Mary-Jane started with Red Balloon Reading after an unhappy time at her old school, and a period of home-schooling. To help celebrate our 25th anniversary, she shares her alumni story here.
Finding Red Balloon
I think students should be treated with respect and as a person, and I don’t think that at my last school they were treating me that way. I was often sent into isolation for nothing and I found it hard there. I wasn’t happy, I was going to my lessons but I wasn’t really learning. I was at my old school for nearly two years before joining Red Balloon at the end of year 9.
Before starting Red Balloon I was worried about who would be there and whether I’d be able to make any friends. I was also worried about the teachers. But I remember on my first day at the Centre I got a very warm welcome, and the worries I had left fast. I liked the other students at the Centre; they were friendly, funny, sporty. My biggest achievement at Red Balloon was probably making friends.
Red Balloon was so much smaller than my last school, there were a lot less students in my lessons and the teachers were different too. At my old school, they didn’t really give you the support you needed, but at Red Balloon they did. They taught you properly and I really enjoyed the lessons at the Centre. I also found the chill-out room really useful because I got to relax and be left alone or to be there with a member of staff to talk to me, and that really got me calm on the hardest days.
Moving On From Red Balloon
When the time came, I was ready to move to the new school. What helped me prepare for that was the lessons that I had getting ready to leave, and looking around the new school. I felt really supported with my transition: now I’m finding it really easy to fit in at my new school and my classmates are helping me to settle too. Whenever I have an upset moment they always make me smile and laugh.
I definitely feel that Red Balloon has helped prepare me for my future. After my current school I think I’ll probably go to Reading College to study drama, and one day I’d definitely like to be an actress.
If I hadn’t gone to Red Balloon my life would be rubbish; I don’t think things would have got better at my last school and I don’t think I could have gone to another mainstream school. I’m really happy that I went to Red Balloon, and if I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be “best school ever”.