Who we help

We help young people who have self-excluded from mainstream school for various reasons, including Emotion Based School Avoidance (EBSA).

Students often come to us due to bullying, trauma, mental ill-health or Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs that were not able to be met in their previous school.

Our provision has proved to be particuarly suitable for Autistic, ASC and neurodivergent young people, at both our physical Centres and at our blended online and in-person provision Red Balloon of the Air (see our RBAir page on ASC support to learn more).

Admissions Criteria

We provide education for young people who study at secondary school level (KS3 and KS4). Most students are aged between 11 and 16. Occasionally, we work with young people up to the age of 21 to help them achieve secondary school qualifications. We do not offer A-Level education and qualifications.

We do not have specific admissions criteria beyond our age limits but it is important that the provision that we can provide meets the needs of the individual student. As such we judge all admissions requests on a case-by-case basis.

Short-term vs long-term provision

We provide a range of intensive support for our learners according to their needs. Some learners will attend a Centre or RBAir for short periods, up to six terms on average, and are able to return to mainstream education or attend college, work or alternative provision. Others may join from Year 7 upwards and spend the duration of their secondary education at Red Balloon, Students joining us from years 9-11 will usually stay with us throughout their GCSE years. Our aim is to support learners to transition into the wider world when they are ready.

The student promise

While we are keen to help every young person who needs us and can benefit from our support, it is important that the young person is prepared to go on a journey with us and wants to be with us. Otherwise our programme cannot be effective.

All our students agree to three conditions when they join us:

  • That they want to come and will attend regularly
  • That want to learn and make academic progress
  • That they will behave with respect and consideration towards the other students, the staff, visitors and the property

We have this promise because if a student habitually doesn’t attend they are not only obstructing their own progress but also preventing the progress of another student by taking a much needed place with us. Our Centres are safe, comfortable, welcoming spaces where all individuals should feel valued; as such anyone behaving badly has the potential to destroy the inherent safe community which is pivotal to how we operate, and so respectful behaviour is a key condition of a student attending with us.

Education, Health and Care Plans

We are able to provide places to students with EHCPs, depending on their needs, but an EHCP is not needed for a place with us.

When a student with an EHCP is initially referred, we’ll be asked to cost the provision we can provide. The different strands of the provision means we have a range of staff and resources to meet a student’s needs. However, if we are unable to meet the needs of a student’s plan, this will be made clear and another provision may be sought.

Different authorities have different rules for referrals to Red Balloon, so it’s best to speak to your EHCP coordinator or SEND worker and ask their advice on how best to proceed. Please also feel free to contact us for information and advice.

  • “I really value the approach ability and flexibility. The teachers are easy to approach and the lessons can be tailored to help the students more since the class sizes aren't so huge they can be individualized. ”

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

  • “I think that I have learnt a lot in terms of friendships, self worth and being able to speak my mind more. I think that being here has allowed me to feel more freedom and be more social. ”

    From the Red Balloon Norwich Centre
    In Red Balloon Norwich

  • “Mainstream schools didn't take time out to talk with me about what my problems and insecurities were. But with Red Balloon they were there supporting me from the get go and everything sort of worked around what I was comfortable doing.”

    From the Red Balloon NW London Centre

  • “For the first time in her life, our daughter wants to go to school. The staff are great, and support her when she struggles to cope.”

    From the Red Balloon Reading Centre

View all testimonials