Social re-engagement: helping students to re-engage with their peers and their communities
Every young person should build positive relationships with others, feel that they belong and engage in the wider world.
“I have finally found a place where I belong, where I feel safe and I trust people.”
Social re-engagement is crucial to our vulnerable students. Before joining us, most had withdrawn from school and become isolated at home. They may have lost their friendships or missed out on the day-to-day social interactions which shape our lives.
They are supported to develop their self-confidence and social skills in a nurturing environment. The atmosphere at our Centres is informal, with no uniform, and students call the teachers by their first name.
At the heart of our Centres are our community spaces. These are open dining areas where staff and students come together, eat freshly-cooked lunches, celebrate birthdays, play games or just share their daily news.
Individual mentors visit young people studying with Red Balloon of the Air at home. These students are likely to be the most isolated, and the most disengaged from those around them. Mentor visits might begin by simply talking through the bedroom door, then students are supported through gradual steps to meet in the kitchen, go out in the garden, take their dog for a walk. Students build their self-confidence until they’re ready to attend sessions at our satellite centres in Milton (Cambridgeshire) or Danbury (Essex). There, they take part in well-being activities – such as Bake Off or crazy golf – and develop their social skills in a safe environment.
Students also develop life skills, such as learning how to travel by bus independently or use a cashpoint. As their time with Red Balloon comes to an end, we support them to feel ready for the next stage of their journey. We may go to college open days with them, plan the route with them, familiarise them with the campus and identify where to find help or a quiet space.
It is amazing to see students prepare to take the next steps in their education and their lives.
“I value the feel of a community I get when I’m at Red Balloon. Everyone is so sympathetic and supportive. 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.”