Innervation Capital-backed, Melrose Education, secures growth capital from OakNorth Bank to pursue “buy and build” of Special Educational Needs schools

  • Melrose Education has secured a loan from OakNorth Bank to pursue a targeted “buy and build” of high-quality Special Education Needs (“SEN”) schools;
  • This is the third time OakNorth Bank has supported Innervation Capital. OakNorth Bank previously backed ICP Nurseries (a nurseries “buy and build” group focused on the London and South East region) in 2017, and Cresswell Nurseries (a freehold nurseries “buy and build” group) in 2019. Both these businesses were combined as ICP Education and sold to Oakley Capital IV in June 2021;
  • Melrose Education is led by Tracey Storey. Tracey was previously the CEO of ICP Education;
  • Melrose Education has initiated its “buy and build” strategy with the acquisition of Orchard Education in Grimsby, and Break Through School in Belvedere, Kent.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. OakNorth Bank – the UK bank for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs – has provided growth capital to Innervation Capital Partners, the sector-focused, theme-driven investor to support the “buy and build” strategy of its newly-launched Special Educational Needs (SEN) provider, Melrose Education.

Innervation Capital focuses on investing in platform companies in essential services sectors such as education. It then works closely with the management team to accelerate growth through a mixture of organic and inorganic growth. In 2017, OakNorth Bank provided support to ICP Nurseries, and in 2019, did the same with Cresswell Nurseries – both were Innervation Capital-backed businesses.

ICP Nurseries and Cresswell Nurseries were combined to form ICP Education in December 2020.  Under the leadership of CEO, Tracey Storey, ICP Education operated 45 sites and served nearly 6,000 children. The Group is one of the highest quality large nursery operators in England, with a third of nurseries rated Ofsted Outstanding and 98% rated Outstanding or Good. In addition, last year ICP Education was ranked as the 14th Best Place to Work in the UK by Glassdoor, and Tracey Storey was personally named as the seventh best CEO to work for during the pandemic.

In June 2021, Innervation Capital announced the sale of ICP Education to Oakley Capital IV, and it now intends to replicate that success in nurseries in SEN schools via its recently-launched entity, Melrose Education.

Melrose initiated its “buy and build” strategy with the acquisition of Orchard Education, an independent special school in Grimsby with expertise in supporting learners with Autism, ADHD or more general Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs (SEMH). The school is led by Principal Mike Burton, who has become Director of Operations of Melrose Education following completion of the acquisition, with Tracey Storey as Executive Chair. Melrose Education has also recently acquired Break Through School in Belvedere, Kent, a small alternative independent school offering a personalised and well-rounded approach to education to young people aged 11-17.

Commenting on the transaction, Tracey Storey, Executive Chair of Melrose Education, said: “Our aim with Melrose Education is to create one of the UK’s leading independent Special Educational Needs providers in what is a £7B, fragmented market, serving 430,000 children with Education & Health Care Plans (“EHCP”). We expect to complete another 1-2 acquisitions this year with many more to come, so are delighted to have the support of OakNorth Bank once again. The bespoke facility the team designed for us in 2017 played a vital role in the incredible growth and success of ICP Education, which culminated in its sale to Oakley Capital last year.”

Stuart Blair, Director of Debt Finance at OakNorth Bank, commented: “Tracey has been instrumental to the standout performance of ICP Education, so we jumped at the opportunity to work with her and Innervation Capital again. Between them, Tracey and Mike have almost four decades of experience in the education sector, so understand the unique dynamics of it, and will no doubt be able to build Melrose Education into the success story that ICP Education has become.”



Notes to editors

About OakNorth Bank plc

Launched in September 2015 and founded by entrepreneurs, OakNorth Bank provides fast, flexible, and accessible debt finance to the UK’s Missing Middle.

Since its launch, the bank has:

  • Lent over £7B, directly helping with the creation of 27,600 new jobs and 22,300 new homes across the UK.
  • Raised deposits from c.160,000 savers.
  • Supported several hundred businesses across the UK with the debt finance to pursue their growth ambitions.

It is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.



Valentina Kristensen, Director – Growth & Communications – [email protected] / [email protected] / +44 757 234 9009

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