Teaching schools and system leaders: get support for you and your school

System leaders: who they are and what they do.


One of the most effective ways of achieving school improvement is by working with other schools.

There are now many opportunities for school leaders and governors to work with and receive support from their peers. This guide summarises the options available to you and how to access them.

Teaching schools and system leaders will continue to support schools while we test teaching school hubs.

How to find a system leader or teaching school

Use the school-to-school support directory to find and contact system leaders or teaching schools in your area.

We’re looking to improve our content on support for schools and how you find support in your area. Please give us your views.

Teaching schools

Teaching schools have an important role to play in a school-led system and in school improvement. Teaching schools will be centres of excellence, taking on a more focused role that prioritises:

  • co-ordinating and delivering high quality school-based initial teacher training (ITT)

  • Providing high quality school-to-school support to spread excellent practice, particularly to schools that need it most

  • Providing evidence-based professional and leadership development for teachers and leaders across their network

In addition, teaching schools can play a role as brokerage hubs for other system leaders, co-ordinating the supply and activity of national leaders of education (NLEs), national leaders of governance (NLGs) and specialist leaders of education (SLEs). They help prevent underperformance by supporting vulnerable schools, and where needed, help tackle underperformance in coasting schools and lead improvement in good schools.

Read the latest Teaching schools: the school perspective report. This report gives examples of what teaching schools around the country are doing to respond to the main areas of their role.

Contact a teaching school

Schools are welcome to contact a teaching school to ask about what they can offer.

Find teaching schools in your area:


There may be costs, depending on what type of support you need. You will negotiate any payment with the teaching school.

Time commitment for you and/or your staff

This will vary considerably, depending on how much support your school needs. Some projects only take a few days, others can include full-time support roles over a period of several years. Your school, the teaching school, and any concerned organisations (for example, Ofsted or the local authority) will negotiate this.

Further information

Local authorities and other educational support organisations who want to work with teaching schools should email us at the address below to discuss options.

For more information about teaching schools, email

National leaders of education (NLEs)

NLEs are outstanding headteachers who, together with the staff in their national support school (NSS), use their skills and experience to support schools in challenging circumstances. In addition to leading their own schools, NLEs work to increase the leadership capacity of other schools to help raise standards.

NLEs can be deployed in a number of ways and each deployment can be tailored to suit the needs of the school receiving support. NLEs are expected to support schools in the most challenging circumstances such as those in an Ofsted category, facing closure or amalgamation or falling below the floor standards.

You should contact an NLE if you want to improve performance at your school. They will meet with the headteacher and senior staff from your school to discuss the challenges you face and what help is needed. Their work will be tailored in partnership with you.

They can get involved in different ways, including:

  • working with your school alongside their staff
  • working with your school on their own
  • their staff working with your school under their initial direction

Contact an NLE

Use the school-to-school support directory to find national leaders of education in your area. Contact details are available through the directory. You can contact the NLE directly.


There may be costs, depending on what type of support you need. Any payments will be negotiated between you and the NLE’s school.

Time commitment for you and your staff

This is a very intensive form of support. The length and type of work can vary significantly. It could involve up to 3 to 4 days of support per week for 2 years or more.

Further information

For more information about NLEs, email

National leaders of governance (NLGs)

NLGs are highly effective chairs of governors who use their skills and experience to provide coaching and mentoring support to another chair of governors to improve school and academy performance.

You should contact an NLG if you want to improve the leadership and performance of your school’s governing body.

Examples of deployments:

  • mentoring of chair and/or members of the school’s governing body
  • external reviews of governance (NLGs who have completed Department for Education (DfE) training)
  • chair or membership of an interim executive board
  • chair or leadership role of governing body of school/multi-academy trust where the school has been identified as needing urgent additional governance capacity

Contact an NLG

Use the school-to-school support directory to find national leaders of governance in your area. School details are available through the directory. To contact the NLG directly, please contact


NLGs are expected to provide effective support to at least one school per year. After providing the equivalent of 5 days of free support NLGs may charge for support. Any costs must be negotiated between you and the NLG.

Time commitment for you and your governors

The NLG will work directly with your school’s chair of governors. Their support can include:

  • phone calls
  • emails
  • face-to face meetings

The time can be spent across full or partial days, during evenings or at weekends.

Further information

For more information about NLGs, email

Local leaders of education (LLEs)

The DfE no longer designate LLEs. Teaching schools have the freedom to recruit and designate school leaders in this role as they already do with specialist leaders of education (SLEs).

Please read the local leaders of education news story for further information.

Specialist leaders of education (SLEs)

SLEs are experienced middle or senior leaders with a specialism (for example, mathematics, ITT, behaviour).

While other roles (for example, advanced skills teachers) focused on developing classroom expertise, this role is about developing other leaders so that they have the skills to lead their own teams and improve practice in their own schools.

You should contact an SLE if you want to improve the leadership in a specific subject or specialist area in your school.

SLEs can provide one-to-one or group support. Their work could involve a variety of activities, such as:

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

SLE specialisms cover the 4 areas of focus for Ofsted.

Ofsted focus Areas of expertise
Leadership and management Academies and academy transition; assessment; leadership of continuing professional development; school business management and financial management; leadership of curriculum
Pupil achievement 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
Quality of teaching Initial teacher training and newly qualified teacher development
Behaviour and safety Behaviour and discipline; attendance

Contact an SLE

Teaching schools manage the placements for SLEs. A teaching school in your area will send the SLE to work with staff in your school.

Use the school-to-school support directory to find teaching schools in your area, then browse the subjects that SLEs cover in those schools. Contact details are available through the directory. You can contact the teaching school directly.


You will usually need to pay the teaching school for an SLE’s time. Payment for SLE services is negotiated by you and the teaching school.

Time commitment for you or your staff

This will vary according to the project, level of support required and number of your staff involved. For example, one project 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.

Further information

For more information about SLEs, email

Pupil Premium Reviews

A pupil premium review looks at how a school is spending its pupil premium funding. As a reviewer, system leaders will work with you to improve your school’s pupil premium strategy so the funding is spent on approaches shown to be effective in improving the achievement of disadvantaged pupils. They will carry out a focused review of your school’s current provision and work with you to put in place an improved strategy, including planned spend, on specific evidence-based approaches.

Who leads a pupil premium review?

The DfE designates system leaders as pupil premium reviewers. Reviewers have a track record in making a difference with disadvantaged pupils. These system leaders are responsible for the delivery of an effective review, and will usually hold an initial discussion with the head teacher of the commissioning school. Beyond this, reviewers may deploy other members of their leadership team with expertise in this area, including middle leaders and SLEs, to lead aspects of the review.


Commissioning schools or academy trusts pay for their pupil premium review. The cost is a matter for agreement between your and the commissioning school / academy trust, but should reflect the amount of time involved. There is no set cost for a review and the DfE have no set day rates for system leaders, but as a guide, day rates should reflect pay and expenses for a senior leader or headteacher, including the costs incurred by their school to release them. A typical day rate for a system leader is currently between £300 and £500.

Time commitment for you and your governors

An effective pupil premium review will usually take between two and four days. This includes a day spent by your school undertaking self-evaluation, and a half-day follow-up visit. Reviewed schools have attested to the value of further follow-up visits later in the year, once changes have had time to bed in.

Further information

For more information, visit our pupil premium reviewer pages.

Teaching Schools Council

The Teaching Schools Council plays a key role in ensuring every child in every part of the country has access to a good school. It does this by working with regional and national partners to ensure high quality ITT, high quality professional and leadership development opportunities and effective school-to-school support.

Teaching Schools Council representatives work with regional schools commissioners to help deliver school improvement on the ground, and with other agencies such as Ofsted, local authorities and dioceses. The Teaching Schools Council has a national strategic presence complemented by local partnerships that can draw in wider resources such as NLEs.

The Teaching Schools Council is made up of 17 representatives, all of whom are serving school leaders of designated teaching schools (CEOs of MATs, executive heads, headteachers or directors of teaching schools). All representatives have both a regionally and nationally facing role. There are 2 peer representatives who contribute to support the work of the Teaching Schools Council.

Teaching Schools Council regional networks

The Teaching Schools Council regional representatives have recently developed regional and sub-regional networks to enable coherent and effective practice for school based ITT, evidence-based professional development and school-to-school support. Teaching Schools Council regional representatives and their networks provide essential support to all teaching school alliances and system leaders including supporting the brokerage of support particularly to schools that need it most. They work collaboratively with other key players in the regions, including regional schools commissioners, Ofsted, local authorities and dioceses to help deliver school improvement on the ground and ensure effective communication links across the regions.

Each network will support newly designated teaching school alliances particularly in their first few weeks of designation, providing an overview of regional teaching school activity and key priorities. Further support can be provided to help new alliances consider their governance structures and arrangements to enable effective delivery against priorities. Teaching Schools Council regional representatives will contact new alliances at the regional induction event with an expectation that they will join the regional network.

Further information

For more information regarding the work of the Teaching Schools Council or to contact a representative, please visit the Teaching Schools Council website.

Published 25 March 2014
Last updated 29 May 2019 + show all updates
  1. Added information about the teaching schools hubs trial and the continuation of existing support for the time being.
  2. Updated email contacts.
  3. Removed contact details for teaching school and system leader help desk.
  4. Survey added to capture your views on our support for schools content and how you access support in your area.
  5. Linking through to the latest Teaching schools: the school perspective report.
  6. Updated the list of SLEs with a designated specialism
  7. First published.