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 deliver 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 12 SLEs in the following areas:

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 Mathematics, ICT, school data and MIS. Justin is always trying to keep up to date and try new ideas but believes in getting the basics right. As an SLE, Justin has worked with primary and secondary schools in looking at developing sound teaching of Mathematics, supporting departments in developing their practice and data management. More recently, Justin visited Shanghai with the NCTL and is now part of the Kent and Medway Maths Hub.​ He has a significant role as the Maths Hub Lead supporting Mathematics both locally and nationally.

Kerry Donati - MFL

I am able to offer support to both Secondary and Primary MFL Delivery and have delivered CPD, coaching sessions and mentoring sessions in both settings, with a view to extending the MFL offer in a setting. At Secondary level I have experience with KS3, KS4 and KS5, and the new challenges presented by the new GCSE. I am interested in how Departments can use data and student voice to address areas that can be developed.

I am currently doing an MSc at Oxford University and am developing interventions with Student Speech in the Target Language. I am able to offer CPDs exploring greater engagement with Speaking in class, and offering a range of activities for students to try out. I also have offered a range of CPD sessions on Metacognition, in MFL and in general, with an ideas bank for increasing opportunities for Metacognition in the classroom.

At Primary Language I am building a network of teachers interested in developing MFL in KS1 and KS2. We would love you to be part of it, if you are interested please contact me. We have run some interesting Transition projects, and if you would like to take part we would also like to hear from you. Bonne continuation! 

Kitty Healy - English, Disadvantaged groups and Transition between key-stages

As a Class Teacher, Subject Leader, Leading Practitioner and now Assistant Head teacher at Willesborough Infant School, Kitty is passionate about creating outstanding learning opportunities for 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, spelling, reading and writing for key stage one and two phase teachers and teaching assistants across Kent. Kitty has supported leaders to implement strategies and monitor achievement for disadvantaged groups including FSM, Pupil Premium, and Persistent absentee to 'diminish the difference'. Kitty has worked with schools to review teaching and learning, school procedures and environments to support strong transition across key stages minimising and removing the any deeps.  Above all, Kitty is passionate about supporting others to help all children succeed, have fun and feel inspired to learn!​​

Shelly King - English, Inclusion; Support for the Most Able and SEN leadership

Shelly King has experience of being a Leading Practitioner and is now an Assistant Headteacher at Willesborough Infant School, Ashford. Shelly has supported practitioners in raising standards in phonics, reading and writing. She has delivered bespoke training sessions and leadership support to Infant, Primary and Secondary colleagues. Shelly has a vast range of experience of working with teachers and leaders across Kent, supporting them with sustainable improvements that their school needs. She is passionate about inclusion; raising the profile of the most able and excellent SEN provision. She has created a programme of provision that has been rolled out to Ashford Schools and has supported a range of SEN leaders. The programme impacts significantly on enrichment, alongside providing a professional development forum for practitioners. Shelly is passionate about supporting leaders in helping children succeed to the best of their abilities and achieve their full potential. 

Chris Luckhurst - Computing

Chris has been teaching for 8 years in a range of primary schools. Before entering the teaching profession Chris was a web designer and network engineer. Since becoming a teacher Chris has been passionate for teachers and support staff to become more confident in the delivery of the Computing curriculum across all subjects. He works with the Computing at School organisation as one of their Master Teachers. In this role he has delivered training and supported a range of professionals from Early Years to KS2 to develop and improve their computing provision.

Jennie Morton - Art

Jennie is passionate about art and cascading that enthusiasm across all ages and abilities. She is 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.

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 served on the NATRE Executive (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 the ATAs lead trainer in developing middle leaders. She also works alongside ITT providers and is keen to develop teachers in the first few years of their careers.

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!

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 her 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

Lucy Stephen (SEND)

Lucy has been teaching in secondary schools for 15 years in variety of local authorities in England along with a sabbatical in New Zealand. She has spent the last 7 years as a SENCO and an Inclusion Manager. Prior to this she was a subject Head of Department. Lucy has supported colleagues within and out with the institutions she has worked in throughout her career and more recently with the Department of Education. She has had numerous articles published in professional publications which in turn has developed consultancy experiences nationally in order to provide support for sustainable improvements.

As a teacher with a strong commitment to the academic, social and emotional development of students’ with special educational needs Lucy is passionate about establishing effective and sustainable systems in order to create positive, inclusive, educational experiences for young people. Her practice is driven by three key elements - emotionally intelligent, strategic and operational leadership and management.

Lucy is passionate about ensuring SEND is a whole school responsibility. She places great significance on the development of robust and continual documenting, monitoring and tracking as vital elements in achieving improvements in hard and soft outcome indictors. Lucy also has experience in the development of tailored interventions to ensure a positive and documented impact on students’ attainment, autonomy, welfare and self-esteem. Her work has required her to challenge, collaborate and motivate staff to ensure the best outcomes for the young people with whom we work.

 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 has recently completed a national research project relating to teacher workload. This year he is developing evidence based CPD input and advice with CEBE, ResearchED and a number of schools in the south east. He co-leads the new SLE training programme with Liz Pope. 


Please remember that if you would like to commission any of our SLEs, please contact Jo Valentine at office@ashfordteachingalliance.co.uk


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.