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Talented Specialist Leaders

When you have great talent in your school, you just have to share it. You know those people who just ooze subject knowledge, create amazing learning experiences and want nothing more than for everybody to share their passion in the 'stuff' that lights them up.  The Specialist Leaders in Education Programme provides a great opportunity to get these people out there and enrich your own school at the same time. 

Isaac Howarth is an SLE for maths at our school  - read his blog about the role and how to apply

I have recently been designated a Specialist Leader in Education (SLE) in maths and as I begin this new adventure, I thought I would write down some of my ideas about becoming an SLE and give some advice for leaders who may want to become SLEs. Although my designation is as an SLE for maths, there are SLEs in almost every imaginable area of education, ranging from maths, to English, to history, geography, languages, and even areas beyond subjects such as assessment, SEND, behaviour, and school business management.

SLEs are experienced school leaders who have undergone an application and interview process run by a teaching school alliance. One of the driving ideas behind SLEs is that we are part of a self-improving school-led school system that is focused on local solutions to local problems and is delivered by experienced practitioners which is tempered with experience.

SLEs can undertake many different types of commissions and what each commission entails will be unique to each school. That is one of the central ideas of being an SLE, it is about local solutions for schools that suit their specific needs. The range of work may be involved with can include developing teacher subject knowledge, developing pedagogical knowledge, developing curriculum, build professional support networks.

Why did I want to become an SLE? What do I hope to achieve?

I had heard of the SLE designation before, but the idea of actually applying to be an SLE was suggested by our headteacher. I had about two-and-a-half years of experience leading maths in my current school, with more years of experience leading maths in other schools, plus an MA Education degree in maths and had been blogging about teaching and learning. Despite this experience and qualifications, it helped having someone else reminding me that putting myself out there was a good idea.

As an SLE, I hope I can expand my love of maths to other schools. Almost all teachers join the profession because they want to make a difference to children’s lives. Being an SLE is another way to do that, just at a different level. After conversations with people at school, I realised that the qualifications and experience I had built up could be spread out to neighbouring schools. It was the idea of experienced leaders giving back to the wider profession, and being able to work with other schools who wanted someone who is more about “in there, doing it” rather than “been there, done that”.

The application for the SLE designation did take time and thought, and I have written down a few things I think may help with anyone who wants to get on the path to being an SLE.

What I think everyone should know before applying

Most of these are also about thinking schematically about how improvement works

  • Get involved with an aspect of your school’s development plan
  • Get involved with coaching, as an SLE the aim is to help schools improve themselves
  • For any improvement work you are doing, think about the specific outcome you want to achieve
  • Plan how you will collect both quantitative and qualitative evidence before and after your improvement plan, to demonstrate impact

Ways to contact

If you are interested in commissioning an SLE, please contact the Slough Teaching School Alliance or you can contact me through our school (01628 604 665) and I can help set up a commission through the Slough Teaching School Alliance.