Specialist Leaders of Education

SLEs are a nationally accredited designation led by Teaching Schools and designated through the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). 

They are part of the strategy for building capacity or systems leadership and school to school support. SLEs are middle and senior school leaders with specialist expertise in subject leadership or a whole school issue such as behaviour management, ITT or SEN. They provide support to individual leaders and teams in other schools by using a high level coaching or facilitation approach which draws on their knowledge and expertise in their specialist area.

In Kent and Medway there are currently in excess of 175 SLEs in primary, secondary and special schools. They work with their local teaching school and are deployed to support school improvement and leadership in a variety of ways. Teachers report very positively about the opportunities that being an SLE has afforded them.

If you are an experienced middle or senior leader who is interested in supporting leaders in other schools, you might want to apply to be a specialist leader of education (SLE).   Each year there are two windows – in Autumn and Spring.  To express your interest in becoming an SLE, inform your Alliance and submit an application.

Who Can Apply

To become an SLE, you need to have been in a leadership role 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 do not need to be in an outstanding school or a school that is part of a Teaching School Alliance, as long as your school has the capacity to release you to work (up to 15 days) in other schools. You must have at least one specialism from the listed 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 cost to apply. Successful applicants will be entitled to some training at no cost to their school. However, the school will have to pay for associated travel or supply cover.

What an SLE does

Specialist Leaders of Education 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.

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.


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. A list of recruiting schools will be available when the application round opens.

Core Training Day

All new Specialist Leaders of Education have to attend this training day as it provides essential information about the role and gives you the tools and techniques for effective school-to-school support. It also gives the opportunity to meet others in the role.

Placements to support other schools

Each placement will be designed to meet the needs of the supported schools and 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 where required.

Additional Opportunities

As well as supporting other schools, it is expected that you will be able to engage with other areas of work – for example, research activity, CPD delivery


“Being an SLE has got the very best out of my interpersonal skills, my emotional intelligence and professional growth. It’s a privilege and a challenge to support fellow colleagues from other schools and has added a real freshness to my career.”

“It has been such a privilege to be invited to other schools and work with new professionals. I learn so much on every project.”

We are always looking for individuals to take on this exciting role and so if you are interested, please contact your local Alliance for more details.


KMTSN Operational Group were asked to design an Appeals Process which can be used when a prospective SLE is deemed to be unsuccessful by the Interview Panel.

Please click here to review that process including some useful information for Outcome B.


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