BOSSES at a major educational firm last night refused to guarantee jobs were safe following a slump in its share price.

Oxfordshire-based RM Education saw its shares drop 16 per cent yesterday after it admitted its results for the year to September were likely to be lower than expected.

The school technology provider, which has its head office in Milton Park, Didcot, blamed tough market conditions in the UK and United States. It said it would be difficult to predict its trading performance until after the summer, the period when it generates most of its profit.

In its trading statement issued yesterday, the company said: “Education market conditions continue to be difficult in the UK and the USA.

“Due to the seasonality of many of the group’s businesses, it is difficult to predict accurately the outcome for the current period until after the summer.

“However, the board has undertaken a forecast review and the balance of probabilities suggests an outcome that may be below the board’s previous expectations.”

About 1,200 staff work at three offices at the business park, and it is understood that following the trading statement, there was no warning to Milton Park staff of redundancies or job losses.

When asked if the firm could guarantee jobs over the coming 12 months, a spokesman would not comment.

The statement came a year after RM was hit by government moves to scale back or cancel unfinished Building Schools for the Future projects, including seven for which RM was the preferred bidder in schemes worth £200m.

RM is undertaking a review of its operations, but stressed that it benefited from an “unrivalled” market position in the UK.

As the Oxford Mail went to press, the share price stood at 120.5p, down 16 per cent.

Financial analyst Julian Yates, of Investec Securities, cut his profit forecast by 32 per cent to £13.8m, and said he would be looking for further clarity on the funding outlook and potential changes in RM’s marketplace.

However, he added: “We continue to see RM as an attractive asset in terms of its leading position in the UK education market and the longer-term drivers for technology and resources spend in classrooms.”

In May, it emerged that the company made a pre-tax loss of £1.4m for the six months to March 31, compared to a profit of £1.2m for the same period last year.

Last year, a “small number” of jobs were lost, particularly in the technology area, but a company spokesman said that employment numbers remained stable due to recruitment in other areas of the business. RM employs about 2,500 staff worldwide.

Mike Foster, the chairman of Didcot Chamber of Commerce, said: “RM Education is a big employer in the area and staff will be concerned about this latest statement.

“People from Didcot work at RM, but staff also come from a much wider area to work there.

But he backed the company, and added: “The firm has boxed clever by diverting some of its energies to overseas work and has a very good reputation as an employer.”