Meet our Non-Executive Directors 

Generally non-execs are there to support the executive team with mentoring and challenge drawn from a wide range of industries.  They also ensure the governance and financial viability of the organisation.

We are extremely lucky to have a number of non-execs on the main Board that provide the CAA with a diverse and highly valued range of skills and experience.  Read on to find out more about how these talented people are helping the CAA. 

The CAA Board works alongside the CAA Fellowship Members and CAA operations team to set the pace, direction and deliver the goals of the CAA.   

Our Achievements and Plans

Already the CAA has helped our community with some significant deliverables:

  • The first independent accreditation for all children’s activities to help parents easily ensure the activities they choose for their children meet expected safety and quality standards AND for members it’s the first time they have been able to get independent endorsement of their programme
  • The first NVQ Level 2 for children’s activity leaders help members to recruit and retain employees and franchisees
  • A huge package of tangible benefits and experts support network to help members grow their businesses
  • The first national conference of children’s activities provider enabling them to learn and connect to grow their businesses

 The CAA also has projects in place to:

  • Educate parents on the safety and quality standards they should expect from every activity they choose for their children
  • Expand the CAA independent accreditation to support micro businesses, party providers, play centres and thereby expanding the reach of expected safety and quality standards
  • Celebrate the millions of UK parents and children that enjoy and benefit from children’s activities with Children's Activities Week 2018.

Longer term the CAA is committed to:

  • Commission research, campaign for improvements and promote the benefits of children's activities
  • Award grants to community projects involving organised children's activities
  • Work with policy makers to influence relevant legislation
Debbie Bird

Debbie is has worked with the baby and child industry for more than 20 years.

Debbie works closely with a wide range of audiences; PR organisations representing many major brands in the family sector, advertising and marketing agencies, and numerous social media connections.

Debbie is married with 2 children and lives in Butlers Cross, Buckinghamshire.  She loves walking her cockapoo, Poppy, and enjoys every opportunity to experience activities with her family.

Laura Davis

Having spent over 20 years honing her HR and management skills in the challenging environment of some of the biggest retail giants, Laura decided to jump off the corporate treadmill and start her own business, Reality HR, in 2004. And she hasn’t looked back.

The driving force behind the success of the business, Laura is extremely focused, with a clear vision for the company’s future. Pragmatic, practical and realistic, her ability to cut to the chase and find the best solution has shaped the ethos of the business. And that’s what makes her different - she like to focus on the end game, the business impact and the best result.

Shaping up the overall direction of the business, Laura is the face of the company and leads business development. Meeting clients and building a rapport with like-minded business owners is one of her greatest skills. The experience she has gained as a business owner herself enables her to easily step into our clients’ shoes – seeing things from their perspective. It also makes her a natural interface at a senior level – taking a strategic HR Director role for many clients.

Mike Dodd - Chair

Mike has spent 30 years in the supply of new technologies to the insurance industry in a variety of Executive roles.  Mike was joint founder of the ILG (Insurance Leadership Group) that raised £6m for the Prince’s Trust.  7 years ago he decided to leave full time employment to spend more time with his 3 young children.

Mike now holds 5 non-executive positions and is a long standing member of his local Parish Council chairing the Neighbourhood Plan committee. 

Mike lives in Lewes with his family.  He enjoys travel and is a keen cyclist having cycled unsupported in 50 countries, a good number with his sons.

Gary Harrison

During Gary's decade with Morton Michel he has continued to develop the Group scheme insurance product, manage client’s needs and provide bespoke solutions for franchise groups and national membership associations.

Outside of work Gary is a family man with two young children. He is also an avid fish keeping enthusiast and still finds time to run a Sunday league football club as well as being the Redhill and District Football League Secretary.

Chris Irwin

A former professional rugby league player, who later channelled his love of sports into the world of teaching – Chris Irwin has worked within the educational sector for the over 10 years, becoming a PE teacher after completing his sports career.

It was during this time as a PE teacher that Chris spotted the need to offer an alternative approach to children’s fitness, to encourage children to develop a life-long positive attitude to sport, physical activity and healthy living.

Setting out to offer something different and inspire the next generation, Chris is now Managing Director of EdStart, a children’s sports education provider – which supports schools across the country in offering full coverage of the primary PE curriculum, as well as a wide range of after-school sports clubs and an innovative health and fitness programme which is the first of its kind, in specifically targeting children’s fitness.

Passionate about helping children develop their social as well as fitness skills, EdStart works with hundreds of schools, local authorities and organisations across the country. As well as an ongoing mission to improve the skills of children in every area of PE, the company also provides a specialist education service for children currently outside of mainstream education.

Debbie Kneller

Debbie is a Customer Services and Business Change Leader with 30 years’ experience in IT Services and Financial Services.   Debbie is currently Director of UK Premier Engineering at Microsoft.

Debbie has extensive experience in leading teams, developing new services, driving improvements in business performance and delivering services for customers across multi channels.

Debbie lives in Reading, Berkshire with her husband and son.   She enjoys hill walking, swimming, listening to live music and the theatre.

Andy Peasey

Andy is the creator and with his wife the co-owner of RUGGERBUGS.  Having been coaching rugby from club to county level for over 25 years RUGGERBUGS was inspired from the need that children are not introduced to the great sport of Rugby until the age of 6+ at club level.

Establish in early 2007 RUGGERBUGS is a multi-award winning, fun and exciting pre-school sports development programme based around non-contact rugby for girls and boys, aged 18 months to Six years. It is designed to promote a fun and positive attitude to sport and fitness.

RUGGERBUGS is a leading company in this field and the first to establish close associations with local rugby clubs to ensure that children can progress to mini rugby with ease.

Andy is passionate about Rugby and the introduction children have to the sport and wants to encourage children to have a love of sport and all the positive attributes it can give young people.

When not working or volunteering as a coach at his rugby club he is either spending time with his family or playing golf (badly).

Mark Rasche - Deputy Chair

Mark Rasche runs an organisation called Sport & Activity Professionals which works with kids' activities businesses in all areas of the sector to help them grow and improve, over come their challenges and to build the business that they want and that they have the potential to achieve.

Mark has worked with hundreds of organisations in this sector from the largest down to the start ups, with all sorts of company structure from private or publicly limited companies to social enterprises and charities through the training and consultancy arms of his business.

Mark has been working with kids in this industry since he was 16 and eventually helped build a global franchisor in this sector, with an estimated 1.1m kids in 61 countries.

Mark has a huge passion for the sector, extensive experience in the business side of this industry and has helped many organisations achieve great things.

Ian Sharland

Baby Sensory was launched in 2006 when Ian and his wife Keeley joined forces with programme founder Dr Lin Day and her husband Howard. Ian is responsible for the growth of the Baby Sensory business throughout the UK and internationally.

Since 2006 the business has enjoyed strong growth and now has over 300 franchisees working throughout the UK and in many countries around the world including USA, Australia, Russia, China and India.

Ian is passionate about education and personal development and he was initially attracted to the Baby Sensory programme through the opportunity it provides for parents to share in developmental experiences with their new born babies.  He is particularly proud of the team of entrepreneurs and educators who run the Baby Sensory programme and keen to work with the CAA to provide recognition to the important role pre-school activities play in child development.

“The UK is a world leader in pre-school, parent-led education; and the diversity and creativity makes this an exciting sector to work in.  We are however, always mindful that reports of poor experiences can damage the reputation of the entire sector.  Becoming a founding member of the CAA is something we are very proud to be associated with.  We fully support its independent accreditation process and parents who attend a class which has been accredited by the CAA, can rest assured that the provider has the correct insurance, the class leaders have been DBS checked and fully trained,  and also that the programme has been developed and delivered by a team with the appropriate skills.  The accreditation also ensures that the provider has the right policies and procedures to ensure its customers are safe and well looked after.  It is a great comfort to be part of a sector that has the protection of families with young children firmly at its core.”

Advisors to the Board

Steve Franks

Steve has a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and went on to study for an MBA at Staffordshire University. He is a qualified Chartered Manager from the Chartered Management Institute.

He has been involved in the UK sport and leisure industry sector in a senior management capacity for over 25 years (public and private industry sectors), which included time working in the Middle East and the Caribbean for quasi-government organisations. Steve has been the technical author for a number of British Standards aimed at creating best industry practice for the Aquatics industry sector in the UK.

Steve joined Water Babies as Managing Director in 2009. As well as being responsible for the overall management and development of the Company, he has been heavily involved in developing the strategic direction of the Water Babies group of companies which also includes Water Bumps, Water Babies international and the Doodle Training Academy together with the co-founder of the Company.

Steve is largely responsible for creating the current infrastructure of the Business as well as pushing Water Babies to the forefront of the industry, so it is now recognised as a ‘thought leader’, in baby and pre-school swimming both here in the UK and internationally.


Dr. Amanda Gummer PhD

Amanda has over 20 years experience working with children and families. Widely considered as THE go to expert on play, toys and child development, Amanda combines her theoretical knowledge with a refreshingly pragmatic approach to family life, that resonates both with parents and professionals.Amanda is regularly in the media, and continues to take an active role in research, presenting a paper at the International Toy Research Association’s World Congress in Portugal in July 2014.

Fundamentally Children is the bringing together of Amanda’s research consultancy, FUNdamentals, her parenting support, based on the Parent-Centred Parenting Model of family life and the Good Toy Guide website alongside the Good App Guide that launched in September 2014.

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