From language lab to Online Language Teaching, the Stromness Academy Journey with Sanako

Stromness Academy a school in the UK

How can an educational institution stay as a Sanako customer and use our language teaching technology tools for more than 20 years? Read this story told by Helen Wailoo, a Primary Teacher of Modern Languages at Stromness Academy UK, to find out why they have used Sanako language teaching solutions for the past couple of decades!

Situated in the beautiful Orkney Islands North of Scotland, Stromness Academy is a six-year comprehensive school serving the West Mainland of Orkney. We currently have about 350 pupils, which means that the school is large enough to provide all the main academic subjects, but small enough for it to be friendly and welcoming. The school began life in the 1870s in the centre of Stromness, and many generations of former pupils in all walks of life remember their days there with great affection. Over 25 years ago, we moved into a purpose-built new school on the outskirts of the town, which was officially opened on 11th September 1990.

We have always been very proud of our hardware Sanako language lab up here in Stromness Academy. Installed in the early 2000s and with 27 booths we loved the fact that we could take in whole classes or set it up for small groups. And then there were the different functions – the way that pupils could control the audio tracks themselves when tackling listening comprehension tasks, the ease of setting up and managing paired and group speaking tasks and that’s before you add in the obvious pupil enjoyment every time we went in to use the lab. It was reliable too – very few problems in almost twenty years use. Readers will have noted however the use of the past tense and might be wondering, if you found your lab so useful, why does it sound like the affair is over?

The lab like our classrooms sat empty, gathering dust from the end of March 2020 through to the start of the new school year in August when we switched to working from home using Microsoft Teams (due to Covid-19 lock down). Our Language teachers adapted quickly (as you might expect linguists to do!) and once our classes were established in routines we took some time to consider the ‘what’s next‘ question. That sudden change in our way of working gave us an unexpected opportunity to really reflect on our work and to plan the next steps for the department.

Our plans definitely included the language lab functions – but we needed something more flexible in the way it could be used, that was not only available in one particular room and that could be used when pupils weren’t actually in school with us. Emails to David Binns at Sanako UK and then a Zoom call with him whilst he demonstrated Sanako’s new web-based language teaching platform called Sanako Connect and we were delighted – this is exactly what we were looking for, and so much more!

Sanako Connect virtual language teaching platform


We had 3 month trial licences issued so that we could really get a good idea of whether this was right for us before going ahead with the purchase for the start of 2021. It was a resounding success in all areas, so whatever the COVID situation, or the weather, we can continue our languages lessons which students really enjoy. So that marks the next stage in the relationship between Stromness Academy Modern Languages Department and Sanako – 20 years together and still going strong! 

This article is written by Helen Wailoo, Primary Teacher in Modern Languages, Stromness Academy, UK.


Would you like to increase the efficiency of language teaching in your school using Sanako products? Book a FREE remote demo and see Sanako specialised language teaching technologies in action.

Sanako blog Call to Action image