An inclusive dance school where all youngsters can spread their wings!

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By flamingochicks, Jan 30 2019 11:37AM

Less than 10% of dads have openly told their bosses they have a disabled child

Politicians, leaders and parents of disabled children joined together last night, 29th January 2019, for the launch of the Dad & Me Report, which focusses on the challenges faced by fathers of disabled children. Also launched at the same event was an Employers’ Charter detailing how workplaces can better support this demographic.

The report and charter was developed by Flamingo Chicks – an organisation dedicated to breaking down barriers to inclusion and celebrating what disabled children can do – and the launch event was hosted by Darren Jones MP (Bristol North West).

The report is the culmination of a comprehensive study carried out to understand the issues facing the fathers of disabled children as they juggle their responsibilities as a dad and employee. The findings included:

• Less than 10% of dads with disabled children had openly told their bosses for fear of it affecting their career progression

• A third of dads feel that they don’t understand their child’s medical condition as well as they might because they are unable to attend medical or care team appointments

• 72% of the dads surveyed felt under pressure to maintain a good job that pays well in order to look after their child

• 76% of father surveyed felt that female carers are better supported while almost all (96%) agreed that it is deemed more acceptable for female carers to show emotion and ask for help and support

• Despite their right to request flexible working, 97% of dads said that their jobs were not flexible

• Almost all the dads surveyed (97%) would like the option of working flexible hours to be available to them so that they can better combine their caring and work responsibilities.

Following analysis of the report Flamingo Chicks has compiled an Employers’ Charter which will provide employers with clear guidance on how they can support parents of disabled children. Several large organisations – including TSB, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and Avon Fire & Rescue Service – have already pledged their support. Employers who conform to the standards outlined in the charter will be able to promote themselves as a Disabled Family Friendly Employer and use the dedicated logo on their promotional materials.

Among the key things employers could be doing to support parents with disabled children include offering real flexible working solutions without stigma, disability awareness training for staff to create a more empathetic and supportive working environment and introducing carer passports within their business to ensure a consistent record of agreed flexibility and support.

About Flamingo Chicks

Founded in 2013, Flamingo Chicks is an inclusive ballet school breaking down barriers by celebrating what disabled children can do. Children get the chance to explore the joy of dance alongside their friends and parents benefit from the much-needed peer-to-peer support for parents and carers of children with disabilities.

In the past five years, it has seen 3,000 children come through its doors, with outreach programmes in eight other countries. As part of its campaigning work, fighting for a fair future for disabled children and their families, it has done everything from perform at Downing Street to deliver a speech at the United Nations in New York.

The organisation’s vision is for a world in which disabled people have the same range of opportunities and a culture of integrated social and well-being activity and where everyone works together as equals.

Discussing the report, Katherine Sparkes, founder of Flamingo Chicks commented: “The extent of dads’ involvement is often overlooked both emotionally and practically and it is commonly assumed mothers take all the caring responsibilities.”

“Our research shows dads want to be more involved but face real barriers at work. Employers have an opportunity to make a big difference to the lives of families caring for a disabled child. By recognising the key role dads can have, this will in turn improve things for mums, as that means they will be supported both in terms of wellbeing but also that their careers aren’t unduly compromised. Most importantly, being able to take a more active role in their child’s life and medical appointments, will help dads better understand their child’s needs.”

“The commercial benefits should not be underestimated either. As the report makes clear, showing empathy and understanding to this group of parents can often lead to them being very loyal to their company and wanting to repay the support they’ve been given with hard work, often going over and above. The benefits certainly don’t all go one way.”

The need for change was also borne out by Greg*, a father to a son with Global Development Delay. He said:

“Bringing up a disabled child is expensive. We also have to plan to provide for our son for long after we’ve died rather than until they just are 18, like parents on non-disabled children can do. That puts huge pressure on me to hold down a good job.

“However, I am afraid to say too much about our child’s needs at work for fear of being overlooked for promotion or my boss and team thinking it’ll impact my work. I miss crucial appointments so I don’t fully understand his treatment/ condition. Whilst my wife also works full-time, she has to bear the burden of juggling everything. It’s sad but it’s more socially acceptable for her to have time off work for our son than it is for me.”

The event was kindly supported by Exeter Live Better, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, TSB, The Lions Barber Collective, Nisbets, Eversheds Sutherland, Eagle One and Avon Fire & Rescue.

To download the report at

Find event photos here

To view Flamingo Chicks in action in a recent series of short films on ITV, please visit:


For more information, please contact Katherine Sparkes,

By flamingochicks, Oct 31 2017 02:47PM

Children across Bristol were given the chance to keep their dads on their toes – quite literally – this Halloween, as inclusive ballet school Flamingo Chicks launched its first ‘Dad Dancing: Ballet challenge’ on Saturday 28th October held at Bradbury Hall, Henleaze, Bristol.

52 Dads turned out to undergo a crash course in ballet which enabled them to channel their inner Darcy Bussell raising £3500 to support Flamingo Chicks’ mission to give children with disabilities and long-term illnesses the chance to enjoy dance alongside their friends. At the same time, the organisation provides a vital peer-to-peer support network for parents and carers, with a special focus on Dads.

Would-be ballerinos included firefighter dads, farmer dads and chef Dads who all tried their hands (or rather feet) at arabesques and assembles. You can view pics and download high res images here:

Supporting the fathers of disabled children

The Dad Dancing: Ballet Challenge event is part of Flamingo Chicks’ wider ‘Dad & Me’ campaign, which highlights the issues facing fathers of disabled children.

There are 770,000 dads in the UK who have a disabled child and frequently, they feel they are not getting the support they require. A Flamingo Chicks survey of 250 Dads found that 96% of fathers of disabled children agree that there is no emotional or mental support at work, which leads to why less than 10% have told their boss they have a disabled child for fear of impacting their career development. A third said they did not feel confident in their role as carer to a disabled child and 98% said they would like to access more support for them and their child.

Discussing the Dads Dancing event, Katie Sparkes, Founder of Flamingo Chicks, said: “Our Dads Dancing event was quite a spectacle with a brilliant turnout! It was fantastic to see the community come together and Dads supporting each other, making new friends and swapping tips for caring for a disabled child. Peer-to-peer support is so important.”

“Flamingo Chicks provides a supportive and inclusive community and we focus heavily on dads as they often get over-looked. We organise regular evening activities and we find often that physical activities have the biggest impact in breaking down barriers and encouraging dads to communicate. The Flamingo Chicks community for dads is strong but we also want to help shape the wider community too – for example, how our dads can be better supported at work”.

Phil Maclean, father of Poppy, aged 11 with Cerebral Palsy says “Since Flamingo Chicks I have taken up a more positive and sociable attitude. I have been able to handle stress and the pressures associated with caring for a disabled child better – it has enabled me to make new friends with other Dads going through the same thing.”

Gareth Jones, Dad to Mary, aged 8 adds “For many parents, Flamingo Chicks is their first opportunity to be part of a community that really values them and considers all of their needs. It has been great to meet with other dads through the social events that Flamingo Chicks offer. For me, Flamingo Chicks has redefined inclusion and the care, support and affection for the Flamingo Chicks and their families is truly amazing.”


Notes to Editors:

Since 2013, as well as providing ballet classes, Flamingo Chicks also runs a peer-to-peer support network for the parents and carers of disabled children, organising socials and other events.

In the last year, more than 2,000 children have taken part in a Flamingo Chicks class and groups have performed at high profile events at Downing Street and the UN in New York. The organization also works globally with projects in Ghana, Vietnam, Kenya and refugee camps in Greece.

Flamingo Chicks is passionate about encouraging intergenerational volunteering with 350+ volunteers aged 16-84.

By flamingochicks, Sep 29 2017 06:11PM

Children across Bristol will be given the chance to keep their dad on his toes – quite literally – this Halloween, as inclusive ballet school Flamingo Chicks launches its first

‘Dad Dancing: Ballet challenge’.

The challenge will be taking place at Bradbury Hall in Henleaze on Saturday 28th October 2017 (10.30am – 11.30am).

A crash course in ballet which will enable dads to channel their inner Darcy Bussell, the event will raise much-needed funds to support Flamingo Chicks’ mission to give children with disabilities and long-term illnesses the chance to enjoy ballet alongside their friends.

And fittingly for an organisation whose slogan is ‘ballet not barriers’, there are few barres to entry: You just need to be a bloke and happy to strut your stuff in a tutu, which will be provided by Flamingo Chicks. To take part, would-be ballerinos just need to raise at least £50 in sponsorship.

Participants will be in good company. Firefighter dads, farmer dads and even a Queen’s Guard dad are already signed up to try their hands (or rather feet) at arabesques and assembles.

The Dad Dancing: Ballet Challenge event is part of Flamingo Chicks’ wider ‘Dad & Me’ campaign, which aims to highlight the issues facing the fathers of disabled children.

To take part please email

To sponsor the Dads, please go to:

By flamingochicks, May 18 2016 09:21PM

From Bristol to New York in just under two years. . . that’s all the time it took for Flamingo Chicks to become a powerful and influential community of 1200 children. Flamingo Chicks is an inclusive group dedicated to allowing children with disabilities and illness the opportunity to enjoy ballet classes alongside their friends. The children explore movement and develop key skills while parents and carers benefit from a vital, inspiring peer-to-peer support network.

According to a UN report, some 80% of people with disabilities live in poverty, and here in the UK, an estimated 170 disability hate crimes happen every day in the UK (source: mencap). 38% of parents of disabled children said their child rarely or never had the opportunity to socialise and mix with children who aren’t disabled, and Flamingo Chicks is breaking those boundaries. It is so much more than a ballet school. It is a growing movement of people wanting changes to be made in the way our society, including our how global society treats disabled children.

The latest news from Flamingo Chicks is an invitation to speak during the 2016 JCI Global Partnership Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, USA this July. A group of Flamingo Chicks’ Agents of Change – some of the children and young people behind this incredible movement – will be giving a talk on Peace is Possible.

With each child taking a turn, the group will do a short speech or sign together, followed by a video performance featuring the Flamingo Chicks across the UK and also their fantastic outreach projects in Ghana and refugee camps in Greece. Additionally, the group has been learning about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and will reference them in their speech.

“We are excited to welcome the inspiring Flamingo Chicks to participate during this year’s summit. The work they have accomplished to create an inclusive society for children is an impressive example of how young people are establishing peace one creative step at a time,” said JCI Secretary General Arrey Obenson.

It is an incredible opportunity for Flamingo Chicks, but the cost of flights and accommodation for our Agents of Change and each of their carers stands in the way. Flamingo Chicks is appealing to anyone who may be able to help fund the trip. Katherine Sparkes – Founder of Flamingo Chicks – has asked for help:

“This is an amazing and unique opportunity for Flamingo Chicks. We need to raise approximately £15,000 to cover the cost of the trip, or gifts in kind, for example the flights or accommodation. Please help Flamingo Chicks demonstrate to the United Nations the physical, emotional, mental and social benefits of our inclusive community”.

The Flamingo Chicks’ Agents of Change are effectively a school council but they also represent the other dynamic and vibrant Flamingo Chicks and champion the CIC’s vision of an inclusive society. The Agents Of Change get opportunities other children can only dream of, such as the time they were invited to speak and sign at number 10 Downing Street in November 2015. They are supported at every stage through Flamingo Chicks, making all these wonderful experiences accessible to them, regardless of ability.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Flamingo Chicks knows that helping children to enjoy dance is about far more than physical benefits; it helps to build confidence, vital social and communication skills and self-esteem. Flamingo Chicks has inspired a team of volunteers to make sure that children are able to dance alongside their friends regardless of their disabilities."

The invitation for Flamingo Chicks to attend the UN HQ in New York is part of the JCI Global Partnership Summit held at UNHQ. With delegates attending from over 100 countries, the children will have a global platform to share the Flamingo Chicks vision of a world where disabled children have the same opportunities as their peers.

Donate to help the Flamingo Chicks get to the UN at - Twitter @flamingochicks -

By flamingochicks, Nov 25 2015 05:27PM

A flock of young dancers from the inclusive Flamingo Chicks dance school pirouetted their way into 10 Downing Street this week, trailing glitter, feathers and ribbons in their wake, to show Samantha Cameron and guests that ballet has no barriers.

Mrs Cameron hosted the budding ballerinas at a very special reception on Tuesday, 24th November, where they performed a unique ‘mash-up’ of several well-known ballets. The group of 25 children representing Flamingo Chicks classes in Bristol, London, Bradford, Leeds and Cardiff put on their sparkliest tutus and biggest smiles for the unique #balletnotbarriers performance, which also celebrated the 2nd birthday of Flamingo Chicks.

The troupe included children who are blind, autistic, have conditions such as Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy or are undergoing cancer treatment, yet none of them let the difficulties they face get in the way of their fun – they focus on what they can do, enjoying every second of being able to move and laugh with friends.

They performed extracts from Le Corsaire, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Firebird, Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere in front of guests including families and volunteers, as well as the dance school’s patrons Tamara Rojo, Prima Ballerina and Artistic Director at English National Ballet, and Rosaleen Moriarty Simmonds OBE, a leading campaigner for equality for disabled people.

Some of the Flamingo Chicks dancers even gave a speech to guests, talking about why everyone should be encouraged to enjoy movement.

Samantha Cameron said: “It was such a treat to have the Flamingo Chicks performing here in Downing Street. Flamingo Chicks is so much more than a dance school where children go to have fun with their friends – it is also getting across a powerful message about inclusivity”.

Katherine Sparkes, Founder of Flamingo Chicks, said: “It was such an amazing and special experience and we thank Mrs Cameron and Downing Street for giving Flamingo Chicks this unique opportunity. To see the children dancing, with big smiles on their faces, and even being brave enough to speak in front of all those people, was incredible. It was a magical day and created memories that we’ll all treasure forever.”

Flamingo Chicks offers inclusive movement-based sessions giviing youngsters the chance to explore dance alongside their friends, no matter what their level of ability or if they have any kind of impairment. Sessions double up as a support group for parents and carers – a chance for respite with free massages, someone to talk to and a space to forge friendships with other families going through the same thing.

In just two short years, Flamingo Chicks has become a powerful community of people working together to provide a better life for disabled children and their families. The dance school not only transforms the lives of children and their parents who walk through its doors, but also showcases to others what’s possible when people believe in what disabled children can do. Flamingo Chicks has become a lifeline for children and their families while challenging perceptions about disability.

“Having the opportunity to explore dance and movement together is so important for our children and it’s a delight to see the physical, emotional, mental and social benefits shine through – they really have blossomed and gained in confidence,” Katherine added.

“Dance can have a powerful effect on people’s lives – it’s not only about improving health but quality of life too. We have developed into the most co-supportive and warm community for everyone who comes along.”

Demand for this sort of holistic support for disabled children and their families is great. There are around 770,000 disabled children in the UK, and research from Contact a Family shows that three quarters of families with disabled children feel so isolated that it has caused anxiety, depression and breakdown. 38% parents of disabled children said their child ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ had the opportunity to socialise and mix with children who aren’t disabled . 80% of disabled people are currently not active but seven in ten want to increase the amount of physical activity they take part in.

Discussing how Flamingo Chicks has benefited her family, Julie Smee, mum to Issy, aged eight, said: “[It’s] so much more than a dance class, Flamingo Chicks is a lifeline for families. It’s a welcoming, safe space for children with additional needs to have fun, make new friends and explore what their bodies can do – whilst enabling parents to come together, swap tips and share ways to cope, helping us though the journey of parenting a child with disabilities. It’s the most incredible place – full of love and warmth, it has literally changed our lives for the better.”

Flamingo Chicks has already achieved so much, but the journey has only just begun and there are exciting plans for the road ahead. In 2016 it’ll be working in countries such as Ghana – a country dubbed ‘the worst place in the world to be disabled’ ( and where those with disabilities experience particularly tough lives.

Flamingo Chicks also received recognition from the Prime Minister in August of this year when the organisation was presented with a Point Of Light Award. David Cameron said: “Flamingo Chicks knows that helping children to enjoy dance is about far more than physical benefits; it helps to build confidence, vital social and communication skills and self-esteem. Flamingo Chicks has inspired a team of volunteers to make sure that children are able to dance alongside their friends regardless of their disabilities."


For more information, please contact: Katie Sparkes, Katie at flamingochicks dot co dot uk 0117 973 9019.

About Flamingo Chicks

Notes to Editors: – @flamingochicks on Twitter –

Dance classes are open to those aged 3 to 19 and are aimed at helping them develop confidence, social skills, co-ordination, communication and concentration.

The organisation is passionate about encouraging intergenerational volunteering with volunteers aged 16-84.