The Role of SLEs

The Schools’ White Paper, ‘The Importance of Teaching’, introduced the concept of the SLE role in 2011. The role aims to help to improve the quality of school leadership through school-to-school support, ultimately raising standards and improving outcomes for children.

SLEs are outstanding middle and senior leaders who have the skills to support individuals and/or teams in other schools. They understand what outstanding leadership practice in their area of expertise looks like, and are skilled in helping other leaders to achieve it in their own context.

SLEs focus on developing leadership capacity. While other roles (e.g. 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.

Teaching Schools are responsible for the designation and deployment of SLEs. They must maintain a strategic overview of all SLE activity, and its impact, and are responsible for reporting this to the Department For Education.

SLE Eligibility

The eligibility criterion for SLEs is set by the DfE. To become a specialist leader of education, 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 through the application process. 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
  • 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

Further information about eligibility criteria can be found on the DfE Website:

Benefits of becoming a SLE

School-to-school support enables the sharing and development of outstanding, innovative practice which can benefit both schools in a partnership. The SLE programme:

  • is an excellent for of CPD for middle and senior leaders;
  • further develops coaching, mentoring and facilitation skills (which SLEs can used to support colleagues in their own school as well as others);
  • gives individuals the opportunity to learn about and experience different school contexts, systems and styles of leadership;
  • supports internal succession planning strategies; and
  • supports staff retention

How are SLEs deployed?

The SLE model needs to be flexible and able to support the school system in a variety of ways depending on individual school and local area needs. SLE deployments may include supporting schools on an individual basis or as part of a larger strategy of support (possibly alongside other SLEs and/or LLEs and NLEs).

For Learners First, SLEs are in important part of the school-to-school workforce and, in line with their individual areas of expertise, are deployed across all aspects of our partnership work. This includes deployments linked to the Leadership Curriculum (including School Direct, NQT and RQT programmes, and Middle Leadership programmes) and deployments that have focussed on developing teaching and learning practice through programmes such as DROP and DLP. In addition, SLEs have been deployed on both an individual basis and as part of a broader team to support schools on a bespoke basis.

What is the time commitment?

The SLE designation lasts for 4 years, at which time there will be a review.

In terms of each SLE deployment, there  is no minimum or maximum time commitment; each deployment will be negotiated on an individual basis and agreed in advance.  The National College guidance states SLEs should be willing to be deployed for approximately 15 days per academic year, but this can be negotiated between the SLE, their employing school and the designating Teaching School.


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SLE Specialist Areas

SLEs must identify a specialist area by which they wish to be designated. SLEs must have at least one specialism from the areas of expertise (set by the DfE) as outlined below:

Ofsted Focus: Leadership and Management
Areas of expertise:
Academies and academy transition; assessment; leadership of continuing   professional development; school business management and financial   management; leadership of curriculum

Ofsted Focus: Pupil achievement
Areas of expertise:
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

Ofsted Focus: Quality of teaching
Areas of expertise:
Initial teacher training and newly qualified teacher development

Ofsted Focus: Behaviour and safety
Areas of expertise:
Behaviour & discipline; Attendance

Due to current priorities, Learners First would particularly welcome SLE applications from colleagues with experience in the areas outlined below:

  • Primary: Phonics; English and Literacy.
  • Secondary: English; Science.

How to apply

SLE applications are made directly to Teaching Schools using the application form which can be downloaded by clicking on the image.

The closing date for applications is: 22nd November 2019


Application Form