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Specialist Leaders of Education

Specialist Leaders of Education are leaders identified by the National College as being able to provide exceptional support to schools in need within their specialist areas. SLEs have to apply through the National College and go through a selection, assessment, and monitoring process before they are allowed to deliver support to schools.

Our SLEs have expertise in:  

  • Maths
  • Assessment
  • CPD
  • Curriculum
  • SEND
  • ITT
  • NQT
  • Phonics
  • English


The National College's Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) are outstanding middle and senior leaders who have the skills to support individuals or teams in similar positions in other schools.

The SLE role is about:

•           improving outcomes for children

•           leaders supporting leaders

•           drawing on specialist knowledge and areas of expertise

•           being flexible to meet the needs of supported schools

•           sustainability – helping schools improve their own leadership capacity

The SLE concept is closely linked to the vision for teaching schools, since teaching schools are responsible for the recruitment, designation, brokerage and quality assurance of SLEs.

SLEs are outstanding middle or senior leaders with at least two years’ leadership experience. They will have a particular area of expertise and a successful track record of school improvement. SLEs provide school-to-school support and peer-to-peer learning to senior and middle leaders in other schools. Ideally, potential SLEs will have had recent experience of supporting colleagues in their own and in another school.

SLEs will:

  have excellent interpersonal skills

  be able to work sensitively and collaboratively with others

  have a commitment to outreach work

  understand what outstanding leadership practice in their area of specialism looks like

 and help other leaders to achieve it in their own context.

 The SLE role focuses on building the leadership capacity of middle and senior leaders in other schools to develop their skills so that they can lead teams and improve practice within their own schools.

 This may be done in a variety of ways such as:

  one-to-one peer coaching

  facilitated group support

  data analysis, learning walks, other monitoring activities             

  plan,teach,review

  joint action planning

 System leadership supports the sharing and development of outstanding, innovative practice, which can benefit both schools in a partnership.

 An SLE brings a wealth of benefits to their own school:

  it is an excellent form of continuing professional development (CPD) for middle and senior leaders

  it enhances knowledge, skills and abilities to further improve their current role and influences others

  it can support schools' internal succession planning strategies by enabling individuals to demonstrate they are ready to step up to the next leadership level

  skills such as coaching and mentoring that SLEs develop, can be used to support colleagues in their own school

  it can re-energise and motivate both the SLE and, through dissemination of learning,other staff

  learning about different systems and contexts from the schools they support helps them to develop practice back in their own school

 System leaders benefit from knowing they are helping others to improve and having a positive impact on outcomes for children, by using and sharing their own knowledge and skills. It is this sense of moral purpose that can often prove to be the biggest incentive of all.

 An SLE brings the following benefits to the school receiving support:

  peer-to-peer support and building leadership capacity delivered in a collaborative way

 partnership approach to developing local solutions, taking into account individual schools’ own circumstances

 embedding coaching and mentoring approaches that support sustainable change and improvement

 engaging with an outstanding expert with leadership skills in a particular field of practice who also understands current challenges, policy, best practice and local needs

 When we receive a request for SLE support, the SLE coordinator will review the needs of the school requesting support and match an SLE with the appropriate area of expertise and capacity to offer the support.

The coordinator and receiving school will agree:

  • the focus of the work with specific objectives
  • expectations for outcome and impact
  • the funding
  • length of deployment and frequency of contact

All parties’ sign up to a contracting agreement reflecting the agreed terms for the deployment.

Costs to the receiving school:

Uplands Primary School has a table of charges for its teaching school work.

The cost of a full day of support (6 hours) from a SLE is £375

The cost of half a day’s support (3 hours) from a SLE is £200

Recruitment and designation

Potential SLEs are subject to a rigorous assessment process, involving an initial application and subsequent face to face assessment/interview against a clear set of criteria. Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria set by the National College and be able to draw on their experience in supporting colleagues during the assessment process. It is extremely important that we offer excellent value for money to the schools seeking support from an SLE.

The Alliance currently has SLEs for

  • Leadership of the curriculum
  • English
  • Maths
  • EYFS
  • SEND
  • Initial Teacher Training
  • Newly Qualified Teachers
  • Phonics

Monitoring and Quality Assurance

Teaching schools are responsible for the quality assurance of SLEs and will need to demonstrate the impact of SLE deployments on outcomes for children.

For each deployment, the SLE’s school, the supported school and the teaching school will agree the scope of the work, objectives and impact measures, which will be reviewed and monitored at the end.

The SLE’s designation may be reviewed if there is a lack of evidence to demonstrate the impact of his or her work.

  If you would like to speak to us about the School-to-School Support we can offer please contact us on

 Are you interested in becoming an SLE?

If you are an interested in becoming an SLE, and you are currently working as a middle or senior leader with a particular area of expertise, you may be eligible to apply in the next cohort of SLE applications. This will take place later this year, and more details will be available nearer the time. In the meantime, more information about SLE work can be found on the DfE website at:

Get in touch

Forest Learning Alliance
c/o Uplands Primary School,
Albion Road, Sandhurst,
Berkshire. GU47 9BP

Tel: 01252 873069

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