‘Overwhelmed’ Sally awarded OBE

Sally Cooke with her friend Geoff Brown at RSPB Bempton
Sally Cooke with her friend Geoff Brown at RSPB Bempton

A Bempton woman has been awarded one of the country’s highest honours for her steadfast commitment to bringing classrooms into the 21st century.

Sally Elizabeth Cooke, 60, has been rewarded for her services to further education, accessibility and inclusion by earning an OBE on the New Year Honours List.

Sally, who also helps to improve the lives of disabled people, said: “I have been overwhelmed by the response, and must pay tribute to all the organisations that I have worked with over many years, the amazing colleagues and the many talented individuals I have been privileged to have worked alongside, most importantly the students, their families, volunteers and carers, without all of these I would have achieved nothing.”

Sally started using technology at Bridlington School in the early 1980s, also having part time contracts also at East Riding College and Headlands in Bridlington and Driffield - when the College had a site on West Street for Art and Hairdressing and Catering.

She was selected to work in Hull working across 54 colleges within further education where her role was to encourage teachers and lecturers to use IT in their teaching as the first PCs were coming into education.

Sally said: “I feel I have seen many things throughout my career, going from when a school might have one BBC computer on a trolley to a networked computer room to now all having access to tablets and mobile phones and the internet available everywhere. So it is possibly only now that we will really have digitally skilled people in their workplaces as they will be much more familiar with technology as they have seen it at home as well as work.”

Following a spell on the BBC education team, Sally was asked to work on a national level encouraging staff in the post-16 world of education to use digital technologies in their teaching.

In the early 2000s Sally was focusing more on the inclusion of those with difficulties in access to both equipment and information. During her time with the Specialist College Sector she helped invent a system to show photos and videos of the students’ work and demonstrate easily what they were capable of.

“I was very proud to have been involved and it was a real joy to hear students saying how they were in control of their own work for the first time and that they could show employers and their parents what they had done,” said Sally.

Also working with Cereproc, a Scottish based company specialising in voice techniques, Sally managed to acquire some additional funding from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and commissioned two new voices (TechDis Jack and TechDis Jess) to be distributed freely for up to six million learners, allowing the power of speech to be used in very different ways by those needing it.

An OBE is the latest and biggest honour of Sally’s career after being nominated as one of the first 50 Digital Leaders of the UK and the first in Education. She also received a Lifetime achievement award for Leadership in Education Technology in UK and Europe.

Sally said: “I am ever grateful for all the opportunities that life has given me, I have been so blessed.

“I thought 15 months ago when I was awarded an Hon Fellowship PhD by Myerscough College, University of Central Lancashire as recognition of my career in education, that would be my last such honour and I was so proud.

“On a personal level I must also pay tribute to my daughter, Katie, and family who have supported me throughout my career. To receive an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list is even more incredible and very humbling I can still not really believe it.”