Acquiring a school may make good strategic sense, but it’s still a big investment, and at times can prove to be a long and complicated process. Here at Aldenham Education Group, we have years of experience in running and opening new schools, both in the UK and abroad – in September 2022, we opened Aldenham Prep Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Whether you’re looking to acquire your first school, or adding to a network of them, there are some vital steps that you should keep in mind in order to avoid some of the most common challenges.
When it comes to deals such as this, confidentiality is paramount – the importance of it can’t be overstated. Selling a school can be a time-consuming process, and it’s best to keep everything under wraps to minimise the disruption to pupils, staff, and the parents of pupils as much as possible. There’s always the chance the sale might not go through, so you should ensure that information is only shared with people on a need-to-know basis, such as governors, members of the school board, headteachers or other key staff. If possible, the parties involved should sign a non-disclosure agreement, in order to prevent any acquisition deals from being leaked. Once the terms of the sale or acquisition have been agreed upon, then the school and the buyer can make an announcement to parents and answer any pressing questions people may have.
Do Your Due Diligence
If you’re looking to acquire a school, you’ll want to make sure that you carry out due diligence. You’ll want to make sure that you’re making an informed decision, and that you’re aware of all of the school’s assets, any issues it may have, and any issues that might arise in the near future. While you’re doing your due diligence, a complete valuation of the school is advised, as it ensures you can stay on top of your costs and avoid paying more than is necessary. If you think that due diligence could take a long time, you should make sure to factor it into your timeline.
Typically, the school buildings will be the biggest assets, so you should undertake surveys on them to address any maintenance issues or repairs that need to be made. The school should disclose these up front if there are any, but if they don’t, they could slow down proceedings. It’s a two-way process, of course – the school will also be doing its due diligence on you, so you should make sure there’s nothing that the school might be concerned about.
Keep All Information to Hand
Keeping track of all the important information can ensure the sale goes ahead – something that both the school and the buyer should be mindful of. Before you acquire a school, you’ll need to look over three years’ worth of the school’s financial information, as well as accurate data on debtors, budgets, safeguarding, contracts, and more. By prioritising the receival of all of this information from the school, and keeping it to hand, you can make sure you aren’t blindsided by any new information that comes to light. Since all of our schools are owner-operated, at AEG we’re always hands-on throughout the process of acquiring a new school, especially when analysing and vetting their details – we’re able to make decisions quickly and effectively.
Make Sure You Have Planning Permissions
If you’ve been looking to acquire a school, you may have already made plans to make modifications, to build extensions, or even to build new school buildings. You should make sure to check that the school is registered under the correct planning use class, and that you’ve obtained all of the proper planning permissions. This is especially important if the school’s in a different country. It’s vital that you have the correct planning permissions. Any setback could leave you behind schedule, and cost you both time and money – if you miss out on the beginning of the school year, you’d have to wait weeks or possibly months until you could open your doors to welcome pupils.
Acquiring a new school is an enormous undertaking, as you might expect, but if you keep in mind all of the above points, you can alleviate some of the pressure, and make the process easier for everyone involved. If you want to find out more about some of the schools that we’ve acquired, and how we maintain our hands-on approach to operations, no matter where in the world they are, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.