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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Madeleine Taylor

Madeleine Taylor, co-founder of ISA award-winning Springmead School and Nursery, remains as passionate about children’s needs being met through their school experience as she was twenty years ago when the school began. Springmead recognises that children learn best when they feel safe and supported and their talents are nurtured, valued and developed in a rich and diverse setting.  

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I began my career in personnel management with Marks and Spencer and then moved into a recruitment business development role. Whilst enjoying aspects of my early career, I increasingly felt called to teach. Supported by my husband, Steve, I was lucky enough to be able to totally immerse myself in a teaching degree and then later the world of the primary child. At last, I had found my calling. Helping to shape a child’s life is a true privilege. 

Springmead School near Frome, Somerset, welcomes children aged 3-11 and was born from our desire to create a learning environment in which children could truly be everything they wanted to be. The school’s name reflects the new beginnings that spring brings, mirroring the beginning of an educational journey which we could offer in a characterful building in the centre of Beckington, a beautiful village.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

Jacqueline Beardsley – my sister with many years of teaching experience – and I felt increasingly despondent with the state offering for primary children. Even the most hardworking and talented teachers were finding it almost impossible to truly reach the individual child academically let alone support them with their personal development in classes of over thirty mixed-ability children. 

We believed there was a better way to provide a good, all-round education. So, alongside my husband Steve, Jacqueline and I founded Springmead School in 2002. This was a brave and audacious move and took 18 months of meticulous planning, developing, recruiting, and marketing. 

Whilst at Kingston University I met our future headteacher, Sally Cox. Sally and I shared a desire to create a learning environment where children could be supported to be their best self, in all fields of learning and equally importantly in their self-development. Sally joined the Springmead family from its earliest days and now leads the school brilliantly as Head Teacher.

How did you achieve awareness? 

Initially we knocked on doors, delivered leaflets, and held meetings in local halls. We did interviews for local publications, radio and newspapers. We will always be grateful for those first few sets of parents who were brave enough to believe in Springmead and entrust their children to our care. 

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

To set the school up we sold our homes and with the support of a business loan from Nat West Bank, Springmead came into being. After growing the school we decided it was time to move on last year, so Springmead became part of the Forfar Education Group – an organisation which has the same family ethos and values we do. Being a part of Forfar has brought the opportunity for additional funding and the opportunity to grow, meaning a new, exciting chapter for Springmead. 

What are the key successes

Most importantly, watching a generation of children flourish in a truly child-centred environment, in small classes with rich extracurricular provisions available to all. Growing from four pupils in 2002 to 120 today is also a marvel. 

In February 2023, Springmead School became part of the Forfar Education Group, which owns and manages several exceptional independent schools across the UK.

We have achieved ‘excellent’ in every category of every Ofsted and ISI (Independent School Inspectorate) inspection we have ever had! Just last year in 2023, the school was again inspected by the ISI and awarded the highest accolade, a ‘double-excellent’ – a testament to the culture we have nurtured and the team at Springmead School’s helm.

Springmead School also continues to enjoy a myriad of successes through its pupils too, most recently being winners in the ISA National Art Competition and the South Schools Biathlon Championships. Our talented children flourish in annual scholarships across the board for independent senior schools too, which is a testament to the prosperity of Springmead School.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

There have been many challenges over the twenty years including a recession, a pandemic and the loss of a beloved Co-founder, Steve. With the support of a loyal parent body and incredibly hardworking staff, we overcame these enormous hurdles and grew through the process.  

What are your plans now/for the future?

Although I’ve moved on from the day-to-day running I continue to watch Springmead going from strength to strength from the sidelines, in the excellent hands of long-term headteacher, Sally Cox, supported by Forfar.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

No one will ever prepare you for the all-consuming nature of a start-up, especially if you have personally and emotionally invested in it. Stay strong and be prepared for the long haul. Seek wise counsel and keep a strong team around you. Above all be kind to everyone, even bad news can be handled sensitively. 

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Hold onto your vision, stay true to your values and never be afraid of hard work. 

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why? 

Ethical behaviour and calmly expressed convictions are key to my principles so Michelle and Barack Obama are definitely up there with the most inspirational people for me. Alongside them, I admire King Charles and David Attenborough for their enduring and relentless work for the planet. They inspire our children. As any child who has come through Springmead knows, kindness is my most revered virtue.

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

Desiderata has been my guiding principle. It is wise and timeless: if you don’t know this passage it is well worth a Google search and a quiet five-minute read. 

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?  

The Springmead website: https://www.springmead.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/springmead-school/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@Springmead/videos

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/springmeadschool/?hl=en