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Publisher Pearson sees growth from online learning

Simon Neville, PA City Editor
·2-min read

Educational publishing group Pearson revealed a small jump in revenues as the switch to online learning at schools and universities helped boost sales.

Bosses said sales rose 5% in the three months to the end of March compared with a year earlier – with a 25% jump in its global online learning division.

Chief executive Andy Bird said the growth came “despite a longer period of disruption from Covid-19 in the quarter compared to last year”.

Online learning was particularly strong via Virtual Schools being set up during the current school year with partner schools, as well as with US districts.

But with schools and further education colleges being closed for long periods of time due to the pandemic, there was a significant fall in revenues for the UK-based firm’s school assessment division as exams were cancelled.

The fall was offset slightly as more companies embraced online learning to offer professional certification to employees. The Global Assessment division was therefore down 2% compared with the same quarter a year ago, Pearson said.

Growth in ebook sales also offset falls in Pearson’s traditional print units – tying into a recent overhaul announced by the business to shift to a more digital-focused enterprise.

The firm’s international divisions fell 2% with a decline in English as Covid-19 continued to affect courseware and franchise businesses in Latin America.

But there was a slight improvement in Pearson Test of English volume and courseware recovery in China, the company added.

The latest update comes less than a week after chairman Sidney Taurel said he would leave the business next year, having joined the board in 2016.

He faced criticism from shareholders over a £7.4 million pay package offered to current chief executive Mr Bird to secure his services.

Last month Mr Bird set out a new digital-focused strategy, amid a market shift to online learning.

Pearson’s restructuring will see it have five divisions: Virtual Learning, Higher Education, English Language Learning, Workforce Skills, and Assessment & Qualifications.