Guidance

Specialist leaders of education: a guide for potential applicants

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

Overview

If you are an experienced middle or senior leader who is interested in supporting leaders in other schools, you may wish to apply to be a specialist leader of education (SLE).

There are currently just over 6,000 designated SLEs.

Teaching schools are responsible for the selection and placement of SLEs. This is one part of the government’s plan to give schools a central role in developing a self-improving and sustainable school-led system.

Apply

The application round to become an SLE is now open.

To apply, you should:

  • contact your preferred teaching school directly to check whether they are recruiting SLEs – contact details can be found using the school to school support directory
  • complete an application form provided by your chosen teaching school
  • get a supporting reference from your headteacher

Your local teaching and leadership adviser may be able to advise which teaching schools are recruiting in your locality.

Please see the SLE application guidance (PDF, 283KB, 8 pages) and the standard version of the application form for reference only.

Who can apply

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

You can be from any type or phase of school.

You don’t 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 1 specialism from our areas of expertise, which are based on 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

To be successful in your application, you should have:

  • a successful track record of working effectively within your own school and/or across a group of schools, or working with a range of leaders within a single school
  • evidence of successfully using coaching and/or facilitation skills to bring about sustainable improvements
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • an understanding of what constitutes ‘outstanding’ in your field of expertise and the ability and confidence to communicate this
  • an understanding of how your specialism and skills can contribute to wider school improvement goals
  • an analytical approach in identifying and prioritising needs
  • the ability to set and establish new and innovative working practices
  • the ability to grow leadership capacity in others

You can also provide supporting evidence gained from completing leadership development opportunities such as:

There is no limit on the number of times a candidate can apply. There is no cost to apply. Candidates may apply to multiple teaching schools, but can only accept designation from one teaching school.

What an SLE does

SLEs focus on developing leadership capacity. 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.

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

If selected, you will be expected to provide evidence that your work has had a positive impact on outcomes for children and young people by developing leadership capacity in other schools.

Read case studies that give examples of the type of work being done by SLEs or a blog post of the work of SLEs.

Time commitment

The role lasts for 4 years, at which time there will be a review. 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 is no minimum or maximum time commitment. You and your school will need to think carefully about capacity and negotiate your availability together.

Payment

There may be payment for specific placements, either from schools receiving support or from other organisations using your services, to help reimburse your school or pay for supply cover. Any payment will be agreed and managed by the headteachers and governors of the schools concerned, in line with statutory guidance.

How the programme works

Allocation to a teaching school alliance You will need to identify your nearest teaching school alliance that is recruiting for your specialism. You can check this by contacting the teaching school directly, checking the school’s website or contacting your local teaching and leadership adviser.
Placements to support other schools Each placement will be designed to meet the needs of the supported school. They may involve coaching, mentoring or facilitation skills – there is no set method, but support will always focus on sustainable leadership development and school improvement. You will need to keep your allocated teaching school informed of progress regularly.
Access to ongoing support and training Your teaching school will ensure that there is support available for you where required. Our team will also be on hand to answer any questions you may have.
Additional opportunities As well as supporting other schools, we expect that you will also be able to engage with other areas of work – for example, research activity on behalf of teaching schools or working with national policy makers in relation to particular specialisms.

Appeals

There are 2 situations where you have the right to appeal:

  • if your initial application is not successful
  • if you become an SLE and, when reviewed, are judged to no longer meet the criteria

To make an appeal you should:

  • read the SLE appeals procedure (PDF, 219KB, 3 pages)
  • request an appeals form from the relevant teaching school
  • submit the form to the teaching school within 10 working days of receiving the outcome you are appealing (if the outcome is received at the end of term, this period will transfer to the following term)

We encourage you to try to reach an informal resolution with the teaching school before making a formal appeal.

Contact us

For further information about specialist leaders of education, please email sle.enquiries@education.gsi.gov.uk or contact our help desk.

Teaching school and system leader help desk

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