Wigan chief executive leading the way schools use modern technology

Sharon celebrating with pupils at St Peter's Primary School
Sharon celebrating with pupils at St Peter's Primary School

“We use technology every day in our lives so we should be using it in education.”

Chief executive Sharon Bruton is committed to making digital technology an integral part of life at The Keys Federation Academy Trust.

It is being used in a host of different ways, from educating the pupils, providing updates for parents and for staff communication.

And now she has been recognised for her efforts, being named as a silver award winner in the digital innovator category in the Pearson National Teaching Awards.

The mother-of-two found last Wednesday, which was Thank A Teacher Day, that she had been named as one of 68 silver award winners.

Mrs Bruton, who lives in Wigan, said: “It was an absolutely wonderful shock, surprise, joy, all of those things, and really humbling to know that all we have been working on in The Keys Federation and our digital drive for the future of education has been recognised by experts in the field.

“It’s great to have all the hard work of everyone on this team recognised.

“It’s a joy for me in particular to be the leader of our teams about the trust, but it is marking the success of everyone.”

She received a trophy at St Peter’s CE Primary School on Friday and will attend a celebratory tea at the House of Commons in July.

Mrs Bruton, 49, has been shortlisted to win one of 13 gold awards and will join fellow silver award winners at the Pearson Teaching Awards, which will be held in London in October and broadcast on BBC2 as Britain’s Classroom Heroes. Also among the finalists will be Westleigh Methodist Primary School, which is in the primary school of the year category.

She said: “We are very excited that ourselves and our colleagues at Westleigh Methodist will be there representing all that’s great about Wigan and for ourselves at The Keys, our vision of a digital education in the future.

“While we wish our fellow competitors luck, we do hope everyone in Wigan will have their fingers crossed for us in the finals.”

A panel of experts visited the trust’s four schools - St Peter’s CE Primary in Hindley, Hindley Green Community and St John’s CE primaries in Hindley Green, and St John’s CE Primary in Abram - to consider her nomination for the award.

She is said to have developed “an educational offer with technology at its heart”.

An artificial intelligence learning platform allows children to learn at any time and place, and can be tailored to suit the abilities of each pupil.

Mrs Bruton, who has worked in education since 1985, said: “We use technology every day in our lives so we should be using it in education.”

Staff can use technology to see when pupils have completed work, what they have done well and what they might need to focus on.

Film clips explain the work to parents, while a network called Family provides live updates of their child’s progress.

As well as tracking academic achievements, it covers factors such as their attitude to learning and resilience.

A mobile phone app has been developed for staff, which allows them to communicate wherever they are.

Pupils can broadcast on their own radio station, make podcasts and use 3D printing, while astronaut Tim Peake retweeted a post from the school on Twitter.

Mrs Bruton says the use of technology has many benefits for everyone at the schools, including saving staff up to six hours a week.

Other schools are looking at how they can follow in the footsteps of the trust.

Mrs Bruton said: “In education there isn’t a one-size-fits-all, however there are ways in which we can work smarter to enable our teachers to spend really quality time with our students.

“Indeed what we are seeing is we are being invited to share our journey and our curriculum evaluation with colleagues nationally, from the Church of England and just last week with colleagues in Coventry.

“We are working with colleagues in Wigan and Bolton to say this is how we have embraced the future of education.”