Withington Girls get an upgrade!

Marie3 years ago4 min read

Yorke Menzies (Head of French, Withington Girls' School)

Withington is a leading independent day school for girls aged 7 to 18 in which some of the best academic results in the country are attained within a lively, happy and caring environment. Our outstanding record of achievement is complemented by an extensive range of extracurricular opportunities.

In keeping with the wishes of our founders, the School has remained relatively small to allow for the individual development of all girls, enabling every pupil to reach her full potential in a supportive and friendly environment. The School functions in an atmosphere of respect for self, respect for others and personal responsibility without the need for long lists of rules and regulations.

The girls thrive in a friendly and caring environment; they have – and provide – a lot of fun, and leave to take up their higher education places personally, socially and academically prepared for the next exciting phase of their lives.

Languages have always played an important part in the life of the school and building on our showcase event in which we had invited alumnae from a variety of career paths to explain why languages had been a ‘passport to a brighter future’, it was time to look at updating our facilities and to answer the important question of why we felt a language laboratory was such an important resource for equipping girls with the necessary language skills for their careers.

We looked at all language laboratory providers on the market, but they could not match the expertise, reliability and reputation of Sanako  and we even talked to schools whose IT departments had tried to create software which would mimic language laboratory functionality.Again and again we found that Sanako were the best option so we undertook an investigation as to which Sanakosolution would be the ideal one for us.

Sanako Study 1200 appeared to be the best fit as it would facilitate true independent learning and differentiation. The play list meant pupils would be able to access easily a range of materials such as audio files, worksheets, web links to exercises on interactive text books, online material…..and work at their own speed. The possibility of allocating differentiated material to both support and challenge individual students appealed to us as well as the fact the teacher would be able to monitor progress and answer queries and provide individual support.

In addition, there were a wealth of attractive features such as voice insert, vocabulary testing, telephone dialling but we wanted to see these functions in action and so David Binns kindly arranged for us to go and visit a number of schools using the Sanako 1200 software. We are so grateful to the languages departments and language students at Uppingham School, Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and Stockport Grammar School who invited us to spend time observing staff and generously answered our numerous questions.

The result is our impressive and according to pupils and visitors ‘space age’ laboratory with bespoke furniture with pop up desks, provided by Zioxi. Our advice would be to spend time doing research, involve the whole of your languages department and IT support team and go and visit a number of different sites and locations and talk to teachers using the software.


We could not wait to use the new software and thanks to our informative and empowering training sessions with Marie O’Sullivan we were ready to experiment at the start of term in September.Since then pupils from Year 7 to Year 13 have enjoyed having the challenge of a range of materials to complete on the playlists and we have even reduced our photocopying, which is always a bonus. Features such as voice insert have been put to good use to practise the new A level and GCSE photo cards and GCSE role plays.

We have recorded the teacher’s role and pupils have enjoyed working at their own pace, recording their own answers and listening back to them and monitoring their performance. All pupils have been keen to use the role play feature and a particular favourite is telephone dialling where pupils can choose who they work with. Model imitation has also proved invaluable when introducing new vocabulary and encouraging pupils to focus on their pronunciation skills. The vocabulary test feature is equally easy to use and personalise and is a useful lesson starter and pupils love trying to beat the clock. Throughout the installation and the first term we have been impressed by the professionalism and approachability of the Sanako technical team who have been prompt to answer queries and offer advice and guidance to ensure we have been able to maximise our use of the software.

We are still at the start of our exciting journey but are happy for you to contact us and if you are in the Northwest of England, you are very welcome to come and see our wonderful new language laboratory.