Founded in 1996, Red Balloon is a community in which children who have been traumatised by bullying or other events and circumstances can feel safe, regain their self-esteem, get back on an academic track and become confident enough to be able to rejoin their mainstream peers.

The short-term educational and therapeutic programmes run at the Centres help build children’s self-confidence and enable them to return to mainstream education or move into employment or training. 

Red Balloon of the Air (RBAir), their distance learning provision, was established in 2010. ‘Air’ offers students a bespoke, integrated programme of academic education and wellbeing provision, delivered both online and face-to-face. 

All the students have access to a broad and balanced curriculum of academic subjects, creative arts, counselling or therapy, and personal and social education.

Red Balloon work in partnership with local schools to improve student attendance and academic progress.

The students

RBAir students are scattered around the country. They might not have access to a RB Centre, they might not be ready to attend a physical Centre, or their nearest Centre might be full. Every morning they log into the RBAir community from home. All our students have challenges to overcome and benefit from a supportive and friendly community – which is possible online!

How RBAir works

RBAir offers a range of learning, therapeutic and community support to young people who would otherwise not be getting an education. We work with students and parents/carers to plan a bespoke programme for each young person based on their needs and personal circumstances. RBAir try to ensure that our students are given as many opportunities as those who attend physical Centres.

The curriculum

The RBAir curriculum, based on the national curriculum, focuses on the student’s interests and offers considerable choice to ensure that our students become excited about learning. Students who are in Years 10 and 11 can sit for a range of qualifications. Younger students can take ASDAN and other online courses.

The RBAir community

Students benefit from the power of shared experience in a small safe community. Building social confidence and skills, trust in others and friendships is a key part of the programme. Each RBAir pod takes no more than 30 students at any one time, and group work normally involves no more than four or five.


One-to-one and small therapeutic groups provide important opportunities for our students to deal with the past and progress.

Transition support

RBAir is a stepping stone, not a final destination. RBAir's regional mentors work with the families to support students on their next step in their educational journey once they are ready.

Parent support

Parents/carers have also been through a very difficult time. RBAir staff offer them support and advice and encourage frequent communication with us.

Watch their video here:


The RBAir programme has two components: the online provision, and face-to-face contact. What is offered in both depends on what students feel comfortable with and the stage they have reached in their educational journey.

Online (virtual) communication

  • Instant message / type chat
  • Voice chat / VOIP
  • Avatars in a virtual world
  • Video chat where appropriate
  • Collaborative docs
  • 3D building environment

Types of Session

  • One-to-one
  • Pair work
  • Small-group work
  • Community project group (up to nine students)

Face-to-face support

  • Regional mentor home visits
  • Meeting another student with a regional mentor
  • Small regional outings
  • Trips (e.g. museums)


Referral for RBAir: