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Education Industry badge.png This article is part of the Spinwatch privatisation of Schools Portal project.

Google, the American multinational technology company, is best known for the Google Internet search engine.

Its full year revenue for 2014 was $66 billion. Most of its profits come from its online advertising services.

Google and corporate education reform

Education is described by lobbyists Whiteboard Advisors as a 'cornerstone strategy for tech giants like Google'.[1]

Google is a major player in the digitisation of learning and the move towards online learning. Like Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, Google is described as 'moving aggressively into the education market'. Jim Knight, former UK Schools Minister and edtech lobbyist, said of the big tech companies moving into education:

"Microsoft are a large technology company, they’ve been around education for a long time and engaging with policymakers actively. That’s now happening with Google, Apple are slightly weirder, culturally, but they’re certainly doing their bit. Some of the others, you know Samsung massively now, so yes the big providers in both hardware and in software are now trying really hard. And I think Google probably more than anyone is trying to think through the normal everyday use that people have of their free tools, things like Drive and Google Docs and then embedding it in Google for educator tools, which now have 50% penetration with teachers in the US. Nothing like that here [in the UK]."[2]

'Beyond the potential of selling their products to a previously untapped trillion-dollar industry, there’s a chance to create lifelong brand fans by connecting to younger generations as early as possible via schools', says website Recode[3]

It is pushing hard into the world’s classrooms by reaching out to teachers, schools, districts and governments around the globe. Malaysia, for example, decided to adopt Google Apps as part of its reform of its education system. It is also a major investor in education technology companies, such as Renaissance Learning and Clever, through Google Capital and Google Ventures.[4]

Eric Schmidt, Google's chair, is a strong advocate of choice and competition and the greater use of technology in schools. He has also praised New York's reforming schools chancellor, Joel Klein, for his criticism of teaching unions. Schmidt has come to the same conclusions as many reformers that the failure of schools is the fault of the 'education establishment' (unions, teachers, bureaucrats), whom he cites as the biggest block to change. ‘The system is run for the benefit of the adults, not the children,’ Schmidt said.

Learning is going Google is the strapline of a presentation outlining Google's products for the education market.

Google edtech investments

  • Renaissance Learning. In 2014 Google Capital announced it was making a $40m investment in Renaissance Learning. A 'cloud-based assessment and learning analytics' – online testing – firm, Renaissance products help further the 'Common Core standards in the US, a standardised curriculum (of sorts) that was designed to replace the many, different standards across US states. Its CEO Jack Lynch said 'There are incredible opportunities to collaborate with Google.' Renaissance could help with instructional materials for Google Play for education. “In addition to that, Google Apps are free in K-12, so there is an entire generation of kids who are learning to use Google Docs instead of Word,” he added.[5]

Google Ventures is also seen as one of the most active investors in early stage edtech companies.[6] Investments include:

  • Clever, an edtech product 'designed to make it easier for teachers to enroll and track students'.
  • Panorama Education, data analytics in schools

Google was also an early investor in the Khan Academy. It gave $2 million to the online video content group in 2010. Khan Academy also runs on the Google Cloud platform and is participating in, although not receiving financial support from, the company’s $50 million initiative to encourage girls to code. Khan Academy is also said to have 'a huge friend in Google's chair Eric Schmidt, 'who has been a donor and board member and touted the group's innovative approach on 60 Minutes'.[7]

Google education products

The company provides a series of 'products' for schools. These include:

  • Devices: Android tablets and its Chromebook laptops, what Google calls a ‘foundation for a 100 per cent web classroom'. According to research firm IDC in 2014, Chromebooks had become the best-selling devices in schools in the US.
  • Content: Google's Play for Education online store offers selected apps providing content for lessons
  • Tools: Google's Apps for Education are free 'productivity tools' for the classroom, including: Gmail; 'Classroom', which allows teachers to set, share and mark work; cloud services, calendars etc.

Google teacher training

Google also provides training to teachers wanting to use its technology in their teaching.

  • The Google for Education Training Center provides online courses for teachers in using technology in their teaching.
  • Google also sends partners and trainers into schools to train teachers and school IT administrators onsite in its technology
  • The Google Teacher Academy is a two-day 'professional development experience' run by Google to help primary and secondary teachers learn to use their technology in the classroom. Approximately 50 teachers are chosen to attend each training academy. These then become Google Certified Teachers who are Google's 'ambassadors for change'. They are expected to 'positively impact change in their communities through a personal action plan.' In 2010, a 'two-day celebration of cutting-edge technology and smart learning and teaching' at London’s 'Googleplex' marked the 10th Google Teacher Academy and the very first to take place in the UK.

Lobbying for more technology in teaching and learning

Coding in schools as means of increasing the use of technology in teaching

Google has been at the forefront of efforts around the world to teach school children how to code.

Few dispute the value of children learning computer studies – to their future job prospects and the future prospects of technology companies in need of skilled workers. The push to increase computing in school, however, is being led by companies – like Google – whose current commercial interests will also benefit from a school population more attuned to technology.

Former UK Education Secretary, Michael Gove, when asked by an US ed tech lobbyist about the embedding of technology in UK schools, replied:

'The change is coming, it will be huge, but we can’t discern exactly what shape it will take.’ There were limits to what government should do to encourage the shift to digital learning, he said, citing past mistakes in backing the wrong technologies. However, ‘there is one thing that we absolutely can do, and that is make sure all our students develop better computational knowledge and have the chance to code.’

This puts the global campaign to teach coding to young children in a different context. While it appears to benefit students, it is also a way of introducing more technology into teaching, which is of commercial benefit to those tech firms driving the campaign.

Google campaigns to get coding in schools and its launch of Chromebook

One catalyst of Michael Gove’s apparent conversion to technology in schools was a warning issued to Britain from Google’s Eric Schmidt in the summer of 2011.

Using the prestigious MacTaggart lecture at Edinburgh’s media festival, Schmidt called for urgent reform in the British education system. The country that invented the computer was ‘throwing away’ its heritage, he said. Britain was invited to ‘think back to the glory days of the Victorian era’, to the ‘Lyons tea shop’, builders of the world’s first office computer. Schmidt said he was ‘flabbergasted’ that today computer science was not taught as standard in UK schools. Schmidt’s message was that the once great Britain was faced with the prospect of falling further behind in the global race.

It is a message that Google has taken around the world. Two years after his critique of Britain’s schools, the tech giant was cautioning Australia’s politicians about the state of their education system, calling for the same reforms and predicting that the country’s economy would suffer unless computer science is taught in schools. Unlike Britain's warning, which was laced with nostalgia and tethered to our anxieties about being a once great empire in decline, Google’s message to Australians homed in on their national preoccupation about what happens once the mining boom ends. The local digital sector was pitched as ‘crucial’ to its replacement in the economy. ‘If we don’t do it,’ said Google’s Australian spokesperson, ‘we’re going to be hosed because we can’t continue to rely on the same old industries.’

Google is no doubt right in both instances. Countries that produce a tech-savvy, skilled workforce will benefit. But could the timing of Google’s warnings to Britain and Australia also suggest another motivation at play? By coincidence, both corresponded with the respective launches of its Chromebook laptop for schools.

Google coding / computer science campaigns

Google says it has invested more than $40 million since 2010 to: 'expand after school coding programs, provide teacher training, offer tech resources, and facilitate global access to computer science education.' Specific programmes include:

  • Made with Code; an initiative launched in June 2014 to get girls coding, with pink branding and the strapline: 'From fashion to film, the things you love are Made with Code.'[8]
  • Google RISE Awards: grants for organizations around the world that promote computer science
  • Computer Science 4 High Schools (CS4HS): online training for teaching computer science & computational thinking concepts
  • CS First: Google supported after-school clubs to increase pupil access to computer science education.
  • Google Code-in: competition for 13-17 year olds
  • Code Jam: global programming competition
  • Maker Camp: 30 day free virtual summer camp
  • Summer of Code: online coding programme for students aged 18+
  • Doodle4Google: invitation to redesign the Google logo

Success in the UK

Since September 2014, a new computing curriculum, has been taught in England's schools, a direct result of the sustained lobbying campaign by Google and others. The curriculum was designed with input from the Google, Microsoft, the Royal Society of Engineering and others. It also came with a half a million pound fund to train teachers in software coding - with match funding from industry and business. Google's UK Engineering Director, Mike Warriner, said: 'The UK has a proud computing history but with more and more industries wanting computer scientists, coding has never been in more demand... We’re passionate about this area too and we have already invested more than £1,000,000 over the last year to... help education experts bring computer science skills to more children in the UK.[9]

Google marketing through teachers, schools and students


  • Google Certified Teachers, selected to attended Google's 2-day 'Teacher Academy', graduate to become Google's 'ambassadors for change'. These are expected to 'positively impact change in their communities through a personal action plan.' This includes promoting its products to other teachers and schools. Google has a searchable directory of these teachers / ambassadors.
  • In 2015, Google also ran an 'international web conference', Education on Air, which according to Google brought together over 40,000 teachers to discuss education issues, technology in teaching, and Google's education products.


  • Google has a directory of school-based 'experts' who are using Google for Education tools. For example, E-ACT's City Heights Academy in London is a certified a 'Google Apps for Education' school, with Chromebooks for each pupil. It provides a 'School-to-School Connections' service to other schools in the UK wanting to do the same. Other Google case studies of schools in the UK using Chromebooks and Google Apps include: Ark's King Solomon Academy; Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy; and Paganel Primary School.
  • In addition, Google has funded programmes that aim to redesign schools to incorporate more technology in teaching on a city or district level. For example, it was a funder to the New York City Department of Education project iZone (alongside Cisco, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ford Foundation). iZone aims to create a network of schools in the city 'committed to personalising learning'[10] EdSurge reported in 2012 that a group of 150 teachers from New York City gathered in Google's offices to discuss reforming their schools through technology. 'Some teachers advocated Google Sites' free websites and wikis... Attendees logged on to Samsung Chromebook laptops (provided by Google)', it reported.[11]


  • Google's Student Ambassador Programme invites university students to promote Google products on campus.

Privacy concerns: Google data-mines students' emails

In 2014, Google acknowledged scanning the contents of millions of email messages sent and received by student users of its Apps for Education tools for schools. It was also accused of using information gleaned from the scans to build “surreptitious” profiles of Apps for Education users that could be used for targeted advertising.

A Google spokeswoman confirmed to Education Week that Google “scans and indexes” the emails of all Apps for Education users for a variety of purposes, including potential advertising, via automated processes that cannot be turned off—even for Apps for Education customers who elect not to receive ads.

Education Week also quoted a digital-privacy lawyer, Bradley S. Shear, who posed a hypothetical situation in which a teacher using Google Apps for Education emails a parent with information related to a child’s disability status or mental health. The contents of such an email could be used by Google to build a digital-user profile that might follow that student indefinitely. “Who knows what the hell Google is doing with that information, and who knows what problems it could cause for that child in the future,” he said. “Years ago, it might have been put in a filing cabinet, but it wouldn’t be tagged to the child forever.”[12]


Board of Directors

People (Education)

  • Jaime Casap, Google’s chief education evangelist
  • Liz Sproat, Google’s Head of Education in Europe, responsible for working with universities and schools to bring technology into the classroom; previously spent more than a decade at Pearson, during which time she ‘secured relationships with UK universities to offer online and blended learning programmes globally’, including working with Ministries in the UAE, Saudi and Nigeria.
  • Robin Schlinkert, Sales manager at Google; former Senior Associate at McKinsey & Company; Trustee of the Teacher Development Trust.
  • Adam Stewart, regional lead for Google for Work in the public sector. Formerly led the Google for Education UK team 'where his role resulted in over a million additional UK students and teaching staff... using Google Apps for Education and a significant increase in the market share of chromebooks in UK education establishments. Previously worked for RM Education.[13]


In recent years Google has become a major lobbyist. As one commentator put it, Google is now more ‘a political organisation with a legacy tech business attached’.

Google has courted the great and the good in politics with determination.

  • In recent years the Google party was the hot ticket at the World Economic Forum, the elite networking event in Davos.
  • Google’s strictly invitation-only annual Zeitgeist conference is another flame that draws the big names. For two days every year politicians, along with royalty, press barons, bankers and the occasional pop star descend on the Grove hotel in Hertfordshire, primarily to network. Imagine a list of a couple of hundred guests that includes David Cameron, Bill Clinton, Jim O’Neill, formerly of Goldman Sachs, WPP’s Martin Sorrell, Gwyneth Paltrow and Arsène Wenger and you get a feel for it.


  • Susan Molinari, Google’s VP of Public Policy & Government Affairs; Republican former congresswoman.[14]
  • Tim Chatwin, senior director of communications at Google, based in the US, since 2011. Chatwin was a close aide of David Cameron and worked alongside Steve Hilton (married to former Google chief lobbyist, Rachel Whetstone).
  • Iarla Flynn, Director Public Policy & Govt Affairs (Northern Europe)
  • Verity Harding, UK Public Policy Manager at Google. Harding was previously a political adviser to Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.
  • Naomi Gummer, works in public policy for Google in the UK. Gummer is the daughter of Cameron’s neighbour, Peter Gummer, aka, Lord Chadlington, recent head of PR and lobbying group Huntsworth. Gummer Jnr was previously a political adviser to Jeremy Hunt, at the time Culture Secretary and in charge of internet regulation.
  • Theo Bertram, Google European Policy and Strategy Team Manager. Former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Former lobbyists

UK Lobbying agencies

  • Portland Communications (c2005-6 -).[18] A senior figure at Portland said that Google remained a client of Portland, even though the bulk of the work had gone to Open Road. "We’ve still got a retained relationship," they said.

UK think tanks

US lobbying agencies

Google's lobbying spending in Washington is now on par with the largest US corporations. For instance, Google spent US$5.1 million on lobbying during the first quarter of 2015. It also employs many lobbying firms in the US to lobby on its behalf, including Dutko Grayling, Crossroads Strategies, and Franklin Square Group.



In October 2014 it was announced that Google had joined forces with PwC to 'drive disruptive innovation across industries'.[23]

Lobbying (US)

Google is a member of a large number of 'politically engaged' industry bodies. It also financially supports a long list of third party lobby groups. A 'representative listing' of the groups it sponsors for 2013-14 can be found on Googles website.[24]

The organisations Google is involved in includes:



Google has more than 70 offices in more than 40 countries around the globe.

UK offices

Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9TQ
123 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SH
1-13 St Giles High Street, London WC2H 8AG
Peter House, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 5AN

Brussels offices

Google Belgium n.v., Chaussée d'Etterbeek 176-180, Etterbeeksesteenweg 176-180, 1040 Brussels

US headquarters

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043


  1. Education Insider: Investor Perspectives, Whiteboard Advisors, December 2015
  2. 'Digital technologies and innovative teaching practices in the classroom: latest thinking and policy options' conference, Westminster Education Forum, 26 April 2016
  3. Here's why the Big Four’s investments in education are great for ed-tech entrepreneurs, Recode website, 24 June 2016
  4. Meet Google Capital, which invested just $40M in Renaissance Learning, Gigaom, 19 February 2014
  5. Google Capital comes out of stealth with third investment. And it’s all about education technology, Fortune, 19 February 2014
  6. Ed Tech Investment & Exit Report – 2014, CB Insights website, 8 September 2014
  7. The Funders Pouring Money Into the Khan Academy Inside Philanthropy, 26 June 2014
  8. About, Made with Code, accessed August 2015
  9. Year of Code and £500,000 fund to inspire future tech experts launched, Government press release, 4 February 2014
  10. About Us, iZone website, accessed August 2015
  11. NYC's iZone360 gets personal, Ed Surge, 12 June 2012
  12. Benjamin Herold, Google Under Fire for Data-Mining Student Email Messages, Education Week, 13 March 2014
  13. Adam Stewart profile, Linkedin, accessed Sept 2016
  14. US Public Policy, Google website, accessed August 2015
  15. ref needed!
  16. Policy Exchange, People: Amy Fisher, accessed 9 November 2010.
  17. Register 1st September 2014 - 30th November 2014 APPC, accessed 28 January 2015
  18. In-House and Individuals Register March to May 2014 - See more at: PRCA, accessed 28 January 2015
  19. Blue Rubicon profile, 2016, Registrar of consultant lobbyists, accessed 29 April 2016
  20. add UK registrar ref here
  21. Technology Manifesto, Policy Exchange, June 2014
  22. RSA Impact Report 2015, RSA website, accessed Feb 2016
  23. [Google PwC joint website]
  24. Transparency, Google website, accessed August 2015