Apply to be an SLE

What are SLEs?

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 will develop the leadership capacity of others, using coaching or facilitation support that draws on their knowledge and expertise.

The Schools White Paper introduced the concept of the SLE role 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 many senior and middle leaders play in supporting their peers to develop.

There are currently just under 5,000 SLEs designated in line with the expansion of the teaching school model. In time, 10,000 SLEs will be designated to ensure full national coverage.

Key Points

  1. Whilst SLEs will be outstanding at what they do, they can come from any school, regardless of the school’s Ofsted grade.
  2. SLEs need to meet strict designation criteria.
  3. SLEs have expertise in a specific area, for example a subject area, early years, behaviour or school business management.
  4. SLEs are designated by the Academies Enterprise Trust Teaching School Alliance, which will also broker your deployment into other schools.
  5. The SLE role has a number of benefits, including:
  • offering credible peer support, rooted in current practice and drawing on real experience;
  • the sharing and development of outstanding, innovative practice;
  • a collaborative, coaching approach which helps develop other leaders to ensure long-term, sustainable improvement;
  • a fresh perspective on specific challenges or issues, as well as specialist knowledge and expertise;
  • the opportunity for leaders to learn about different school contexts and systems;
  • contributing to continued professional development (CPD), enhancing leaders’ knowledge, skills and abilities in a variety of ways.

Designation Criteria:

To become a specialist leader of education (SLE), you will need to hold a middle or senior leadership role in a school and have a specialism that is included in our list of areas of expertise. SLEs will need to meet strict designation criteria.

SLE designation is open to qualified teachers from nursery schools, primary, middle, secondary, all-through and special schools, pupil referral units and short-stay schools, faith schools, independent schools, academies, chains and free schools or sixth form colleges.


SLEs will:

  • be outstanding middle or senior leaders with a first class knowledge in a particular field of expertise
  • have a minimum of two years' experience in a leadership role within a school or academy

Track record

SLEs will have:

  • a successful track record, supported by substantial impact evidence, of working effectively within their 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 improvement

Capacity and commitment

SLEs will:

  • have a commitment to outreach work and the capacity to undertake such work
  • be supported in their application by their head teacher and chair of governors, and be able to be released from their school for a mutually agreed allocation of time


SLEs will have:

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • the ability to utilise high levels of emotional intelligence to work sensitively and collaboratively with peer colleagues
  • an understanding of what constitutes 'outstanding' in their field of expertise and the ability and confidence to articulate this
  • an appreciation of how their specialism and skills can contribute to the wider school improvement agenda
  • an analytical approach in identifying the needs and ability to prioritise accordingly, including the ability to set and establish new and innovative working practices
  • the ability to grow leadership capacity in others

Areas of Expertise

The key areas for SLEs are listed below and are based on four key areas of focus for Ofsted. Whilst all applications will be considered, the AET Teaching School Alliance will give precedence to the our priority areas across all phases highlighted below:

Leadership and management

Academies and academy transition; assessment; leadership of continuing professional development*; school business management and financial management; leadership of curriculum*

We are particularly looking for SLEs who have experience of working with groups of teachers to improve their quality of teaching. Successful applicants will contribute to facilitating and supporting AET Improving and Outstanding Teacher Programmes.

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

Please note we are particularly interested in SLEs who can:

  • facilitate strategies for supporting EAL at whole academy level
  • support the implementation of the new Computer Science curriculum
  • support teachers in the classroom with Primary Mathematics curriculum
  • Early Years and Phonics
  • support both Primary and Secondary Science

Quality of teaching

Initial teacher training (ITT) and newly qualified teacher (NQT) development

Behaviour and safety

Behaviour and discipline; Attendance

* Our priority areas of expertise for the academic year 2016–2017

When should I apply to become an SLE?

Dates for the next round for Specialist Leaders of Education are detailed below

Our Teaching School Alliance, are always keen to hear from people who are would like to make a difference by contributing to system leadership throughout the organisation and would like to become an SLE in the future.

If you understand what outstanding leadership practice in your area of expertise looks like and are skilled in helping other leaders to achieve it in their own context, we would be keen to hear from you

Before Applying

  • Read the SLE application guidance.
  • Speak to your Principal/Head teacher to check they will support your application and will release you to support other academies.
  • Select your specialism matches one of the the Academies Enterprise Trust Teaching School Alliance priorities (See application form).
  • Ensure that you meet the SLE eligibility criteria.
  • Download and complete your SLE Application Form within the designated time frame.


All applicants must have the support and agreement of their Principal/Head teacher who will confirm that the school has the capacity to release them for SLE deployments. The Principal/Head Teacher will need to complete a reference in the application form. They will be asked to provide a supporting statement evidencing how the applicant meets the eligibility criteria and to confirm that they have supported another middle or senior leader from another academy or school.

Where it is not possible to evidence external outreach work the Principal/Head teacher can report on how the applicant has supported a middle or senior leader from within their own school.

For further information, please read Application Guidance for Referees

Key Dates

7th May 2018 Applications open

1st June 2018 Applications close

6th June 2018 Applications reviewed

13th June 2018 Interview details sent to candidates

Week of 18th June 2018 Interviews and assessments

July 2018 SLE applicants will receive a letter confirming the outcome of the interview process