


We are not a normal school

At Red Balloon we focus on well-being, education and social engagement to ensure our students are gaining the skills and confidence they need to re-integrate with their peers.

Our approach puts well-being at the core of our students’ education experience, with strong emphasis on mental health, personal development and positive social interaction alongside academic teaching.

Small class sizes

Teaching takes place in small groups ranging from one or two students to a maximum of four to six, with new students often beginning with one-to-one lessons. As our students’ confidence grows and they are comfortable to begin interacting with their peers in a supported environment they will begin to join group lessons with students learning at a similar level.

An integrated approach

The strength of our programme is its holistic approach. Our highly qualified and experienced staff provide well-being and therapy to support students’ mental health and to help them re-engage with the wider world. All staff are interested in and actively involved in the wellbeing of all students, and mental health support and personal development are an integral part of the entire day, not just restricted to designated therapy sessions.

Tailored learning

Our students follow an individualised timetable of lessons, alongside our effective and carefully planned wellbeing curriculum. Lessons are in small groups, maximum four students, and with qualified teachers, who plan individualised teaching to suit the needs and interests of each child. As the relationships with their teachers develop, students become more confident and resilient learners, and build the skills they need to successfully return to education, work or further training.

We provide academic teaching from Entry Level to GCSE in subjects of students’ interest or which are helpful to them in their future plans, and offer our students PSHEE and Careers Guidance.

A safe, positive environment

We know returning to a school is a source of anxiety for our students, so our Centres are purposefully based in houses so that they do not feel like traditional schools. We want our students to feel comfortable and safe when with us, so we strive to make our Centres as homely as possible. We have a casual dress code, staff are called by their first names and at our physical Centres the student and staff family sit down together to lunch each day.

Students hold an absolute right to be treated with respect and care, and that right is not contingent upon their behaviour or the quality of their academic performance. Each member of our Centre family agrees to our policy of unconditional positive regard – every member of the community (staff or student) should always treat others with respect and dignity, regardless of the situation.

Transition support

Each student has regular sessions with a Link Mentor (at RBair) or a Transition Lead (at physical Centres). These are the key people who link together our academic, personal and social development programmes and liaise with commissioners. Our Link Mentors and Transitions Lead guide our students throughout their time with us, from their first steps to helping them move on to the next stage of their learning and lives.

Registered exam Centres

We know that some young people miss out on gaining qualifications because they can’t go to school to sit their exams. All our Centres are also registered exam centres, where students can sit their exams in a safe, comfortable and familiar environment.


Our three components

Read more about the three components of our provision on the pages below.

Our Centres

Physical Centres (Cambridge, Reading, Norwich, NWLondon)

We have 4 physical Centres based in houses. Students attend each day at the Centre, where lunch is provided, and follow a personalised timetable of lessons (including PSHEE, careers and PE) and counselling/therapy. As with a normal school there are trips, extracurricular activities and social events throughout the year. Find out more about each of our physical Centres on their Centre pages.

Online Centre (Red Balloon of the Air)

We have an online Centre, RBAir, which provides a blended online and face-to-face provision. Students are provided with a laptop to access online sessions, and log on at the relevant times each day to undertake real-time sessions with a dedicated teacher or therapist. In addition, social and learning activities take place face-to-face where students can travel in to dedicated student hubs to meet other RBAIr students and take part in lessons and activities. Find out more about RBAir and our other Centres on our Centre pages.

What our students think

  • “I love being able to make more choices about what I study.”

    From the Red Balloon of the Air Centre
    In Red Balloon of the Air

  • “It's a place where I feel comfortable and where I can go at my own pace, I can focus on socialising and on my education comfortably.”

    From the Red Balloon Cambridge Centre

  • “I like the low-pressure approach with everything and the option to do stuff I wouldn't normally get to do.”

    From the Red Balloon Norwich Centre
    In Red Balloon Norwich

  • “I value the feel of a community I get when I’m at Red Balloon. ”

    From the Red Balloon NW London Centre
    In Red Balloon NW London

  • “I am now able to trust people and be more sociable and I have begun to develop long-lasting friendships that I have not had for such a long time. ”

    From the Red Balloon of the Air Centre

View all testimonials