University of Leicester eBulletin

Language and Cultural Classes Add Value to Mainstream Schools

June 2003

First ever study highlights benefits of complementary schools

A study into Complementary Schools and their Communities by academics from the Universities of Leicester and Birmingham found that these schools help to support and benefit state schools. The research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

A survey of 75 complementary schools in Leicester was carried out by Peter Martin, Arvind Bhatt and Nirmala Bhojani of the University of Leicester School of Education and Angela Creese of the University of Birmingham.

The survey showed that complementary schooling has a long history in Leicester with the Leicester Hebrew Congregation having started a school in 1896. Languages taught in Leicester included Bengali, Cantonese, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Irish, Arabic and Urdu. Other languages taught include Polish, Mandarin, Chinese, Somali and Turkish.

Dr Peter Martin said: “Our study revealed that complementary schools added value to the work that was being done in state schools. This comes from comments from complementary school teachers who feel that the statutory sector benefits from the work done by the voluntary sector.

“It also emerges from observation of classroom cultures which seem, in part, to suggest that these voluntary schools complement - hence our use of this term to describe these schools as complementary rather than supplementary - the mainstream schools' learning agendas, through, for example, reinforcing the classroom discourses and routines expected in the mainstream schools.

“Our initial findings certainly support the statement in the recent DfES (2003) Report, Aiming High, which suggests building better and stronger relations between the voluntary and statutory sector.”

The study is the first of its kind in Leicester. Dr Martin added: “The picture emerging from those schools that took part in the survey demonstrates that there is very real enthusiasm for and commitment to complementary education in Leicester. All schools provide an emphasis on literacy and language, and many of these schools follow set syllabuses and work towards formal examinations.

“The complementary nature of the schools in the survey comes through very clearly, as does the potential value they add to the mainstream sector, value which is not always recognised. Other themes which emerge from the report include the need for some sort of national recognition for the work that complementary schools do, the importance of establishing links between mainstream and complementary schools, and the need to see the ‘bigger picture’ of complementary schooling in the UK.”

The second phase of the project, currently nearing completion, consists of case studies of two complementary (Gujarati) schools in Leicester. The aim of this part of the project is to explore how these two schools develop their educational pedagogies and classroom practices. As part of this phase of the project, it is hoped that we will be able to provide a clearer understanding of how complementary schools add value to the state education sector.


For more information and copies of the report contact Dr Peter Martin, School of Education, University of Leicester, 21 University Road, Leicester LE1 7RF, email, telephone: 0116 252 3679

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Last updated: June 2003
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