Inside the tiny school transforming the lives of children with trauma

Tony Dunn, Red Balloon Norwich Trustee who also plays the organ in the concert. 

Tony Dunn, Red Balloon Norwich Trustee who also plays the organ in the concert. - Credit: Tony Dunn

Children who can't attend school because of anxiety related to trauma or bullying are being offered a groundbreaking alternative. 

Red Balloon in Norwich works with kids between the ages of nine and 18 who otherwise would struggle in an academic environment. 

Tony Dunn, Red Balloon Norwich trustee, said: “Our children want to learn and we want to help them fulfil their potential.” 

The school in Earlham Road aims to raise the children's self-esteem and get them back on track in their academic studies.

Hethersett Singers in a past Christmas concert for Red Balloon. 

Hethersett Singers in a past Christmas concert for Red Balloon. - Credit: Red Balloon. 

Once they feel confident enough, the children can then return to mainstream learning or employment.  

Only taking 20 students at a time, it can transform the lives of those it supports.

“School is where children make friends, but the children that attend our school have been socially isolated. 

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“We provide not only an academic programme, but we also meet their social, physical and emotional needs," said Tony.   

The school works to develop a curriculum with the student and their interests in mind, developing a bespoke learning path.  

The school also offers students lots of different subjects, as well as break out areas and a large dining room where staff and students eat together.  

“We teach life skills which includes helping to prepare the food and cleaning away after meals,” explained Tony.  

He added: “We also teach them about getting around the city safely as we walk to the swimming pool, cinema, theatre and into the city centre.” 

Each day at Red Balloon concludes with circle time which is attended by all students and gives students a chance to discuss their day, which helps to build confidence in a caring and open environment.  

Over the past sixteen years Red Balloon has helped 200 young people.  

And to fund their endeavours for the past ten years the school holds a Christmas Concert in St Peter Mancroft Church.   

The concert is free and will be held on Thursday, December 23 at 6.30pm.  

Visit or their social media page 'Red Balloon, Norwich' for information on tickets.  

Red Balloon premises in the snow. 

Red Balloon premises in the snow. - Credit: Red Balloon