Complementary Schools

Children in the classroom
© Steve Bootle/PHF

Complementary schools are voluntary organisations which exist to support mother tongue learning, usually at weekends and sometimes in the evenings. Bilingual children and young people attend these schools in addition to their mainstream school. They are also known as community language schools or supplementary schools.

In Sheffield we have over 20 complementary schools teaching at least 15 languages. They operate independently, are mainly staffed by volunteers, and are often free, or charge a small amount to the families who attend and support them. They meet in community halls or mainstream school premises and, as well as teaching languages, they run a range of cultural activities and events for the children and their communities.

For a list of the complementary schools supported by Languages Sheffield please look at our member schools page.

The National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education says that complementary schools such as these can:

•          reinforce positive identities

•          support the building of cohesive communities

•          provide community language teaching and exam success

•          raise attainment across the curriculum

•          engage parents in school and learning

•          provide positive role models/opportunities for young people

•          support the National Curriculum

Languages Sheffield’s core work is to support the city’s community language schools by providing access to training, mentor support for National Quality Framework awards, identifying and providing funding, organising events and running projects such as the Home Language Accreditation Project (HoLA). We support groups who want to start a complementary school, and can give ongoing support and advice as the school develops. 

If you are interested in starting a complementary school, or want advice about your child’s mother tongue learning, contact our complementary schools manager at