Specialist Leaders of Education

What is a Specialist Leader of Education?

SLEs are outstanding middle and senior leaders in positions below the headteacher, with at least two years’ leadership experience. They 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. They have excellent interpersonal skills, are able to work sensitively and collaboratively with others and have a commitment to outreach work. They 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 SLE role is about developing 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 the individual must be outstanding, his or her school does not have to be.

If you would like to engage the services of any of our SLEs, please take a look at our current generic support agreement.

If you are interested in applying to be a Specialist Leader of Education click here

Details on how to contact us can be found by clicking here

STAR Teaching School Alliance SLEs:

We currently have a team of seven Specialist Leaders of Education providing a depth of experience across Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. Particular areas of specialism that can be provided are summarised below:


Meet our SLEs:


Jessica Dales – Assistant Head teacher at Monk Fryston CE Primary School

I have been teaching for 9/10 years now.  Prior to teaching, I gained a 2:1 BMus (Batchelor of Music) and subsequently completed my PGCE in Upper Primary.  I have taught across the Primary age range in schools in York & North Yorkshire.  At my most recent school, I was Maths & music subject leader for 5 years and played an active role on the SLT, working on whole school improvement. I was also appointed as a KS2 Writing moderator in July 2016 for City of York Council where I moderated Year 6 writing for a number of schools across the city.

Having successfully competed my NPQML in November 2015 and carrying out a whole-school improvement task, I had the impetus to want to progress into Assistant or Deputy Headship.  I started my role as Assistant Head at Monk Fryston in September 2016, where I am currently subject leader in maths, music as well as taking a lead in assessment.   I am also working alongside a Head teacher at a local Primary School within the STAR alliance to oversee CPD.

As a leader, my everyday aim is to ensure that all children receive the highest quality educational experience through outstanding and high quality teaching and learning, which is my main motivational factor in leadership. I have taught in a range of different settings, including schools that face challenging circumstances.  I thrive on the responsibility of being a role model and motivating staff and members of my school community to engage in ‘change’ where change is necessary.  I enjoy leading whole school improvement projects and seeing them through from start to finish.  In my leadership, I ensure high and achievable expectations are set not only for the children but for all members of the school community.

Supporting the senior leadership team in monitoring and evaluating the quality of teaching and learning has also been at the forefront of my senior leader roles.  My teaching expertise and pedagogical subject knowledge from teaching in all the year groups have helped me to monitor my curriculum area (Maths & Music) in order to raise attainment and achievement.  This experience motivates me to lead whole school improvement priorities where I can share my knowledge and experience.  Essentially, I thrive on leading whole school improvement tasks and enhancing teaching and learning in order to provide the highest quality educational experiences and opportunities for all children.

Georgina Holmes – Senior Leader at Aplleton Roebuck Primary School

On completion of a BSc (Hons) in Psychology at the University of York, I enjoyed an interesting and varied career including working with Looked After children aged 8-15y in residential care; with adults and ex-offenders with learning disabilities; with KS4 pupils and adults with moderate and severe learning difficulties and/or complex needs; as an Assistant Psychologist on a Community Adult Mental Health Team and as a Team Manager in an Independent Residential Special School (KS3/KS4 and post-16) for children with Asperger Syndrome and associated disorders.  I was a Rights & Responsibilities trainer, an NVQ assessor and provided Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.  I have acted as an appropriate adult for children detained in police custody and have supported pupils through formal appeal hearings regarding their school place.

I have led inclusion since entering the teaching profession in 2006 and am now the KS2 phase leader, SENDCo, English Co-ordinator and ! deputise for the Headteacher in my current school.  I completed the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination (SENCO) and became professionally recognised in December 2012.  I have experience of teaching KS1 and KS2 in both small and large primary settings (one with high levels of turbulence) and currently have a full-time teaching commitment in a mixed Y5/6 class.  I am a mentor for student teachers and am on the governing body.  I have completed the ‘Outstanding Middle Leaders’ course and am a KS2 moderator for writing.  My previous school opted to become an Academy whilst I was a staff governor and so I have experience of this process.  Since the introduction of the new Code of Practice in 2014, I have taken several children through the EHCP process.

I am concerned about the number of new and experienced practitioners leaving the profession and would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues in a coaching capacity.  I take my own professional development seriously and have attended numerous training courses and workshops to ensure my knowledge remains current.  I have a wealth of experience working with children of various ages with a range of needs in different settings that I am able to share.

Valerie Law –  Assistant Head teacher at Monk Fryston CE Primary School

I qualified from Hull University with a Modern Foreign Languages PGCE in 2008. Prior to that, I had worked for 11 years in sales for a national paper merchant. Following my ‘A’ Levels, I studied European Business Studies, achieving a 2:1 BA (Hons) Degree. The final year of this was spent studying at the Fachhochschule Trier in Germany, where I studied for the Betriebswirtschaftslehre Diplom (Business Diploma). I now work at Monk Fryston C of E Primary School in Year 6, but have experience across both Key Stages.

My other areas of responsibility within school include: Assistant Headteacher, MFL co-ordinator, PSHE subject leader and Investors in Pupils leader. I also co-ordinate the school’s global dimension Erasmus+ project. This involves working with European partners on an agreed educational project, with the ultimate intention of improving children’s attainment in that particular area. I am also responsible for Curriculum and Pedagogy.

One of my leadership responsibilities includes supporting the School Direct Initial Teacher Training Programme. This aims to recruit and support students, ensuring they gain the best start to their career so they can become outstanding teachers of the future. In addition to this, in my MFL capacity, I chair the STAR Alliance MFL Network meetings. This is where MFL teachers meet termly to improve and progress the teaching of languages across the primary and secondary phases.  Two years ago, I also gained accreditation as a NYCC Peer Practitioner, offering guidance and support in several areas to colleagues across the county. I look forward to my role as an SLE, where I will be able to continue this support.

I also have over 5 years’ experience as a staff member on the Monk Fryston Governing body.

Sarah Lees – Senior Leader at South Milford Primary School

I am currently the Early Years and Key Stage One Leader at South Milford Community Primary School, with an additional responsibility for SEND across the whole school.

I am an innovative, reflective and creative teacher who is always seeking to improve my own practice through consistent research and reflection.  I was fortunate enough to attend a Reggio Emilia Study week at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, Italy: a one-week study visit to learn about and be inspired by the world renowned educational approach of the preschools and infant toddler centres of Reggio Emilia. This course explored the key principles underpinning the Reggio approach to early childhood education including: using the learning environment as the ‘third teacher’, observation, interpretation and documentation and making learning visible. Just listening to the speakers on the first day made me realise what a privilege it was to be amongst such intelligent forward thinking passionate women. I listened and wrote and wrote … The notes and my reflections have led me to think that my setting has a long way to go but that I have fuel for our journey.

Previous roles before joining the team at South Milford school have been :-

  • Early Years Consultant for North Yorkshire
  • Freelance work – focusing on the providing quality education in the Early Years
  • Headteacher of a small North Yorkshire primary school
  • General Advisor Early Years for North Yorkshire

In addition to my SLE role, I am a Lead Teacher (Early Years) for North Yorkshire. I have had the opportunity to facilitate meetings, deliver workshop at training events, support teachers and practitioners to reflect upon and develop their practice and successfully enrich children’s learning.

The belief that all children must have access to high quality teaching and care from a young age is the driving motivator in all that I do.

Sarah Poulter – Senior Teacher at Barkston Ash Roman Catholic Primary School

In July 2013, I was appointed as Senior Teacher at Barkston Ash Catholic Primary School. With enthusiasm, I embraced the opportunity to form part of a new leadership team to implement change and to lead our school to outstanding.

During my 17 years of teaching, I have taught throughout the primary phase and currently teach an EYFS/Year 1 class. Throughout my career, I have always been driven by a desire to take on new challenges. My experience as senior teacher has enhanced my motivation to positively impact on the outcomes and experiences of children in a wider context. With energy and vision, I have embraced new challenges and build individual and collective capacity to push the boundaries of success.

I am passionate about developing others and my approachable and positive manner enhance a culture of improvement. Through supporting middle leaders in their development, I have ensured the longevity of new initiatives, thus securing a successful future for our school. I have facilitated change to raise standards and identified and implemented key priorities through setting and achieving challenging school improvement goals.

My consistent approach to positively supporting colleagues has developed an effective team of skilled and motivated staff. As a strategic thinker, I reflect on the story behind the data; seeking information and taking time to pull together evidence and ideas to identify priorities.

Michaela Pratt –Teacher at South Milford Primary School

I have been a qualified teacher for over ten years and have experience across Key Stage 1 and 2 in two contrasting schools. After graduating from York St John University with a degree in Primary Teacher Training and Music, I started my teaching career in a large school in Cambridgeshire and in 2012 moved to a smaller school in North Yorkshire. I currently teach in Year 2 and am Subject Leader for Maths and Music.

Most of my teaching career has been in Year 2 and during this time I have developed the use of flexible organisation of learning and teaching in order to plan and deliver lessons which ensure challenge and progression for all groups of learners. This includes the effective use of assessment for learning and questioning in order to develop understanding and promote deeper thinking. My recent competition of an Outstanding Teaching Intervention (Osiris) allowed me to reflect upon my own practice and develop the use of metacognition in the classroom. I relish any opportunity to use my experience to assist colleagues, sharing ideas and developing good practice together and have experience in coaching and mentoring.

I am passionate about providing a rich maths education and over recent years I have become particularly interested in using the mastery approach to increase motivation and raise attainment. My current work has focused particularly on providing challenge for all pupils in order to develop deep understanding through mathematical thinking, language and problem solving. This has included the use of manipulative and pictorial representations to teach arithmetic. As a maths subject leader, I have led the development of maths teaching and learning across the school in line with the new curriculum. This has involved using observations of practice and data analysis to evaluate the current provision and then prioritising need to create an action plan. I have also taken responsibility for leading whole school training and facilitating staff meetings. As an SLE, I am looking forward to the opportunity to share ideas with others and work together to improve pupil outcomes.

Debra Seekings – Assistant Head teacher at Sherburn Hungate Primary School

I have been a teacher for 17 years after retraining following a successful career in retail banking. I was appointed KS2 phase leader in 2004 and assistant Headteacher in 2009.  I have a 1st class honours degree in English and a nationally accredited award in PSHE, with a focus on SRE, underwritten by Redhill University. Following this, I was appointed as a NYCC Leading Teacher for PSHCEE; the Leading Teacher role enabled me to influence strategic development at a Local Authority level; work with other experienced practitioners; directly support schools via InSET and individual teachers via 1:1 support. I have lead/facilitated at NY training courses for Secondary and Primary PSHCEE Subject Leaders. This was a role I thoroughly enjoyed as it gave me an opportunity to work in diverse settings and work in collaboration with some inspirational teachers and school leaders. In 2010, I was fortunate to take part in a Teacher’s International Professional development (TIPD) visit to Canada. This project remit focused on how vulnerable pupils and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are successfully integrated within mainstream school and supported through effective transition programmes at key phases of transition. This has enabled me to challenge and enhance the identification and provision for vulnerable and SEND learners in our school, ensuring that learning outcomes are maximised. I have completed the one year programme, ‘Preparing for Headship’ with North Yorkshire’s Senior Leadership College and completed the NPQH qualification in March 2012.  I am a member of NATE and keep up to date with curriculum innovation and new pedagogical approaches to the teaching of English. I have experience moderating end of KS2 writing for the local authority and have extensive experience teaching in Y6.

I have a number of responsibilities in school: Deputy Headteacher, KS2 Phase Leader, SENCO, English Subject Leader, NQT Mentor and I also support staff who are new to curriculum responsibility and performance management.  I am link support for KS1, computing and PSHCEE, as well as collective worship, Educational Visits and LAC pupils. I currently have a point 3 teaching commitment in Y6 and Y4. The SLE role will enable me to continue to provide school to school support after the cessation of the leading teacher role.

Additionally, I have 13 years’ experience as a school governor.

Lydia Jackson – Specialist Lead Practitioner for English and member of the Senior Leadership Team at Sherburn High School

I have been a teacher in North Yorkshire for over 14 years and have taught in secondary schools in Harrogate, Selby and Sherburn-in-Elmet.  My first school in Harrogate was a National Challenge school and gave me a firm grounding in effective school improvement in the role of Head of English and Media.  From here, I moved to Selby as an Advanced Skills Teacher for Teaching and Learning on the Senior Leadership Team and raised the English results by 18%.  I was appointed Specialist Lead Practitioner for the Selby area at Sherburn High School at Easter 2016 and this allowed me to develop my work with both secondary and primary schools across NYCC.

In recent years, my particular areas of expertise have improved approaches to developing literacy within the department, school, local secondary and primary schools and across the county. By creating links with local primary schools, I established a literacy network to support the transition from Year 6 into Year 7.  This was enhanced by a Literacy Development Action Research Project I worked on for two years with the Local Authority and the English advisor.

I initiated and co-ordinated the Selby English Network to support a local authority initiative to raise English results across the Selby area.  Heads of English and members of their departments attended these informal meetings from across five local secondary schools and two local primaries.  I have also acted as a coach and mentor to staff and ITT students.

I am passionate about English, Drama, Media and Literacy and love to help staff develop creative ways to deliver these subjects. I have provided individual support to schools across the Local Authority with planning, schemes of learning, data analysis and intervention, approaches to delivering GCSEs to gain the best results and in leading a department and team.  I have also led training for North Yorkshire County Council English Subject Leaders in Growth Mindset theory with Philosophy for Children and for Middle Leaders and the leadership of a department.