Specialist Leaders of Education, or SLEs, are outstanding middle and senior leaders in positions below the headteacher for example, deputy headteachers, subject leaders or school business managers, with at least 2 years experience in a particular field of expertise. SLEs have the capacity, skills and commitment to support other individuals or teams, in similar positions in other schools. They understand what outstanding leadership practice in their area of specialism looks like and are skilled in helping other leaders achieve it in their own context.
Specialist leaders of education (SLEs) will act as ‘system leaders’, supporting individual leaders and teams in other schools by using a high level coaching or facilitation approach that draws on their knowledge and expertise in their specialist area.
This may involve a wide variety of support approaches, including diagnostic models, and one-to-one or facilitated group support. Regardless of the type of support model delivered, the ultimate aim of SLEs will always be to contribute significantly to improving the outcomes for children through developing the capacity of peer leaders in other schools.
SLEs will support the high quality professional development of leaders and may also potentially play a key role in the future development of school-to-school support, by identifying outstanding future leaders.
The new designation is a way of formally recognising those outstanding leaders who have an excellent track record of supporting others and have specialist expertise that other schools in their area can benefit from. From our experience of deploying system leaders, this type of recognition can help to boost an individual’s morale and provide a renewed sense of purpose. We expect that SLE work will support continuing professional development for these individuals, through, for example:
- opportunities to work autonomously and independently
- gaining further experience of working collaboratively with others
- being creative and trying out new ideas
- developing coaching and facilitation skills
- access to other contexts, processes and styles of working, widening their experience of different school environments
- the chance to learn from ideas and approaches used in other schools, to improve their own performance and that of colleagues in their own school
- the opportunity to network with their peers.
All of the above can help the individual to improve further in their current role, as well as to support them if they wish to think about promotional opportunities. Finally we know that system leaders benefit from knowing they are helping others to improve and having a positive impact on outcomes for children, by using and sharing their own knowledge and skills. It is this sense of moral purpose that can often prove to be the biggest incentive of all.