System Leaders

Interested in becoming a system leader and playing a key role in school-led school improvement?

NLE Reforms

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In January 2019, the Department for Education (DfE) announced in its teacher recruitment and retention strategy that it would carry out a review of system leadership.Following a review by officials, ministers concluded that there was a need to reform and strengthen the structure of system leadership to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of teaching schools and National Leaders of Education (NLEs).

In June 2019, DfE Ministers invited a number of experienced school leaders from across England, to form an external advisory group, which was commissioned to advise on the strengths and weaknesses of the current system of NLEs and to make recommendations for improvements. The report and its recommendations are available by clicking on the image Details of the eligibility of schools to access school improvement support for 2020/21 academic year are awaited from the DfE.

The Role of SLEs

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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 Eligibility

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To become a SLE, you need to have been in a leadership role other than headteacher for at least 2 years. Your headteacher will be asked to confirm that you’re 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, 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 areas of focus in the Ofsted Common Inspection Framework (September 2018)

Benefits of becoming a SLE

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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?

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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?

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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’s no minimum or maximum time commitment. You and your school will need to think carefully about capacity and negotiate your availability together.

SLE Specialist Areas

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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:

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 & discipline; Attendance

How to apply

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If you are interested in becoming a SLE, please contact the Teaching School teachingschool@learnersfirst.org in the first instance for an informal discussion

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