In the simplest terms, system leaders are those who work beyond their own school. This might include:

  • sharing successful practice with colleagues in other schools
  • providing coaching in a specialist area
  • a formal deployment to support a school in challenging circumstances

NCTL, ‘What are Teaching Schools and System Leaders’ blog, March 2015

In a nutshell, ‘system leaders’ are those people who fulfil NCTL criteria for a specific role (SLE, LLE or NLE) and can therefore suggest, research and implement an improvement model based on the understanding of an organisation to improve both leadership, the organisation and/or outcomes for pupils/student of that organisation.

With the role of ‘SIP’ phased out some years ago, the NCTL had a responsibility to develop system leaders, to support schools and improve outcomes. More information on the teams and available support from the Shires can be found on our pages: SLE, NLE and School to School Support.

Overview of the roles:

Specialist Leaders of Education (SLE)

Specialist Leader of Education or ‘SLE’, is an outstanding middle and senior leader in a position below the headteacher, with at least two years’ leadership experience. You have a particular area of expertise (such as a subject area, early years, behaviour or school business management) and a successful track record of school improvement. SLEs support leaders in other schools. You have excellent interpersonal skills, are able to work sensitively and collaboratively with others and have a commitment to outreach work. You understand what outstanding leadership practice in their area of specialism looks like and can help other leaders to achieve it in their own context.

The purpose of becoming an SLE is to develop other middle and senior 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 peer coaching or facilitated group support and could involve a variety of activities, such as data analysis, coaching or joint action planning. SLEs can come from any school or academy, including nursery, primary, secondary, special, pupil referral unit, independent or free school, or sixth form college. Whilst you, the individual must be outstanding, your school does not have to be.

How to apply

We are not currently recruiting for SLEs.
If you are interested in becoming an SLE, you will need to make a formal application, with the support of your headteacher. The next date for applications will be posted in the latest news.
The process for application is very straightforward:
  • Gain verbal agreement from your headteacher
  • Check you meet the minimum criteria
  • Complete the SLE Application Form and submit to Shires Teaching School
  • Using our fair and open sifting process you may be invited for interview and assessment
  • Complete SLE training (required to achieve SLE designation)
  • If successful, you will gain SLE status and begin deployment

Minimum Criteria
To become an SLE, you will need:

  • to have been in a leadership role other than headteacher for at least 2 years
  • from any type or phase of school
  • you don’t 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
  • 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
  • a good understanding of what constitutes ‘outstanding’ in your field of expertise and the ability and confidence to communicate this
  • a good 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 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 (August, 2015):

Useful Documents

National Leaders of Education (NLE)

NLEs are outstanding headteachers who work with schools in challenging circumstances to support school improvement.

Because their support role will often include members of their own staff, the school of a national leader of education is called a National Support School (NSS). The NSS for the Shires Alliance is the lead school, Studley High School.

Please contact us if you want to improve performance at your school with support from Lee Gray, our NLE. He will meet with the headteacher and senior staff from your school to discuss the challenges you face and what help is needed. His work will be tailored in partnership with you.

An NLE can get involved in different ways, including:

  • working with your school alongside their staff
  • working with your school on their own
  • their staff working with your school under the initial direction of the NLE

To become an NLE, please follow this link: