Google walks away from pioneering website linking Scotland’s schools

Google has been subject to attacks from Nokia and Microsoft. Picture: Getty
Google has been subject to attacks from Nokia and Microsoft. Picture: Getty
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FEARS have been raised over the future of a world-leading website used in Scotland’s schools after Google pulled out of the race to develop it.

A procurement process is currently under way to find developers for the next phase of Glow, the national intranet site for school pupils, which became a world first when it was launched in 2006.

Google has pulled out of the competition for Next Generation Glow, saying that the Scottish Government’s procurement process was at odds with its company philosophy on how the internet should be used to provide education in schools.

William Florance, Google’s head of enterprise, said: “Although a single, common platform for collaboration would be preferable, we feel it is important to provide local authorities with the option of deploying Google ‘Apps for Education’ independently of the national procurement process and on a timescale of our own choosing.”

Set up with £37.5 million of government cash, Glow was the world’s first national intranet system for schools. It has previously won the praise of Star Wars director George Lucas, who now heads up a computer educational foundation in the United States.

However, in recent years it has come in for criticism from teachers who have questioned its educational benefits.

IT experts have raised concerns that the existing contract for Glow is due to run out shortly, with very little time to transfer the thousands of pieces of information held by the website to another provider.

A spokesman for national agency Education Scotland, which is responsible for Glow, said it could not comment during the procurement process.

But the body is working with users to move content from existing services to the new services. It has also called on councils to identify the material they want to move across before September.

A message on Education Scotland’s website stresses there is no risk of Glow being “turned off” once the current contract ends, and that education secretary Mike Russell is committed to “replacing it with a better solution”.

The Scottish Government announced last year that it was pulling the plug on Glow Futures, the stage of development for which companies had originally been invited to tender.

Mr Russell said that, in future, Glow would consist of “the variety of free tools and open-source services that already exist on the web”.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was constrained by what it could say during the procurement process.

He added: “Meeting the needs and interests of pupils, parents and teachers remains the main focus of our plans to deliver the benefits of sharing and using information, safely, online in education in Scotland.”

A Google spokesman added: “For several years, we have been committed to providing teachers and students with tools that make it easier to work and learn together.

“We now have over 16 million people actively using our Google ‘Apps for Education’ across the globe, including hundreds of thousands in the UK. Although we’ll not be part of this specific project, we look forward to working with the Scottish Government on future Glow initiatives.”