Journey from Drama Enthusiast to Franchise Principal

Dec 13, 2023 | Success Stories

Franchise Opportunity For A Brighter Future

Caryn Walton-Binns has always used her passion for drama to develop young minds – an opportunity she wasn’t given herself due to her generation not recognising the importance of the art. Having not had access to performing arts qualifications or after-school clubs as a child, Caryn nurtured her passion elsewhere on Saturday mornings at Calderdale Studio Theatre School from the age of 11.

Continuing to expand her skillset by undertaking the BA(Hons) English Language & Literature (with Drama) at Durham University, Caryn started her career in the children’s publishing sector. Little did she know that she would soon be faced with an unexpected chance to become a Drama Kids principal – an opportunity that would shape almost the next two decades of her life.


Caryn Walton Binns

An Unexpected Venture

Caryn began her career in the children’s publishing sector in London which allowed her to improve children’s lives through her love of literature. Despite having high aspirations for her publishing career, Caryn had joined the industry during a crisis – one that meant there was nowhere for her to progress in her current role. After some short-lived jobs including being a legal secretary, Caryn and her husband decided to leave the big city and return to Yorkshire, their home county. Soon after, their daughter was born – a milestone that would ultimately lead to Caryn’s true calling in life as a Drama Kids teacher and principal.

“After my daughter was born, I was a stay-at-home mum for nine years and volunteered at York Children’s Book Group as a testing coordinator. Although it wasn’t always easy financially, I feel lucky I had the means to support my daughter throughout her childhood. My daughter is autistic, but we didn’t have a diagnosis until she was 22 years old. When she was diagnosed it was as if the last two decades made sense – it was an explanation for why she needed more help and support during her childhood than a neuro-typical child.

“Throughout her early years, my daughter’s true love was drama – like mother, like daughter! When she was seven, she bought a leaflet home from school for Drama Kids and I enrolled her and her friend right away – it was the only dedicated drama children’s group I had come across and from the flyer, it was evident how much the group cared about their students. Although I wasn’t aware of my daughter’s diagnosis at the time, I knew she needed short bursts of engagement with people who supported her – I knew Drama Kids would offer her this.”

“Throughout her early years, my daughter’s true love was drama – like mother, like daughter! When she was seven, she bought a leaflet home from school for Drama Kids and I enrolled her and her friend right away – it was the only dedicated drama children’s group I had come across and from the flyer, it was evident how much the group cared about their students. Although I wasn’t aware of my daughter’s diagnosis at the time, I knew she needed short bursts of engagement with people who supported her – I knew Drama Kids would offer her this.”

The Chance of a Lifetime

After the Drama Kids showcase which Caryn’s daughter was performing in, the current principal unexpectedly took to the stage. 

“Two years into my daughter’s Drama Kids journey, her principal stood up at the end of the performance to ask if anyone was interested in becoming a teacher at the academy. Whilst I had always loved drama and children, self-doubt struck, and I felt I didn’t have any of the right qualifications or teaching experience. Luckily, my friend changed my mind and pushed me to talk to the principal. I went up and asked what the principal required, and she answered, “Loyalty!”. As a principal, I now understand – you need to be surrounded by people who all have the same goal of helping children and are willing to work together to achieve it.

“I started by volunteering and after a short while Lindsay, the principal, offered me the job. I taught with Lindsay for seven years and it was during this time I experienced first-hand the dedication Drama Kids has for helping children – including my daughter – develop through drama.”

The difference I saw in our students’ social skills was amazing – the students feel they can be themselves. This is particularly beneficial for neuro-diverse children as although they might struggle with other subject areas, they know they can come to our classes, be themselves and communicate with other children which is more difficult to do at school.

“Seven years later, I was faced with an ultimatum. Lindsay told me she was planning to retire and offered me the position of running the academy. I would have jumped at the chance, but I needed to consider my family – my husband had decided to leave his teaching job at the end of the year and my daughter had just been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, leaving her unable to go to school. At the time it felt as if I had no choice but to accept the position as it would be the sole income for our family. Looking back, I know I was just scared and doubting myself – I had always wanted to be a principal but had always made excuses that it wasn’t the right time. With my family relying on me, it was the time to push myself – it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

For over 40 years Drama Kids has been helping children develop inside and outside the classroom through structured drama lessons. An art that incorporates more than just technique, drama supports children in developing social interaction skills and their self-esteem, helping them to become the best performer they can be. Our ethos of ‘Development through Drama’ means our franchisees who operate in over 30 countries with over 225 academies all work towards the same goal – to encourage students to be confident within themselves so they can excel in all aspects of their lives. This is just one of the reasons that over 100,000 children attend our classes across the globe each week.

Endless Support

“Although I hadn’t thought about having my own business, after being in the Drama Kids network for seven years I knew how it worked and I knew I would be supported in this new venture. I completely believe in their ethos, and I knew I would have a team behind me who value instilling confidence in our students just as much as I do.”

All new franchisees are fully trained in all aspects of the teaching, marketing and administration of our programme, and are provided with all curriculum content each term over a four-year period. Support includes training throughout the first year of launching the academy as well as regular visits and continued support from the training team in subsequent years. Drama Kids’ proven structure allows franchisees to combine their passion for drama with a business in a secure role, creating a brighter future for students, local communities and the performing arts sector.

All principals can attend training seminars throughout the year, offering an opportunity to network and connect.

Drama Kids Students with Quotation

“We all receive general emails, but our seminars are the chance to get together – and they are just as effective online as in-person. On Zoom, we have breakout rooms which then allow you to talk to half-a-dozen people about a specific subject such as recruiting new students or communicating with parents. This is when you know you’re not alone as you can relate your own experiences to those shared in the group.

“Even as a teacher I was made to feel welcome right from the beginning through seminars. Lindsay couldn’t attend the first seminar I went to, but she made sure there was someone who looked out for me. Having someone who wanted to include me made me realise that Drama Kids was an inclusive brand – I walked into a room where I didn’t know anyone, but I had someone there inviting me to sit with them.

“I now instil this same sense of community and belonging into my students which gives them the confidence to be themselves. My favourite thing about being a principal is that I get to teach students in a relaxed way whilst being trusted by Drama Kids as a brand to run successful classes.

No one is on my back, wanting me to tick boxes or asking me to prove what I have done – and it’s the same for the kids. There is no pressure, and the kids can be who they want to be. It’s not just an income-generating business, as a principal you get to see your students transform and be immensely proud of them – you know your team helped them to get to where they are today.”

Drama Kids Students Questions Marks

The Future Knows No Bounds

Not only has Caryn’s career been transformed, but thanks to the flexibility of running her academy, she has been able to care for her daughter. “My daughter still struggles with her mental health – she has her good days which can be amazing and her bad days which can take her to a dark place. I’ve been able to be there for her throughout my time as a principal, making my schedule work around her needs. Although she now lives away from home, she knows I can still drop what I’m doing – except teaching as I won’t let my kids down – to be there for her.

“Although I’ve prioritised my family, over the last eight years I have accumulated a wonderful community. I received Franchisee of the Year this year and last Easter I reached the milestone of having 300 students enrolled at once at my academy. So, although I currently have no plans to open new classes, I would like to expand into teaching our dedicated schools’ programme in local schools

“I was the first Drama Kids principal to run the Arts award through Trinity College London, an award that supports young people who want to strengthen their knowledge and confidence around the performing arts. Drama Kids provided the curriculum for me to teach this course in a primary school during the summer term. I taught Shakespeare to Years 2 and 3 – the children loved it and learnt so much, both about acting and self-belief. I want to teach more children in schools, to instil the same confidence in them I have with my students at my academy. 

“I love children, I love going along with their imagination and allowing them to say things they can’t at school because they would get into trouble. I want every child to feel like they can be themselves which I think is why I love Drama Kids so much as a brand – they encourage this acceptance amongst kids. I had a 14-year-old boy come in a dress one week and nobody batted an eyelid. The next week he came in dressed in his usual clothes and was treated the same. Behaviour like this makes me so proud of my students and the academy, it’s what inspires me to carry on as a principal.”

If, like Caryn, you want to help children develop their confidence and self-belief through drama, why not open your own Drama Kids Academy? Find Out More Here regarding Drama Kids Franchising opportunities.

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