SCOTLAND'S remote learning network was hit with unresolved glitches for 40 days before lessons were disrupted for thousands across Scotland yesterday due to technical problems on the first day of lockdown remote learning.

Details seen by the Herald show issues with the delivery of online learning were known about since before the latest lockdown at the start of December that would prevent pupils from joining, receiving and sending messages.

Yesterday, schools, parents and teachers from across Scotland reported issues for children wanting to access teaching through the Scottish Government-backed schools digital network Glow which is providing online learning to children in state schools which are shut during coronavirus lockdown.

The Scottish Schools Digital Network, renamed Glow was launched in 2007 to provide online resources for all Scottish schoolchildren and teachers. In many areas the Glow portal is being used to communicate with teachers.


It has emerged that Glow service managers have been working with Microsoft to try and get a "bug fix" to resolve issues with the communications tool Teams which they are relying on since December 2.

Schools as well as parents across Scotland yesterday reported problems in children accessing remote learning, particularly when using the Microsoft Teams app within the Glow system.

At 3pm, as schools were closing, schools were being told some users were still experiencing issues with the Microsoft Teams service.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Schools 'not ready for online learning'

"We can confirm that the Glow team continue to work closely with the Senior Microsoft Account team on the issues being experienced. We are confident that the relevant technical teams are fully engaged and we hope to be able to provide an update as information becomes available," the Glow update said.

Earlier in the day, schools were told that the issues were the result of Microsoft experiencing issues with Teams across the UK and that initial reports indicated this may be specific to users based in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe.

Down Detector, the website that monitors outages showed that the number of issues with Teams registered across the UK reached a peak at 9.16am when there were 341 reports made over a 15 minute period. Glasgow and Edinburgh were among the hotspots.

Two in three were complaining about server connection issues, while one in five said there were issues with logging in.

The Scottish Government said it was a Microsoft Teams issues and was not unique to Scotland or indeed to schools.

"Microsoft has confirmed that this issue is affecting users in the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe. Education Scotland is working closely with the company to resolve the issues," a spokesman said.


When Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the further delays to the return pupils to schools, and the need for online learning, she said: "Schools and local authorities already have contingency plans in place.

"Glow, which is the national online learning platform, has seen a huge increase in users and usage since earlier last year, and we are working actively with local and national partners to enhance the online and remote learning options for pupils. That work will continue over the course of next week and for as long as is necessary."

And on Sunday, education secretary John Swinney said there had been a "huge amount of work done by educators the length and breadth of the country to prepare for remote learning". This work started back in March of 2020.

According to alerts to schools problems with Teams within Glow have been around since December 2.

One alert said: "We have been made aware of an issue whereby a small number of users are experiencing intermittent issues within Teams – mainly around join buttons missing or chat updates being delayed.

"We are currently working closely with our engineers at Microsoft to implement a bug fix for this and would hope to provide an update soon. In the meantime please continue to report any issues you experience so we can continue to gather information on the service experienced."

All children are given a username and password, to give them access to Glow and apps such as Microsoft Office and Teams.

Three days before Christmas, managers said they were continuing to work with Microsoft to "confirm timescales for release of bug fixes" over the issues. The issues are not yet resolved.

Schools across Scotland reported problems and teachers urges pupils and parents not to "panic".

Lindsay Paterson, a professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh, said at the weekend that disparities on whether live-streamed lessons will be offered to children in Scotland "confirm the sense that very little work has been done to prepare for this new situation". He said remote working could only work if schools were actively contacting each pupil - preferably every day and by phone rather than text or email.

The 50/50 In School campaign has been calling for a national strategy or plan on home learning since June.

The Scottish Government said a uniform approach would be "counterproductive"..

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reassured parents afte online lessons were disrupted for thousands of learners on the first day of remote learning.

Speaking at Monday’s daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon: “Let me begin by acknowledging that today sees many teachers, parents and young people embarking on another period of home-schooling. There are a range of resources and support available however I know some of you might be having an issue this morning with Microsoft Teams.

“This is not an issue that is unique to Scotland or indeed to schools but I understand Microsoft is currently working to address it.

“But more generally I don’t underestimate, and I want to be very clear about this, how difficult this both from an educational perspective, how difficult this is for young people.

“Not just learning at home but learning away from your friends.”

Ministers came under for the "failure" of the 13-year-old Scottish schools digital network in the last lockdown.

Glow was established as national schools intranet, digitally linking Scotland's 800,000 educators and pupils.

Managed by Scottish Government quango Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) it was described as probably the largest such initiative in the world.

One report by a music teaching group said that while Education Scotland had Glow set up to ‘light up learning’ since 2007, it was neither functional enough nor widely enough used to enable a switch to blended learning in the state system.

A Music Education Partnership Group study after the last full lockdown involving over 200 teachers and tutors, 60 students, 70 parents and carers and 25 youth music organisations in June and July found that "initial scepticism" for online teaching generally disappated amongst tutors.

But only a "very small" percentage had experienced more than a year with online lessons before the lockdown. Even though online systems had been in place for several years, the report stated the evidence from the interviewees was that the use of online facilities for teaching purposes was "minimal".

A Microsoft spokesperson was unable to confirm when the issue would be rectified yesterday but said: “Our engineers are working to resolve difficulties accessing Microsoft Teams that some customers are experiencing.”

But at around 5pm Glow managers told schools they had been advised by Microsoft that "a number of the wide ranging issues" experienced with Microsoft Teams have been resolved.

"However, we remain cautious and will continue to monitor closely over coming days to be confident of no further effects of today’s outages," they said.