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New and better services for our students - The new RBAir Face-to-Face Community Space Opens in Cambridge

New and better services for our students - The new RBAir Face-to-Face Community Space Opens in Cambridge

At our new headquarters in Milton, we have created the first dedicated Community and Learning Hub for RBAir students - named The Hive by our students.

Bringing students together in a community setting is an important way to reduce their social isolation and, ultimately, enable them to re-engage with society. Not only does meeting face-to-face help our students cement friendships, but the confidence and self-esteem they build helps them feel better prepared to return to school or move on to further education, training or work.  At the new Red Balloon headquarters in Milton, Cambridgeshire where RBAir staff are based, we have created the first dedicated Community and Learning Hub for RBAir students. The 520 sq ft area is equipped with comfortable chairs, tables and a kitchen area as well. The Hub hosts dedicated spaces for arts and science equipment and serves as a community, therapy and learning space. With 56% of our students currently based in Cambridgeshire, the Hub opens up enhanced opportunities for social engagement to a large proportion of our student body.

Our students put their thinking caps on and after a parliamentary style vote on three front-runners, decided to name this new space the Hive.

They also brainstormed a logo and worked together to design the one shown above, using elements of a honeycomb design (they all said they will be very busy bees) and of course red for Red Balloon. Having recently opened its doors, the Hive has already welcomed students to join communal lunches, cooking sessions and arts and crafts activities - with STEM workshops on the way. The programme will evolve throughout the year as students will be encouraged to play a part in shaping the activities and events that will take place. The Hive is already proving popular with students:

“I have never eaten in front of people before,” one student commented whilst enjoying a pancake topping tasting activity around the kitchen table, sharing and experimenting with different flavours and textures.

“It feels safe and like home.” another student said on her first visit.

“I haven’t mixed with kids my own age for 2 years - this is new to me.”

“I like it here as it’s quiet and peaceful.”

Outside of the time reserved for social group activities, the space will be used by teachers for one-to-one or small group face-to-face tuition and the RBAir transitions team (who support students as they are getting ready to move on from RBAir) will use the space to run employability skills sessions. Therapists will also offer individual face-to-face therapy, which allows them to broaden the range of therapeutic approaches they can offer.

We’re very excited about the future of the space and all the good things it will enable for our students, and it has been made possible thanks to support from the Scottish Power Foundation. Their generous support is being used towards the rent and running costs for the Hive, the salaries for the part-time staff required to run the programme (along with staff supervision and line-management), equipment for arts, science and IT activities as well as a travel bursary fund. Needless to say, the Scottish Power Foundation has been paramount in the creation of the Hive and responsible for all the exciting things that have and will take place there for our students.

We're on the BBC!

We're on the BBC!

We're in the news again!

The BBC has run a story reporting that home-schooling in the UK has increased over 40% in the past three years. According to the report, 'mental health issues and avoiding exclusion are two reasons parents gave for removing children from classrooms.'

They go on to quote our own Carrie Herbert, who says: 'I'm not sure it's very useful anymore to put 30 children in our classroom with an adult all doing the same thing in the same way at the same time. We should really be thinking more 21st century and outside the box about this and teaching online in real time can help this.'

Many thanks to Oliver Wood and his family for agreeing to take part, and helping to spread the word about our work!

You can read the full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-42624220

Daniel Zeichner MP comes to Cambridge!

Daniel Zeichner MP comes to Cambridge!

The room was the busiest we’d ever seen it. Students from RBAir and RB Cambridge had gathered in our small communal area, and dozens more were watching online. Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, had agreed to a Q&A, and was now squashed into one of our bright green sofas.

Soon the questions began. What’s life like as a Member of Parliament? Busy, apparently. Daniel spends Mondays to Thursdays in Westminster, and Fridays travelling the constituency: talking to health officials, answering questions, visiting prisons. But his favourite job (he said politely) is visiting schools.

Many of the students submitted questions, and there was a strong focus on mental health. What can be done? Not a lot with the current funding, according to Zeichner. A survey from Anglia Ruskin revealed that a third of students already have mental health problems when they arrive at university, and that’s likely to be true for most universities. At least these days attitudes are changing: people are beginning to treat mental health with the seriousness it deserves.

Other questions ranged from our relations with Russia to meeting Stephen Hawking. Students following online were able to join in, asking questions, adding comments, and reacting in real time. Some students had the courage to step forward with their own stories, offering real-life examples of the issues discussed. They were free to agree or disagree, having their own voices valued as part of the debate.

For that was the overwhelming feeling when the discussion was over: everyone’s voice has value. When he met Jesse Jackson, Zeichner said, he was inspired by a particular phrase the civil rights activist used: ‘everybody is somebody.’ And that’s precisely what we hope to inspire at Red Balloon: that everybody, no matter what their circumstances, should be valued as an individual.