Specialist leaders of education: a guide for potential applicants

How to apply to become a specialist leader of education (SLE), what's involved, and how to work with existing teaching schools.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This page was withdrawn because it is out of date. Information on system leader roles is available.

Applies to England


Experienced middle or senior leaders interested in supporting middle and senior leaders in other schools can apply to become a specialist leader of education (SLE).

System leadership, which includes SLEs, supports the Department for Education’s goal to provide every child and young person with access to high-quality provision, achieving to the best of their ability regardless of location, prior attainment and background.

What a SLE does

SLEs focus on developing leadership capacity. While other roles focus specifically on developing classroom expertise, this role is about developing the capacity and capability of other leaders so that they have the skills to lead their own teams and improve practice in their own schools.

This may be done through one-to-one or group support and could involve a variety of activities, such as:

  • data analysis
  • coaching
  • facilitating and training
  • joint action planning

Who can apply

To become a SLE, you need to have been in a leadership role other than headteacher for at least 2 years. Your headteacher will be asked to confirm that you’re in an appropriate role. Higher level teaching assistants are not eligible to apply.

You can be from any type or phase of school.

You do not need to be in an outstanding school or a school that is part of a teaching school alliance, but your school will need to have the capacity to release you to work in other schools.

You must have at least one specialism from our areas of expertise, which are based on the areas of focus in the Ofsted Common Inspection Framework (September 2018):

  • effectiveness of leadership and management:

    • academies and academy transition
    • assessment
    • leadership of continuing professional development
    • school business management and financial management
    • leadership of curriculum
  • outcomes for children and other learners:

    • art
    • closing the gap
    • drama
    • design and technology
    • early years
    • English
    • geography
    • history
    • information and communication technology
    • maths
    • modern foreign languages
    • music
    • phonics
    • physical education
    • personal, social and health education
    • religious education
    • science
    • special educational needs
    • support for the most able pupils
    • citizenship
  • quality of teaching, learning and assessment:

    • initial teacher training
    • newly qualified teacher development
    • assessment
  • personal development, behaviour and welfare:

    • behaviour and discipline
    • attendance

Time commitment

The types of placements will vary. For example, one might be a 2-day diagnostic exercise, while another might require a 3-month, full time support role. Time may be taken as a block of consecutive days or spread over a longer period.

There’s no minimum or maximum time commitment. You and your school will need to think carefully about capacity and negotiate your availability together.

How to apply

Teaching schools are responsible for the designation of SLEs.

Find teaching schools in your area and contact them directly to check whether they’re recruiting SLEs, and what their designation process is.

Updates to this page

Published 21 March 2014
Last updated 4 February 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance and added citizenship as a SLE specialism.

  2. Updated email contact.

  3. Removed contact details for teaching school and system leader help desk.

  4. Updated guidance for potential applicants

  5. Application round to become an SLE is now open

  6. Application round now open

  7. Added list of recruiting teaching schools

  8. First published.

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