Red Balloon Worthing Learner Centre reports on progress as it nears end of its first academic year

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Rotarians and businesses are helping learners to thrive at the new Red Balloon Worthing Learner Centre, which is nearing the end of its first academic year.

Angmering South Downs Rotary Club has given a lot of support since the centre opened in September last year and project leader Brian Hudson was pleased to meet up with head of centre Kim Anderson recently for an update on how the centre, its teachers and learners have been progressing over the past nine months.

He said it was a mutually-beneficial relationship and he was pleased to have been able to obtain a number of significant stationery donations from local shops for the centre, which has charitable status.

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Kim said: "It has been so rewarding to see all learners progressively growing in confidence throughout the year and much credit goes to teachers, mentors, our therapists and, of course, the learners. In order to build the confidence of these young people, Red Balloon colleagues work with learners in small groups of four or five, so that both individual and group teaching, mentoring and therapy can maximise the benefit to all concerned.”

Red Balloon Worthing Learner Centre. Picture: S Robards SR2210152Red Balloon Worthing Learner Centre. Picture: S Robards SR2210152
Red Balloon Worthing Learner Centre. Picture: S Robards SR2210152

The centre aims to develop the personal and academic confidence and achievements of its 20 learners, all of whom have previously self-excluded from education for various reasons, including poor mental health, anxiety or trauma.

Bullying, abuse, mental health problems or life-long conditions are among the most common causes that lead young people to isolate themselves from school, from society and even from their families. This causes a downward spiral of social isolation, marginalisation, missed education, deteriorating mental health and violence, either at home or at previous schools or both.

Kim said: "Many learners have little or no experience of formal exams and so, to help our year ten learners build their confidence in this area, the centre has arranged for them to take their GCSE exams in their strongest subjects this year, which is one year in advance. As well as giving learners exam experience, this will enable them to pass some GCSEs this year, reducing the scope of subjects to be focused upon next year, thereby reducing pressure and additionally permitting re-takes next year where required.”

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Kim added that it was not all about academic work, emphasising: "Learners’ personal confidence has developed during gardening projects where they grow various types of vegetables in the rear garden and external visits where they interact with the community, including a trip to the local job centre to help with career planning.”

Brian Hudson, project leader from Angmering South Downs Rotary Club, with Kim Anderson, head of centre at Red Balloon WorthingBrian Hudson, project leader from Angmering South Downs Rotary Club, with Kim Anderson, head of centre at Red Balloon Worthing
Brian Hudson, project leader from Angmering South Downs Rotary Club, with Kim Anderson, head of centre at Red Balloon Worthing

Turning to finances, Kim said: "The centre relies significantly upon charitable donations to operate and recent examples include local companies providing external decking to the rear of the building, where the whole Red Balloon community eat lunch together when warm weather allows, and bicycles which enable 12 students to cycle weekly to and from Shoreham Airport for an enjoyable afternoon out."

Brian was able to secure donations from Tesco Express, Wilko and the Co-op earlier in the academic year and these have been supplemented by a recent generous donation from Tesco Express in Goring Road.

He said: "On behalf of the Rotary Club of Angmering South Downs and Red Balloon Worthing, I would express our thanks to Tesco Express for this latest donation and speaking personally, it is a privilege to be involved in supporting such a worthy cause as the Red Balloon Centre.”

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Jeremy Flaskett, club president, added: "I am delighted that our Rotary club has been able to contribute towards the Red Balloon Worthing operation and it is a pleasure to continue supporting the academic and personal development of young people who have not been handed the best start in life.”The centre plans to hold a social showcase event in July, where staff, learners, governors, parents and neighbours will jointly celebrate the first year of the centre.

Kim said: "In the coming year, the centre hopes to raise donations towards building an outside office in the rear garden, improving privacy during therapy sessions.”

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