Teaching schools and system leaders: who they are and what they do

Find a teaching school, system leader or teaching and leadership adviser in your area to get tailored support for you and your school.


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.

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

The role of teaching schools is to work with others to provide high-quality training and development and support in their local area.

Teaching schools lead in 6 areas:

  1. School-led initial teacher training
  2. Continuing professional development
  3. Supporting other schools
  4. Identifying and developing leadership potential
  5. Recruiting and managing specialist leaders of education
  6. Research and development

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 work with schools in challenging circumstances to support school improvement.

Because their support role will often include members of their own staff, the school of a national leader of education is called a national support school.

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 support chairs of governors in other schools.

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

Typical activities include:

  • coaching and mentoring
  • reviewing the responsibilities of the governing body
  • action planning
  • supporting academy conversion
  • advising on reviewing headteacher performance

Contact an NLG

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


NLGs are expected to have a placement at least once over the course of a year, supporting a chair of governors, and his or her school. Any cost will be negotiated between you and the NLG’s school.

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)

LLEs are experienced headteachers who coach or mentor new headteachers or headteachers whose schools are in challenging circumstances.

You should contact an LLE if you are a new headteacher, or an existing headteacher interested in a leadership coach.

Schools that are a priority for support are those where:

  • attainment is below the minimum standards set out by the government
  • the school is considered to be at risk of not achieving the minimum standards of attainment or going into special measures
  • a new, first-time headteacher has been appointed

Local leaders of education work primarily one-to-one with another headteacher.

Typical activities include:

  • negotiating objectives for improvement
  • coaching and mentoring the headteacher to develop skills, judgement and professional effectiveness
  • supporting or arranging coaching or training for key staff in the supported school

Contact an LLE

Use the school-to-school support directory to find LLEs in your area. Contact details are available through the directory. You can contact the LLE directly.


In most cases, your school or local authority will need to pay for the LLE’s time. Any payments will be negotiated between you and the LLE’s school.

Time commitment for you and/or your staff

The LLE could work with you for 6 months to 3 years. During that time, you would normally spend between half a day and 1 day a week with them.

Some of this time can be spent by members of the LLE’s staff working with your own (for example, a deputy head working with your deputy).

New pilot of the LLE programme

The pilot will test a range of approaches and models, including working regionally with the Teaching Schools Council. The models will be evaluated to inform future recommendations regarding the potential devolvement of the programme. National recruitment will not take place during the pilot. Teaching schools participating in the pilot will lead local recruitment rounds during this time.

For more information about the pilot email

For more information about LLEs, email

Specialist leaders of education (SLEs)

SLEs are experienced middle or senior leaders with a specialism (for example, maths, initial teacher training, 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.

You can use this list of teaching schools to sort by location and specialism: Specialist leaders of education: list of available specialisms by location (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 165KB)

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

Regional support: teaching and leadership advisers

Teaching and leadership advisers will work regionally with the education sector to help teaching schools work together. In particular, they will:

  • act as critical friends for existing teaching schools
  • support the identification and designation of new teaching schools
  • support de-designated teaching schools
  • work closely with the Teaching School Council to support the development of teaching school networks
  • support candidates and successful NLEs, LLEs and NLGs
  • support initial teacher training (ITT) activity
  • increase School Direct requests for allocations
  • work with licensees to plan and implement changes towards the end of the licence period in March 2016
  • increase NCTL’s engagement in regions with few teaching schools or system leaders

Contact us

If you would like to contact a Teaching and Leadership Adviser in your region, please email or contact our help desk.

Teaching school and system leader help desk

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, excluding UK bank holidays.