Private equity-backed school software and services provider Juniper Education has acquired FS4S, which provides schools, academies and multi-academy trusts with payroll and HR-management services.

The takeover by Juniper Education, which is owned by mid-market buyout firm Horizon Capital, is its fourth this year. It follows its purchases of management information system (MIS) provider Pupil Asset in June, and Maze Educationand Prime Principle, which owns Classroom monitor, in January.  

The acquisition, the terms of which were not disclosed, comes “at a time when schools are having to meet extraordinary challenges” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Juniper said in a statement, and will enable the firm to “better support schools with their day-to-day administrative functions”.

Following the deal, a school, academy or MAT will be able to tap Juniper for payroll solutions, budget management and HR support, in addition to its MIS software offered under Pupil Asset.

The takeover of FS4S, which stands for Financial Services 4 Schools, comes during a period of consolidation in the UK MIS market. Capita SIMS, Britain’s biggest MIS provider, has been put up for sale and is expected to fetch upwards of £500 million. Competitors Arbor and The Key are set to merge this month, creating a new entity in which two private equity firms are vying for a minority stake. iSAMS, the largest MIS provider to private schools, is also on the market.

FS4S supports more than 100 education institutions in West England. Andy Madgwick, who co-founded the company alongside Lorraine Billis and Neil Miles, will remain with the firm throughout its transition into the hands of Juniper.

Gavin Freed, chairman of Juniper, said: “A school’s overall focus is to improve outcomes for pupils. By taking on those essential functions that support the day to day operation of the school, we free school staff up to spend more time focusing on their pupils.

“FS4S has an excellent track record with their customers and their payroll service and other support functions are a welcome addition to our existing HR and finance services.”

Simon Hitchcock, managing partner at Horizon Capital, said: “This acquisition is an exciting development, further establishing Juniper Education as a leading software and services provider in the education market. We look forward to working with the management team as the group continues its growth.”

Juniper Education was formed when Horizon Capital rebranded EES For Schools after acquiring the firm from Essex County Council in June last year in a deal revealed exclusively by this publication.

Date published: 11 September 2020

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