New appeal to support children too scared to go back to school

Student, Ethan, looking down

Will you support children too traumatised to go to school?

This year has been really difficult for children across the UK as the COVID-19 crisis threw their studies and plans into disarray. But while most students are now going back to their lessons, Red Balloon is today launching an appeal to raise funds to support children who can’t go to school because of severe bullying or other personal trauma.

Thousands of children are missing from school in England every year because they are too frightened to attend. This may be because they have been plagued by bullying, have mental health problems or suffered some other crisis in their lives. While exact numbers are difficult to pinpoint, research suggests that over 16,000 children are missing from state schools, where bullying is the main cause for the absence.

Red Balloon is an alternative to school, providing an award-winning blend of therapeutic and well-being support to students, alongside academic lessons. They help students like Ethan who was missing from education for 3½ years and, by the age of eight, had already made two suicide attempts:

Ethan’s story

“Before joining Red Balloon I was always at home, because I just couldn’t go to school. I have autism and anxiety, and I got stressed out and picked on. I became isolated in the house and didn’t go out at all. I was lonely and afraid.”

Red Balloon has four Centres in Cambridge, Norwich, NW London and Reading as well as an e-Centre called Red Balloon of the Air – its online service for children too traumatised to leave the house or who live too far away from a Centre. Ethan has gone on to flourish with Red Balloon of the Air and his mum, Elaine, says that the charity has saved her family:

“Oh my word! Red Balloon is a lifeline for us. We absolutely could not have coped without it. The fact that Ethan now knows he’s got a future is invaluable. We absolutely cannot put a word to it or a figure on it. He’s learnt that there are people who are kind and not out to get you. His mentor’s been brilliant with him; they talk online and she visits him at home. He’s also very focused on his GCSEs. Although he would normally leave school next year, he’s going to stay another year and do a further three GCSEs. Then he’s going to move on to college.

“Ethan is a massive success story as far as we, as a family, are concerned. He absolutely would not be where he is today without Red Balloon. We’re so proud, completely.”

Robert Watson, Director of Education

Director of Education, Robert Watson, adds…

Rob Watson, Director of Education, explains why Red Balloon is launching its ‘Back to School 20’ appeal: “Our core service is funded by local authorities who recognise the incredible contribution we make to the lives of the young people we serve. Thanks to kind supporters we are able to provide students with opportunities beyond the constraint of their local authority budget, and we are determined to develop our service further so that more students can benefit from our work. We want to make sure that no children miss out on their future!

“We understand times are tough but, if well-wishers are able to help by making a donation then they can change the lives of families like Ethan and Elaine’s. Just £20 could help pay for a therapeutic session, for example. Any gift, no matter how small, makes a big difference. Thank you.”