Specialist Leaders in Education (SLEs)

Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) are experts identified by the National College as being able to provide exceptional support to schools in need, in their chosen area. SLEs have to apply through the National College and go through a selection, assessment and monitoring process before they are allowed to delilver support to schools. Aspirant SLEs can apply twice per year, in May and October.

Our hard-working enthusiastic SLEs recently met to discuss their school-to-school support work and some of them can be seen in the photo below. Remember, if you would like the assistance of one of our Specialist Leaders, please get in touch.


The Ashford Teaching Alliance has 13 SLEs in the following areas:

Liz Pope - RE, CPD, ITT and NQT
Liz is a very experienced Head of RE and Advanced Skills Teacher, including secondment to the Kent LEA advisory service, working widely across both primary and secondary schools. She has delivered training both locally and nationally in RE and had RE resources published. She is an executive member of NATRE (the RE professional body for teachers) and Kent SACRE. Besides a passion for every child to experience outstanding RE and a reputation for improving GCSE exam results, Liz is currently focussing on ITT, supporting teachers in the first few years of their careers and developing middle leaders.
Claire Smith - Early Years
Claire Smith has been working at Downs View Infant School as the Early Years Team Leader for the past 9 years. She has had the opportunity to support both team leaders and teachers within the Early Years.  Claire has been involved in carrying out Early Years projects for the LEA, Early Excellence Outdoor Learning, a Baseline Pilot and has worked closely with the Early Years Advisers. Claire is passionate about giving all children the right learning environments and strive to make sure that all children reach their full potential, are motivated and inspired to learn!
Sarah Collins - Primary ITT and NQT's
Sarah has been teaching for 19 years, roles have included: Deputy Head Teacher, Key Stage 1 Leader and Lead Mentor.  Her experience of coaching and mentoring has enabled her to encourage, challenge and support teachers and trainees to reflect on their practice and achieve targets to ensure the best possible outcomes for their professional development. Sarah has facilitated and delivered training for NQTs and trainee teachers within different settings to provide them with the best start to their teaching careers. Sarah looks forward to working with leaders to ensure that NQTs and trainee teachers become outstanding teachers in the future.
Justin Dodd - Leadership of Curriculum and Maths
Justin has taught in really contrasting schools in Kent, which has given him a broad experience in many areas of education. Justin has a great deal of experience in ICT, school data, MIS and, of course, Mathematics. Justin is always trying to keep up to date and try new ideas but believe in getting the basics right. As an SLE, Justin has worked with primary and secondary schools in looking at data management and provide support in developing departmental practice. More recently, Justin visited Shanghai with the NCTL and is now part of the Kent and Medway Maths Hub.
Bridget Watts - SEN
Bridget’s aim is to improve the life chances of pupils. As an experienced SENCO of 20 years, she has worked within her own school and the wider community to raise standards for vulnerable children through:
  • Problem solving and implementing new systems and interventions to impact on progress and attainment.
  • Analysing data to identify areas to work to close the attainment gap
  • Setting up systems to track, monitor and evaluate progress of all vulnerable groups
  • Coaching and empowering staff both to develop and share skills
  • Delivering and/or setting up training programmes to meet identified needs
  • Setting up programmes to accelerate learning.
Jacki Smith - School Business Management
Jacki has been involved in education finance for over 24 years. From the early beginnings when finance was first devolved to schools, until now in her current role as Finance Manager, Jacki has dedicated herself to continual professional development. Jacki graduated with a DSBM where she honed my skills in areas such as critical analysis, strategic management and managing school improvement. Along with the CSBM qualification, Jacki is experienced in:-
  • Financial management, setting budgets, Payroll, contracts
  • Financial reporting, fundraising;  best use of resources
  • Management of support staff
  • Human resources
  • Health and safety
Shelly King - English, Science and Support for Most Able
Shelly King is a Leading Practitioner at Willesborough Infant School, Ashford. She is passionate about raising the profile of Gifted and Talented provision and has created a programme of provision that has been rolled out to Ashford Schools. The programme impacts significantly on enrichment for G&T children, alongside providing a professional development forum for practitioners. Shelly has supported practitioners in the implementation of ‘Writing for Real’. She has delivered workshops to Infant, Primary and Secondary colleagues. Now a Specialist Leader in Education, Shelly has experience of working with teachers and leaders, supporting them with sustainable improvements within their school’s.
Jennie Morton - Art
Jennie is passionate about art and cascading that enthusiasm across all ages and abilities. She currently leading a highly successful Art and Photography Department which is a Lead School for Art and holds Artsmark Gold accreditation. An outstanding practitioner and experiences coach and mentor, she is currently working with 6 primary schools to develop creativity and achievement. Jennie thinks not only of her own school, but also the wider community and has inspired many students to achieve success in local and national competitions or events.
Kitty Healy - English, History, ICT and Phonics
As a Class Teacher, Literacy Leader, Mentor and now Leading Practitioner at Willesborough Infant School, Kitty is passionate about creating outstanding learning opportunities for Early Literacy skills with a focus on embedding high quality phonics teaching and practices. She has significant experience in supporting, coaching and mentoring teachers within the first few years of their career. Kitty has also led training and workshops on phonics, reading and writing for primary and secondary phase teachers and teaching assistants. Above all, Kitty is passionate about supporting others to help all children succeed, have fun and feel inspired to learn!​
Jane Voller - Special Educational Needs
With a wide range of primary teaching experience of more than twenty years, Jane’s approach to enabling children with special educational needs to reach their best possible outcomes is rooted in a whole-school approach of inclusivity and high expectations, coupled with the importance of family engagement and shared aspirations. Jane is an Assistant Headteacher, and has been a SENCO since 2009 (as well as having completed the SEN accreditation). Jane aims to enable others to understand their unique school, implement effective provision and promote a shared vision for positive outcomes for all children.  
Austen Hardwick – Behaviour
Austen has much classroom experience in Primary education in a variety of schools in London, Yorkshire and Kent. He has delivered training on classroom practice for the Ashford Teaching Alliance and has delivered workshops at Canterbury Christchurch University.  He is passionate about making learning engaging through creating a positive atmosphere for risk-taking. Instead of focussing upon consequences and sanctions, Austen’s approach to behaviour is about making learning engaging and developing a better classroom ethos. With creativity and pace, Austen’s strategies support teachers in developing the best learning behaviours in their children. He has been a leader of Religious Studies and PSHE and currently works as a Year 2 teacher and KS1 manager. 
Laura Burton - Leadership of Curriculum, Quality of Teaching
Laura believes that investment in developing excellent teachers (at every stage of their career), as well as an exciting, relevant and stimulating curriculum are both key to school improvement.  Laura has been an Assistant Headteacher for 5 years, leading on curriculum and learning and has worked as a Local Authority consultant.  She is able to work with people effectively to bring about change, using skills of mentoring and coaching.  Laura is able to analyse data and class practice to finely tune key areas for development to offer support bespoke to schools and individuals.
Kerry Donati - French
I have experience teaching MFL at KS1, KS2, KS3, KS4 and KS5, and can support schools at all these levels. I am currently at Brockhill in the Languages Department and have 13 years’ experience at KS2. I am passionate about high quality, engaging Language teaching and have enjoyed seeing outstanding practice at all Key Stages. I specialise in enabling outstanding MFL delivery, facilitating review and analysis in KS3, KS4 and KS5. I have a particular interest in creating inspiring learning environments and opportunities. At KS2 and KS1 I am interested in integrating MFL into a creative curriculum and maximising the learning opportunities between MFL and Literacy. I have been a Lead Teacher for 22 schools, and have run up-skilling courses. I have taken part in research with Canterbury Christ Church University, and have had some of my work published in connection with the Creative Curriculum. I am currently doing an MSc, researching Language Acquisition. We are building a network of schools supporting KS2 delivery. Please email if you would like to be included - kdonati@brockhill.kent.sch.uk
Rachael Kobylecki - Science and MFL
Rachael Kobylecki is a Leading Practitioner and Early Years Class Teacher at Willesborough Infant School, Ashford.  She has worked as an MFL Leader for 9 years and a Science Leader for 8 years and is passionate about raising the profile of Science and MFL in schools by promoting creative teaching and learning opportunities.  Moreover she has a range of experience in supporting teachers at different stages of their career, including trainee teachers, and has led trianing and workshops on a range of subjects.  Rachael is passionate and enthusiastic about supporting teachers to ensure they are able to provide the very best opportunities for children. 
Ben White - CPD, School Improvement and Leadership of Curriculum
Ben White is an experienced teacher (Sociology, RE and Psychology) teacher trainer and educational researcher.  He is currently directing a research project relating to reducing teacher workload.  Outside of teaching his work currently included school-to-school support along with engagement with a range of national organisations - including ResearchED, CEBE, EEF, The Key and PiXL.
Please remember that if you would like to commission any of our SLEs, please contact Lesley Donald.


Being an SLE also brings some fantastic opportunities as can be seen for one of our Maths SLEs, Justin Dodd, who was selected by the National College to go on a week’s visit to China in January 2014 to research how Maths is taught so successfully in their schools. Justin will be part of a national group who will meet to discuss and report on their findings before making possible recommendations for the teaching of Maths in our own schools. Full details are available on the NCTL website.

Read Justin's report here.