RM Education

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RM Education
Traded as LSERM.
Industry Computer hardware
Computer software
IT services
Founded 1973
Founder Mike Fischer and Mike O'Regan
Headquarters Milton Park, UK
Area served
Key people
John Poulter, Chairman; David Brooks, Chief Executive Officer; Iain McIntosh, Chief Financial Officer
Products Desktops
Educational software
Virtual Learning Environment
Revenue Decrease£203 million (2014)
Number of employees
1,870 (2014)
Subsidiaries RM Education Ltd, SpaceKraft Ltd, TTS Group Ltd, RM Education Solutions India Pvt Ltd
Website http://www.rm.com/

RM Education is a British company that specialises in providing Information Technology products and services to educational organisations and establishments. Its key market is UK education including schools, colleges, universities, government education departments and educational agencies. It also sells educational software in the United States.

RM Education employs around 1,800 people, the majority based in the company's headquarters located on Milton Park, near Didcot, Oxfordshire. RM also has offices across the UK and in North America and a software development facility in India.[1]


The company was founded in 1973 as "Research Machines" in Oxford, England by Mike Fischer and Mike O'Regan, respectively graduates of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Initially it traded under the name Sintel as a mail-order supplier of electronic components, mainly dealing with the hobbyist market.

With the arrival of microcomputer chips in the mid-1970s, the company expanded into the design and manufacturing of microcomputers. The company shipped its first computer in 1977[2] to a customer in a Local Education Authority and has been involved with educational computing ever since.

In the 1980s RM and its rival Acorn Computers sold thousands of computers to schools in the UK as part of the government's Microelectronics Education Programme. A key model of the time was RM's Z80-based RML 380Z.

The company was invited to tender to supply the BBC microcomputer[3] but declined on grounds that it was not economically feasible to provide so many features at such a low price and to such a tight schedule.[4][5][6]

The company floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 1994 under the name RM plc.

Mike Fischer was Chief Executive of the Group until 1997, when Richard Girling took over. Girling retired in 2002 after RM had been affected by the dot com boom and bust and was replaced by Tim Pearson who left in 2008. Both Girling and Pearson had long careers with RM before being appointed Chief Executive. Long careers are a feature of RM - Pearson having joined the company as a technical support engineer straight from university in 1981. His PA served in that role for both Fischer and Girling. In October 2008 Terry Sweeney took over the role of CEO having joined RM in 1998.[7] He lasted in the role until October 2011, when the RM Board was re-structured, the existing non-executive chairman Martyn Ratcliffe taking over as Executive Chairman and long-term RM employee Rob Sirs (21 years) taking up the position of Group Managing Director.[8]

The company also won the contract for KS3 ICT tests. These were innovative on-line tests that provided a virtual PC office environment for students. Very late in the day, the government scrapped the tests.[9]

Cuts in the budgets of UK educational establishments in 2011 damaged RM's revenues, leading it to shed hundreds of employees and sell less profitable parts of its business.[10][11]

In October 2013 RM announced that it would cease production of computers, which would entail 300 redundancies.[12]

UK operations

RM Education classifies its UK business into three market areas which each have their own broad focus:[13]

Learning technologies

The main ICT division of RM Education that deals with technology infrastructure, software and services - including learning platforms, interactive classroom equipment, computer systems, connectivity, networking software, school management software and support services.

Educational resources

This division focuses on products for use in the learning curriculum. RM bought smaller companies to grow this business from 2004-2009, but sold some of them in 2012. Acquisitions include:

  • SpaceKraft Ltd - Developer and manufacturer of a range of sensory products - acquired in 2007.[14]
  • TTS Group Ltd - supplier of special-purpose educational and classroom resources - acquired in 2004.[15]
  • DACTA Ltd - distributor of educational products from LEGO, TOLO and BRIO products. Acquired in 2007[16] and sold in 2012.[17]
  • ISIS Concepts Ltd - a UK furniture manufacturer. Acquired in 2009 and sold in 2012.[18]

Assessment and data

Deals with the process management and outsourcing for testing and qualifications; data analysis services for teachers, education managers and policy makers. Notable clients include Cambridge Assessment and the International Baccalaureate.[19]

International operations

From the mid-1990s the company expanded overseas, with international revenues rising to 12% of the total group's revenue in 2009.[20] A contraction in customer spending in RM's core UK education market and slow growth in the overseas businesses prompted it to divest several of them from 2010.


In 1993 the company established a subsidiary in Soest, Germany, in order to sell a localized version of RM Net LM, a turnkey Local Area Network product for schools, consisting of file-servers running Microsoft LAN Manager, client PCs running Microsoft Windows 3.1 and including a suite of RM-developed network management applications. Despite a nationwide program of marketing seminars and three pilot sites, the venture failed to generate adequate revenue. RM withdrew within two years.


RM Educational Software, Inc. was established in 2005 to provide schools and districts in North America with many of the UK software products. In 2008 RM purchased and integrated the US interactive classroom provider Computrac.[21]


RM Asia-Pacific started operation in 1997. A head office was opened in Perth office in February 1999 after being awarded a contract for Schools Information Systems by the Department of Education and Training Western Australia (then named EDWA).

The company grew to employ 50 staff located in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Wellington (NZ), servicing over 4,000 schools across Australasia and in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and Taipei.[22]

RM Asia-Pacific was sold to Civica plc in 2011.

Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA)

In 2009 the company announced that it was expanding its business into the MENASA region with offices based in Dubai. The company stated that this would be a joint venture:

"RM MENASA will, through subsidiaries licensed to trade in each country, provide educational ICT products and services to schools in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA). It will be the exclusive distributor of RM's learning technologies products in the MENASA region."[23]

This venture was closed down after 12 months.

RM computers

RM manufactured desktop and server computers in its Oxfordshire premises from 1978 until 2014.

The first model RM shipped was the RML 380Z, based on the Z80 processor and CP/M operating system.[24] This was followed in 1982 by the Link 480Z,[25] essentially a smaller, diskless 380Z with a simple networking capability, enabling it to use the file storage of a 'parent' 380Z via CP/NET networking software and Zilog Z-Net network hardware.

In 1985 RM released the RM Nimbus PC-186, a desktop computer using the Intel 80186 processor, the forerunner of the 286 processor used in the IBM PC/AT that defined 'PC compatibility' as a dominant standard for personal computers for decades to come. As the 80186 processor lacked its successor's protected mode RM's computer was not truly PC compatible but could run some PC software and Microsoft Windows up to 3.0.

RM introduced its AX model in 1986, using the Intel 80286 processor. A common use for the AX was as a fileserver, connected to PC-186 clients using MS-Net, Microsoft's network operating system of the time and Z-Net hardware (later optionally via Ethernet). Usually the PC-186 clients were diskless, booting via the network. Diskless client computers that loaded their operating system, applications and user data centrally from fileservers were common in UK education for a further decade, partially to avoid the cost of local storage devices such as hard disks, but also to protect system files, as the client Operating Systems MS-DOS and Windows did not offer access control at the file system level until Windows XP introduced support for NTFS.

From the AX model onwards RM computers were PC compatible. The 'X Series' was supplemented by the VX, using the new, 32-bit 80386 processor, marketed as a standalone CAD workstation or network fileserver. RM released M Series computers, primarily used as diskless network clients, using the 80286 and later 80386 processors. These used the Micro Channel architecture that featured in the IBM PS/2, which was faster than the standard ISA architecture, but failed to gain wide-spread acceptance. RM's fileserver platform became its 'E Series' computers, using the similarly short-lived EISA architecture and using a tower case to allow space for multiple hard disks. These fileservers ran Microsoft LAN Manager (on Microsoft OS/2) preconfigured with client Operating System files (Windows 3.0 and later 3.1) for remote booting and bundled with RM-developed tools for managing network users, client PCs and applications. This was sold as RM Net LM.

The success of PC compatibility as a worldwide standard changed RM's focus from complete in-house design of circuit boards, peripherals and firmware to the assembly and integration of hardware components sourced predominantly from the Far East. The hardware within RM server and desktop PCs was no longer significantly different from mainstream PCs from other vendors.

In 1994 the server component of RM's networking solution was moved to Windows NT and was named RM Connect. RM Connect evolved through several versions and renamed RM Community Connect from version 2.4 onwards. Diskless network client PCs were discontinued as the client operating system from Windows 95 onwards had become too large to transfer over the LAN to multiple PCs in a timely manner, so local hard disks were required.

In the new millennium RM offered laptops and tablets that bore its name. These were manufactured by Asus and others.[26]

In 2014 RM ceased hardware manufacture to focus on software and services.


The company also offers a range of software, such the Kaleidos VLE, MathsAlive, DiscoverAlive, Living Library and SuccessMaker. They also bundle popular software titles from other software companies to allow teachers and network administrators to install the titles on RM networks more easily.[27] In 2005 RM was awarded the contract for Glow (formally known as Scottish Schools Digital Network (SSDN) National Intranet project). Under the five-year, £37.5 million project, all 32 Local Authorities, over 3000 schools and over 800,000 education users plus parents had access to Glow.


  • Chief Executive Officer: David Brooks
  • Executive Chairman: John Poulter


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  22. [1][dead link]
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  27. [2][dead link]

External links