The world’s first (and last?) national education intranet

This news crept under my radar three weeks ago. That’s to say, I saw the video where the Scottish Education Secretary announced the cancellation of the procurement of the next phase of the national education intranet, but the announcement was couched and contextualised in such a way that he was pulling the plug on the process (I thought he was just repeating that the process was going to different from “standard” procurements, as had been said all along).

Scotland set out to develop its ‘Glow’ intranet several years ago, signing a contract with RM in September 2006 which has since been extended to next year, at a total cost reported to be around £50 million. The very idea of national intranet is a curious one, as its scale falls between the global internet and a single corporate entity with concerns around privacy and security. The national intranet has to emulate and ‘bottle’ the best of what the internet offers.

The quote from the spokesman below, “Glow has to evolve and begin to more closely resemble the real world of the web”, speaks to the challenge, or folly, of attempting this. Some of the comments on the official announcement ( make similar points, but less delicately.

I wonder if this is the last gasp of the Grands Projets approach to learning technology. The future of Glow Futures (as the process was called) is still under discussion, but it seems very likely that whatever Glow morphs into will have to be more modest in scale. It will need to be more agile and make sure it liberates, lubricates and accelerates rather than ‘getting in the way’ – which is many people’s experience of how IT in education institutions compares with what they have at home.

[Disclosure: I attended a Glow Futures briefing in March and was named as a subcontractor by one of the firms that submitted to the first part of the Glow Futures process. Our approach would have been along these lines. We fell at the first stage in the process. So read this as sour grapes if you will, but I think there’s more to it than that.]

Clipped from

Glow Futures snuffed out as Russell pulls plug

In a surprise announcement on the future of Glow, the national schools intranet, Education Secretary Michael Russell has pulled the plug on Glow Futures, the next stage of development, for which companies had been invited to tender.

Critics of Glow had complained in recent years that the system was slow and clunky, difficult to access, limited in its email provision, and a source of frustration to teachers and pupils.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government issued a notice inviting companies to tender for a seven-year contract for Glow Futures. The new licence was due to start in 2012.

Instead, the Government now plans to invest in broadband access and equipment for schools. In future, Glow’s core will consist of “the variety of free tools and open source services that already exist on the web” via the Interconnect – a broadband link-up of all 32 local authorities, key education websites and Education Scotland’s website, said a Government spokesman.

A spokesman for the Government said: “Glow has supported the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, enabling professional learning communities to develop new ways of learning and sharing learning opportunities nationwide and across sectors.

“However, Glow has to evolve and begin to more closely resemble the real world of the web. This includes harnessing of readily available tools and services that our children and young people are familiar with.”

Mr Russell praised Scotland’s reputation for the development and use of technology in schools, describing Glow as “the world’s first national education intranet”.


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