Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs)

Specialist Leaders of education (SLEs) are outstanding middle and senior leaders who have the skills to support individuals or teams in similar positions 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.

The Schools White Paper introduced the concept of the SLE role, which has been designed to help to improve the quality of school leadership through school-to-school support and peer-to-peer learning, ultimately raising standards and improving outcomes for children. This designation recognises the important role that senior and middle leaders can play in school improvement. In time, the NCTL anticipate 10000 SLEs to be designated to ensure full national coverage. Teaching schools have been given the role of designating SLEs and brokering their deployment into other schools.

How will a specialist leader of education benefit my school?

The SLE’s own school
School-to-school support enables the sharing and development of outstanding, innovative practice, which can benefit both schools in a partnership. The NLE, LLE and SLE programmes have shown that undertaking outreach work can further improve an individual’s ability to undertake their current role in school.

The SLE programme will:

  • Be an excellent form of CPD for middle and senior leaders, enabling them to enhance their knowledge, skills and abilities in a variety of ways;
  • Further develop SLEs’ coaching, mentoring and facilitation skills, which can also be used to support colleagues in their own school through internal training and development;
  • Give individuals the opportunity to learn about different school contexts and systems, which will in turn help them to develop their practice in their own school;
  • Support schools’ internal succession-planning strategies, by enabling individuals to demonstrate they are ready to step up to the next leadership level;
  • Support staff retention by motivating and re-energising leaders who are taking on this new role;
  • Possibly result in some funding for the SLE’s own school, although this will be agreed by the schools involved and by the appropriate teaching school alliance. Even if remuneration does not take the form of direct funding, it could involve an exchange of services that may help support or enhance an area of the SLE’s school.

Schools in receipt of SLE support

Feedback from current SLE work and similar leadership programmes tells us that leaders value and benefit from the support of their peers.
  • This type of peer support:
  • Is credible, because it is rooted in current leadership practice and draws on real, relevant experience;
  • Takes place within the supported school, with the SLE working alongside staff and taking into account demands on their time;
  • Is flexible and bespoke, adapting to the particular needs of the supported school;
  • Brings a fresh perspective to specific challenges or issues, as well as specialist knowledge and expertise;
  • Takes a coaching approach, meaning that development will be collaborative;
  • Helps to assure long-term, sustainable improvement - the aim is to help supported leaders to develop their own leadership capacity;
  • Can contribute to improving school performance overall, by providing a specific focus for development and implementing tangible goals that staff can really engage with.

For more information on Specialist Leaders of Education, please go to:


How can I request SLE support for my school?

If you would like to commission SLE support, please go to our ‘School 2 School Support’ page and fill out an enquiry form. We aim to be in touch within 2 working days.