babyballet® Case Study – British Franchise Association (BFA) – Advancing Inclusivity: Significant Progress and Future Steps

The British Franchise Association (BFA) recently reached out to its members, including babyballet, to discuss advancing inclusive practises within the world of children’s activities. This comes during National Children’s Activities Week, an initiative dedicated to highlighting the importance of children’s activities and the positive impact they have on families across the UK. Organised by What’s On 4 Kids, CAW raises donations for the charity Caudwell Children.

Both the BFA and babyballet believe that all children and families should get to experience the wide range of benefits that classes like babyballet promote. As proud members of the British Franchise Association, the brand showcase below outlines babyballet’s background and story, our ethos, and our inclusive practises that we are proud of and are committed to continually progressing.


babyballet Background and Story

Claire O'Connor and Barbara Peters babyballet founders

Claire O’Connor with her mum and co-founder, Barbara Peters (RAD)

In 1999, Claire O’Connor started ballet classes for very young children with her mum, Barbara Peters, a trained ballet dancer, and renowned ballet teacher and children’s examiner. Their vision was to create a dance experience for little ones that was both magical and educational. When Claire was growing up, ballet classes felt serious, competitive and severe. And even though she enjoyed ballet – it made her feel like an outsider and impacted her mental health. She felt that there could be so much more fun to be had. “I wanted our children to experience something fresh and upbeat and so we invented a magical world of dance filled with characters, colour, music and fun – a world where every child gets the chance to be valued and shine.”

And so, in 2005, babyballet® was born.

Working closely with Barbara, Claire devised a dance syllabus that offers both friendship and learning in a supportive, fun environment. Inclusivity has always been at its core and over two decades later, the babyballet team have continued to develop their product offering, the well-known babyballet® brand and all its marketing materials to ensure that everyone feels welcome at babyballet.

Today, babyballet has over 100 franchised and licensed schools operating throughout the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, teaching dance to more than 22,000 young children a week. In addition to the classes, which aim to aid every child’s physical, emotional, and social well-being, babyballet also offers a range of themed parties, merchandise, live entertainment, digital content, and events. They are also thrilled to have launched a SEND-exclusive programme aimed at making babyballet fully inclusive for children with additional needs, which is being rolled out nationally over the coming years.

Inclusivity at babyballet

babyballet® is where everyone loves to dance.
Since its creation, inclusivity in the world of pre-school dance has been babyballet’s mission. babyballet® was created based on Claire’s negative experiences whilst growing up, feeling that she wasn’t the right fit for ballet. Where, from the very first class, babyballet has welcomed children of all backgrounds, abilities, and personalities too! Where traditional ballet classes can be strict and disciplined, babyballet® encourages the shy child to grow in confidence, or the wild child to come and have fun!

babyballet has also always been on a mission to break down the gender-stereotypes in ballet too and for over 15 years, babyballet’s strapline was ‘where boys and girls love to dance’ as babyballet has welcomed thousands of little boys over the years who have learned, danced, and grown.

At the beginning of 2023, babyballet saw a rebrand which introduced the strapline where everyone loves to dance and an infiltration of multi-colours into its branding too. Where thebabyballet branding was strongly pink and blue, it has since been associated with pink, blue and rainbow colours which has incorporated that inclusive message even further.

Not to mention, babyballet’s introduction of 5 children’s characters, who represent the diversity of children who dance at the classes. This has also been embodied through babyballet’s partnership with Shades Dancewear and the TIRED Movement, who are ‘trying to improve racial equality in dance’. It has been evermore important to ensure that children with different skin-tones are represented through advertising and imagery and further, offering five shades of skin-toned ballet shoes and socks within babyballet’s merchandise range, is just another highlight of how the company have gone the extra mile to ensure that all children not only feel welcome at babyballet, but see that they are welcome too.

SHADES Dancewear at babyballet 1

babyballet Shine classes are where children with special educational needs and disabilities love to danceChildren with SEND have always been welcome at babyballet® and ensuring they are included is at the heart of babyballet’s ethos. From the early days, and now across the classes internationally, children with physical disabilities and children with SEND fall in love with dance in their mainstream classes.
(Please see story below about Archie).
A new era for babyballet® is also in the making as babyballet® Shine – a SEND-exclusive programme providing classes for children with more severe additional needs and children who may not be able to access mainstream classes due to their level of need, has been piloted, launched and is being gradually rolled out over the coming years.

Co-operband – Shine

The BFA asked, “Can you provide a heartwarming story or example of how your brand, or a franchisee, has positively impacted a child with SEND?”

Although there are so many to choose from, babyballet® star Archie made national news when his mum Amanda, shared his story about Archie being diagnosed with Down Syndrome and how babyballet® positively impacted his development.

Archie babyballet star daily mail ITV this morning

Heart-warming: Archie with This Morning presenters Rylan Clark-Neal and Amanda Holden

Archie attended mainstream classes and even took part in babyballet® shows and performances. Amanda, gave huge credit to babyballet®, having been told her little boy would take a lot longer to learn to walk, join in and potentially struggle with motor skills, by age 3, Archie was walking, jumping, and hopping as well as having lots of fun at babyballet!
Archie’s story took the news by storm, and he was invited onto ITV Good Morning Britain and a couple of years later was invited to dance on ITV This Morning with Amanda Holden and Rylan Clark.

Please find more information at:

Daily Mail

This Morning Interview

babyballet® Website

The BFA asked, “How does your brand ensure inclusivity and accessibility for children of all abilities?”

babyballet® is committed to providing their teachers with ongoing training and knowledge about the importance of inclusivity in all our classes. It is important to them that their mainstream classes offer a welcoming and inclusive environment just as much as the importance of introducing the SEND-exclusive programme, babyballet® Shine. babyballet® is committed to helping their little stars reach their own potential and everyone is given their own chance to shine within babyballet® dance classes!

The BFA asked, “Can you share insights or advice for potential franchisees interested in joining the childrens activity sector?”

The biggest advice for encouraging inclusivity is to welcome conversations with caregivers. To take the time to ensure that personal relationship and develop an understanding of the needs of each child as an individual regardless of their ability.

In terms of the industry, the Children’s Activities sector is one that welcomes new members with open arms. Franchisees and franchisors alike within this sector are a truly special kind of person. They believe in collaboration for business growth but also for a better world.
babyballet® is on a mission to spread the magic and joy of dance to every single child. With franchise territories available across the UK, we are looking forward to welcoming more babyballet® dance school owners to the babyballet® family.

The BFA asked, “How do you envision your brand growing and evolving to better serve children and families in the coming years?”

Alongside launching more babyballet® franchises across the UK, babyballet® Shine, the brand-new, SEND-exclusive programme is being rolled out with the aim of national coverage. Whilst in its infancy, babyballet® dance teachers are receiving expert training to enable them to deliver the programme, and the future is bright!
babyballet® Shine was created after long-standing franchisee and BFA award-winner, Miss Jessie, became a SEND mum. Jessie’s little boy Arty has additional needs and despite Jessie’s franchise delivering classes to over 1000 families each week, Arty could not access mainstream babyballet® classes. Through Shine launching at babyballet® Dartford, Bexley and Bromley, Arty is able to experience the magical world of babyballet® too.

Join a babyballet Class! Find your nearest babyballet today

With classes right across the UK, babyballet® are welcoming new babyballet® from 6 months to 6 years for a 3-week introductory trial. You can use our class finder to type in your postcode and find a babyballet school near you.

Franchise opportunities are also available across the UK and dancers looking for that next step in their career are invited to find out more about running your own babyballet® business.