Pearson has experienced a “good start to the year” with sales growth of 5% in the first quarter.
In its unaudited trading update for the first quarter of 2021, the company said the sales growth showed “good progress as we reposition Pearson for sustainable growth with a strong direct to consumer focus”.
English Language Learning was down 4%, attributed to the continuing impact of Covid-19. Workforce Skills was down 8%, due to the effect of college closures and exam cancellations on BTEC revenue. Assessments & Qualifications was flat, with improvement over Global Assessment due to the inclusion of international clinical assessment and UK schools revenue, which were up slightly.
However the Global Online Learning division rose by 25%, with strong growth in virtual schools due to enrolment growth in the current school year in Partner Schools, as well as in US district partnerships. Global Assessment declined by 2%, as strong recovery in Professional Certification and US Clinical Assessment was more than offset by US School Assessment, where revenue was down significantly due to the challenging comparative and reuse of material from cancelled exams. North American Courseware was up 1%, which more than offset a 1% decline in US Higher Education Courseware. International growth was down 2%, with a decline in English as Covid-19 continued to impact its courseware and franchise business in Latin America.
The company predicted its performance to be in line with its 2021 outlook.
Andy Bird, who joined as c.e.o. last October, said: "It's been a good start to the year for Pearson, delivering 5% sales growth in the quarter. This is despite a longer period of disruption from Covid-19 in the quarter compared to last year. I'd like to thank colleagues for their ongoing dedication and hard work.
"We are building pace and momentum. We are making good strategic progress in our ongoing shift to digital, we are in the advanced stages of preparation for the forthcoming launch of our new college app and our organisational redesign is on track.
"We continue to expect to deliver revenue and profit growth in 2021 and for our performance to be in line with our 2021 outlook as we benefit from improving trading conditions as Covid-19 restrictions ease. We are focused on executing our new strategy and believe that it will create sustainable and significant value for all of Pearson's stakeholders."
The news comes a month after a shake-up at Pearson which saw the introduction of five new business divisions, while Rod Bristow, president of Global Online Learning, left the company. It also spells a return to more stability after revenue was down 10% in 2020 due to the impact of Covid.