Wellbeing and Our Values at Red Balloon
At Red Balloon, one of the most important aspects of our values and practice is wellbeing. For us, wellbeing means mental and emotional health and we believe that these are essential to being a happy and healthy individual. It means we prioritise the needs of our young people, no matter what those needs may be.
We know wellbeing is important because many young people come to us unhappy. When you’re not happy, you’re not going to be open to learning as it can be incredibly difficult to focus. If you’re feeling good about yourself and confident to interact with your peers and teachers it’s much easier to actively learn, and that is exactly what we find with our young people.
Wellbeing All The Time
Wellbeing isn’t just a one-time thing, it’s something that needs to be taken care of all of the time. It’s not a plaster to put over a wound when times are hard and we need a little extra care. It’s a practice and a conscious effort to nurture our minds, just like we do with our bodies. You wouldn’t want to run a marathon on a twisted ankle or go on a bicycle ride if you’re feeling nauseous. There are times when you’ll need to adjust what you do to protect your mental wellbeing.
At Red Balloon, wellbeing is integral across our whole curriculum. Every single member of staff (therapist, mentor, teacher, Head, cook) is aware of student needs and knows that student needs are the highest priority. We all work together to make sure the young people are able to attend sessions and take part in a way that works for them as individuals, and that the curriculum is centred and paced for their progress. We operate under a principle of ‘unconditional positive regard’ which means the basic acceptance and support of a person, regardless of what they say or do. This helps each student build self-confidence, as well as strong relationships that are vital for their progress.
In addition to wellbeing being in the very air at Red Balloon, students also flourish thanks to timetabled wellbeing sessions. They can take part in creative activities such as visual arts and music, as well as non-competitive sports and physical exercise. These can range from mindfulness walks and swimming to skateboarding and boxing. Students are encouraged to engage with the healing power of nature through gardening projects, Forest School or the Duke of Edinburgh award. They may have individual timetabled support with trained therapists (eg. talking, music, art or equine therapy).
This dedicated support and focus on wellbeing (in all its various forms) translates into happier, healthier young people, and this is the place where meaningful learning can take place. Students engage more with their classes when their mental health and wellbeing are taken care of. Overall attendance improves when wellbeing is managed. Prior to coming to Red Balloon, many of these students had attendance rates of 0%. Many were not able to leave the house or interact with people outside their households. We focus on wellbeing specifically because this is the first (and ongoing) step in recovering and stepping into the best version of ourselves