An educational technology business that works with schools across the UK in supporting the development of children’s reading is targeting expansion into the UAE after being bought by a longstanding director in a management buy-out (MBO).

Reading Solutions UK is now under the leadership of Ian Fitzpatrick, who joined founder Michael Walker in the business shortly after its inception in 2014, and the two have worked together to spearhead the national growth of the firm and its flagship product, online reading development program Reading Plus.

Ian now takes over the managing director role from Michael – who will remain in the business as a consultant in the short term – and under his leadership, has planned further to grow the Team Valley-based business and its 30-strong team, targeting more schools nationally as well as increasing its use in English-speaking schools in the UAE.

Ian – who was closely supported and advised on the MBO by WilliamsAli Corporate Finance – said his plans are set to take Reading Solutions UK to the next level of growth.

Reading Plus – of which Reading Solutions UK is the exclusive UK reseller – is used in over 1,100 schools across the UK, supporting pupils to develop their reading fluency and become more confident and engaged readers. The business hopes to secure funding from the Education Endowment Foundation to further prove Reading Plus’s efficacy.

“Reading Plus is a unique product, nothing supports children’s reading fluency like this does, and we see how children are motivated by the gains they make, which they can see for themselves,” says Ian.

“It’s brilliant to see the child at the back of the classroom who starts using Reading Plus with their arms folded and not wanting to engage as they struggle with reading, to a short time later talking about the book they’ve read with enthusiasm and wanting to choose the next one.

“The UAE is an exciting market for us. We have an excellent partnership with Safa British school in Dubai, as they follow the British curriculum, and we look forward to collaborating with more British schools in this area to improve students’ reading outcomes.

“Mike and I have been working towards my transition to MD for a while now, so it’s great that it has formally happened. We’ve got a great team and culture; everything is in place for us to move forward, and I’m grateful to Williams Ali for their expert support.”

Award-winning North East corporate finance boutique WilliamsAli is a leader in its field in delivering independent and tailored expertise to help businesses and their shareholders realise their ambitions.

The Newcastle-based dealmakers managed and supported the transaction from beginning to end, working closely with the shareholders and with other specialist advisers.

Sell-side legal advice was provided by Amy Wanless from St James’ Square and tax advice on the transaction was provided by Emma Glover from Peppercorn Tax.

Simon Hewitson, corporate finance director at WilliamsAli, said: “Reading Solutions has built an impressive reputation for its work with schools nationally, bringing Reading Plus to the UK market which continues to play a central and growing role in supporting the development of children’s reading ability.

“We’ve been impressed with Ian’s determination to drive the business forward in the UK and to add to that success by breaking into a new global market. We worked closely with him to understand his vision and are delighted to be able to support him in achieving this through his MBO of the business.”