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RM hopes trading will be boosted by schools reopening

Education specialist shares a first-half trading update that shows the impact of the coronavirus

Schools are currently in the eye of a political storm around easing lockdown measures, with vast numbers of pupils facing a September return as classrooms remain empty.

The education market is a key vertical for the channel and a trading update from RM has given an insight into how the coronavirus has impacted that market.

The firm’s trading update covered the six months ended 31 May, including the last few months of lockdown, and did not shy away from discussing the impact of the pandemic.

But RM also revealed that as more schools open, with years 10 and 12 due back into secondary schools next week for the first time since mid-March, trading will improve.

RM has remained profitable in the first half, but it was forced to take action to mitigate the crisis, with its board and executive team cutting their salaries by 25% and 20%, respectively. There was also a pause in its two major capital programmes, with a view to restarting them later in the year.

The business in the first half also halted the recruitment of permanent staff and reduce temporary workers where possible. There was also a “significant reduction” in discretionary spending.

Investors were told that the situation remained too fluid to make forecasts about the second half, but the actions taken so far have helped set the business up to get through H2.

“In the short term, RM’s focus is on continuing to provide our products and services safely to our customers,” said David Brooks, chief executive of RM. “Looking further ahead, as schools reopen and exam boards restart assessments, RM will play a key role in helping to get education systems back on track and adapt to the new environment.”

The government is soon expected to outline details of a catch-up campaign to help pupils, particularly those facing exams next week, to recover some of the teaching that has been lost in the past three months.

Academia also has an eye on the future, with the educational channel specialist moving to acquire Toucan earlier this week.

Toucan comes with 25 years’ experience in the education market, providing support, training and repair services, and will give Academia more reach as it enters the traditionally busy summer period.

“We are so excited to be incorporating Toucan into the Academia group of companies, which the board and I feel will allow us to cement our position as the first port of call for any educational institution looking for a best-in-class service from their IT supplier,” said Mike Bacon, managing director of the Academia Group.

In response, Kristian Taylor, sales director of Toucan Computing, said it would be able to provide its customers with more services as part of a larger group.

“It’s business as usual for our key schools, but now we can offer a much greater range of solutions, with access to more products and expert knowledge from the whole group,” he said. “We’ll have many more strings to our bow, providing an irresistible choice for schools looking for a trusted long-term partner.”

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