What is the role of an SLE?

It’s a few weeks since my SLE accreditation training and this post aims to capture some of my reflections on the day.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t heard of SLEs. Until a couple of months ago I hadn’t either! SLE stands for specialist leader of education and the role is all about supporting leaders in other schools. My specialism is special educational needs and disability (SEND) and the post was established by our local alliance of schools, which serves as a teaching school. There are nine other SLEs in the alliance, with a variety of specialisms, including assessment, initial teacher training and teaching and learning.

The training day, at a local teaching school, involved about twenty newly appointed SLEs from other parts of the region and two trainers, both experienced SLEs. We had a range of experience – primary and secondary, mainstream and special – but, as we found out in the first session, we had a common purpose. We had all applied for and taken on the role because we wanted to make a difference. We wanted to support colleagues in other schools and help them develop their capacity to improve outcomes for their pupils.

SLEs work in different ways: individually and in teams; sometimes with one or two teachers, sometimes with whole school teams; some SLEs provide training, others have helped schools to form networks and working groups. The common theme, for me, is that SLEs stand alongside colleagues as they develop provision that meets the needs of their pupils and their setting.

I found the day inspirational. The trainers congratulated us on our appointment, talked of the expertise and potential in the room, and set the scene for some interesting and exciting work. As a group, we shared our ideas and expectations, listened to each other and talked about how to be most effective in our new role. Emotional intelligence was seen as key, as was the ability to observe, listen and analyse evidence in different forms. We discussed how best to support colleagues and facilitate change. It felt good that many of the topics resonated with me, re-confirming my thoughts about effective leadership and school improvement.

The afternoon was spent working on a mock project. We were taken on a learning walk around the school in teams of three or four – access all areas. Then we were given time to consider what we had seen and plan some feedback for members of the school’s senior leadership team. This exercise gave us the chance to talk about our conclusions, ask questions and have a go at helping the leaders to reflect on what was going well and what might be areas for development. It was a real privilege to have the time to step back, look around the school and have time to reflect in this way. I came away looking forward to my first project as an SLE.

I intend to blog about my work to help me reflect and learn from the experience, so if you’re an SLE with any tips or advice it would be great to hear from you.

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