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 first national celebration of children’s activities with Children's Activities Week 2018 with over 150,000 children and more than 650 children's activities providers taking part.

 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

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.

George Bentley

Since 2010, George and his business partner, Andrew Leigh, have been running ThinkSmart Software. The company was formed with the intention to relieve all of the admin pressure for class based businesses. George was a keen tennis player with a lot of knowledge in the sports industry and the business partnership was started in Melbourne, Australia, where George was working at one of the largest tennis clubs in the country.

ThinkSmart Software now has over 2,000 clients and offices in both Australia and the UK. For the past 6 years, George has been running the UK branch whilst still working closely with his team in Melbourne. The company works within a vast range of different industries and now supports some of the largest UK franchises that teach classes to children. 

Outside of work, George still continues to play tennis and also has a thirst for many different adventure and fitness challenges. Travel has also been one of George's biggest interests (which helps when your business partner is in Australia) and will always be one of his biggest passions.

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.

Kieran James

Kieran James, MD of Stryde specialises in providing accounting, training, and coaching to the UK franchise industry. Having worked for Sage (UK) Ltd for just over 3 years as a trainer on accounts and payroll software, as well as presenting on pensions and automatic enrolment, he has developed into a passionate creative leader who thrives on driving business growth.            

Kieran believes there are two keys to achieving business growth. T​ he first is to inspire others to lead through example, encouragement and excitement. The second is to think and act creatively to help solve customer problems. In light of these, he takes a proactive approach to develop skills and encourage the same from others.                              

Now MD of Stryde, he assists franchisors to increase revenue from franchisees and spot early warnings signs of franchisee attrition by providing greater financial clarity. They also support franchisees to be more financially organised and understand how to interpret financial information to help with making business decisions. They support customers across brands such as Vodafone, Dog First Aid, and Little Learners UK.                                 

Work aside, Kieran is an avid lover of all things sport and fitness related and enjoys challenges such as triathlons and the 3 Peaks. However, his two young sons, Jesse and Reuben, ensure that any spare time he has is dedicated to outdoor adventures and activities.

Adam Lovelock

Adam is a Director and Head of Online Marketing at Coconut Creatives.

Adam studied Marketing Management (BA Hons) before working in several Marketing Management positions after graduating. He then founded his first business in 2007 and has never looked back.

Adam is a seasoned marketer, online marketing evangelist and experienced entrepreneur in the ‘tech’ arena. He is also the Co-Founder of Astonish Email, which successfully launched a product into the franchise market, which is now used by 1000’s of businesses worldwide, giving him a wealth of experience in the sector.

A leading authority in the role of online marketing in franchising, Adam is a regular speaker at industry events and his work has helped many of the UK’s leading franchisors to both grow their network size and core business.

Jane Maudsley

Jane Maudsley is CEO and Founder of the National Award winning ‘Little Voices’, a drama, singing and performing arts company that is franchised across the UK that’s provides inspirational education in music and drama to children aged 4-18 years in schools.

Jane is a Mezzo Soprano, classically trained opera singer, she founded Little Voices in 2007 Jane and is so passionate about the safety, compliancy and delivery of excellence to the next generation through her brand. Jane is a sole parent to her daughter and focuses on the needs of each individual child wearing her ‘mummy’ hat in business at all times.

She is proud and honoured to have been asked to sit on the board of the CAA and add her expertise and value to this desperately needed organisation in the children’s activities industry.

At her heart she believes that the standards in the UK need to be raised and the CAA is the organisation to do it.

Claire O'Connor

Claire O'Connor is the founder and CEO of the multi-award winning pre-school dance franchise 'babyballet®’ established in 2005.

‘babyballet®’ has over 100 franchised schools across the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore with over 500 registered teachers delivering classes to thousands of babies, toddlers and children each week so ensuring every child’s safety throughout the classes is Claire’s number one priority, hence her number one reason why she is so committed to the CAA.

Claire is privileged to have been appointed on to the board to help represent all UK children’s activity providers and she takes her role as both a CAA Board member and regional co-chair very seriously as she is immensely passionate about raising standards across the industry to give parents peace of mind that the classes they are attending are safe.

Awards and accolades include ITV's Mumpreneur, mumandworking 'Business Parent of the Year', Halifax Courier 'Young Business Person'', 'Entrepreneur', 'Business Person', Forward Ladies 'Retail Business of the Year, Calderdale College 'Inspire Award' and Claire was proud to have been featured on Channel 4’s documentary, ‘Big Ballet’.

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.

Fiona Simpson

Fiona is the founder, Managing Director and franchisor of ARTventurers and has been delivering classes for children in this industry since 2008. A mum of two, ARTventurers was inspired by her own children and runs colourful, creative art classes for babies, toddlers and children across the UK through a network of franchisees. ARTventurers is all about learning and development through art and creative play and has won a number of industry awards including being named Best Preschool Activity for two years running in the What’s On 4 Kids Awards 2017 and 2018.

As well as heading up ARTventurers, Fiona is also a Forbes contributor, writing about issues relating to franchising and her own business journey in the childrens activities industry. She is a passionate advocate of networking, collaboration, sharing knowledge and supporting others operating in this sector and working together to raise standards and give parents peace of mind.

Advisors to the Board

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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