Specialist Leaders of Education SLEs

Specialist Leaders of Education

Specialist Leaders of Education are outstanding middle and senior leaders such as assistant headteachers, key stage leaders or subject leaders with at least two years of leadership experience. SLEs have an excellent knowledge in a particular area of expertise and a successful record of supporting other middle and senior leaders in other schools. The SLE focuses on developing leadership capacity so that other leaders develop the skills to lead their own teams more effectively. The Durham Teaching Schools Alliance has 15 SLEs from a wide range of County Durham schools. Access to these, and other, SLEs working in partnership with the Durham Teaching School Alliance can be arranged by contacting Joe Sonnenfeld.

SLEs can support school improvement by:

  • Developing middle and senior leaders so that they can lead their own teams more effectively
  • Support action planning
  • Analyse and interrogate school data and lead moderation of pupil work
  • Design and deliver bespoke CPD for your staff and school
  • Act as a mentor or coach 


Click here to download a copy of the SLE Handbook 2017/18

Click here to download a copy of the Charging Policy 2016

Click here to download a copy of the System Leaders Directory 2017

Click here to download a copy of the SLE application form 2017

Click here to download a copy of the SLE contact details


Jo Madgwick- Specialism EYFS

I have been a teacher since 1989, most of those years being spent in Early Years. I have worked in various authorities over the years, including teaching abroad in Brunei. I have a particular passion for Nursery Education and believe it is an invaluable experience for all young children. I believe in a holistic approach to learning where every aspect of a child’s life is valued and they are seen as members of a family and a community. I believe in a child-centred approach where learning is active and based on play. I joined the team at Etherley Lane Nursery School in January 2013 and soon became involved with the Durham Teaching School Alliance. I see this as a great opportunity to develop my own practice as well as collaborating with colleagues. 

Lynsey Cooper- Specialism Mathematics

I work at Sunnybrow Primary School as an Assistant Headteacher. Since qualifying, I have had the experience of teaching from Year One to Year Six. This has given me a valuable insight into the teaching and learning of maths across the primary phase. I am currently Literacy and Numeracy Coordinator within my own school and Key Stage Two Leader. In addition to this, I have recently completed a two year degree, which has given me the opportunity to become a Mathematics Specialist Teacher (MaST). I am passionate about ensuring that children in primary education have the best opportunities to maximise the progress they make. By completing my MaST degree, and from the experience I have of supporting colleagues in my own school and other schools, I am able to confidently work alongside others to support and enhance all areas of teaching and learning in numeracy.


Rachel Stanhope- Specialism Attendance

I have worked as deputy head at Burnside Primary School in South Stanley since 2011. I am passionate about ensuring that all children get the best possible education and I see good attendance as crucial to this.

I have successfully implemented various strategies that have improved attendance and punctuality at Burnside Primary School and also enthusiastically supported other schools in the locality to bring about positive changes in these areas.

I am skilled in analysing attendance data and using this to identify specific areas for development and feeding this into action plans. More recently I have devised innovative intervention groups to work with targeted pupils at risk of becoming persistent absentees.


Kelly- Ann Lee- Specialism ITT

I am Head of School at Prince Bishops Community Primary School. I have been a teacher for 12 years; teaching in several schools with a range of responsibilities. This experience has allowed me to establish a well informed view of whole school practices. I have always had a keen interest in Initial Teacher Training. I became involved as a School Based Mentor for High Force Education SCITT in 2004. I have delivered training at High Force, marked assignments and mentored a broad range of trainees over the years. I am currently the Lead Mentor for a cluster of schools providing guidance, training and support for both trainees and mentors. I believe that effective teacher training lies at the heart of outstanding teaching, the quality of which is intrinsically linked to children’s learning. I feel privileged to be involved in the learning journeys of children and I am driven to provide each child with the most effective education possible. I thoroughly enjoy my role; the new things that I learn daily and also the opportunities to help and support others. I am approachable and able to work well with both individuals and teams. I’m looking forward to the new experiences that will come through my role as SLE for ITT.


Kathryn Costello - Specialism ICT

I am ICT Coordinator at Vane Road Primary School where there is a creative approach to ICT which is integrated across the whole curriculum. I have experience of leading ICT in several schools and of staff development and training. In the past I have been employed as an Advanced Skills Teacher for ICT working cross-phase from Key Stage One to Key Stage Three. I have also been employed as an AST for North Stockton EAZ where my role was to lead the development of ICT across a number of schools providing staff training and in-school coaching for teachers and support staff. I was the author of an award winning school website whilst at Nettlesworth Primary School where I won a teaching award for Creative Use of ICT. My main areas of expertise are using ICT creatively to support teaching and learning; staff training and teacher coaching; the use of digital video across the curriculum; IPADs and mobile technologies in the primary school; leadership of ICT (including curriculum and development planning) and the use of ICT to empower learners. I am also conversant with the new primary curriculum for Computing and have supported schools in preparing for the ICT Mark.


Liz Sturrock - Specialism English

A little bit about myself; I am a mother of a one, originally from Yorkshire and I have worked in Ramshaw Primary school for the past ten years, five as the Deputy. Within school I lead Assessment, Literacy, Numeracy, MFL and I have responsibility for the school for half of the week. I love what I do and still to this day get a buzz from seeing the children succeed and achieve. One particular aspect I enjoy is supporting colleagues both within school and schools throughout the county. I tend to find that I can support best where we can establish an honest, open dialogue and a climate of trust. I understand what a demanding job teaching is and understand that we all need support at one time or another.


Philip Robertson – Specialism MFL

I am Head of Languages at St. John’s Secondary School and Sixth Form College in Bishop Auckland, an ‘Outstanding’ school that has allowed me to mould and develop a department with innovative teaching and learning at the heart of every MFL lesson, which are enjoyed by all students who make outstanding progress. I am fluent in Spanish and French and have a passion for languages. I have transformed the department and our curriculum to include, authentic materials including music, film, drama and literature to give a ‘real life’ feel to everything the students do in their lessons.

I originally worked for 5 years at St. Bede’s Catholic School in Lanchester, but left to take up the challenge of implementing Spanish into the curriculum at St. John’s. The response from the students was overwhelming and is now a firm favourite in their timetables.

Taking up the reigns as Head of Department allowed me to apply the same principles with French and German to create a forward thinking, dynamic curriculum, with a team of ‘Outstanding’ practitioners delivering lessons in the way I believe MFL should be delivered, fun, authentic but driven by a passion for MFL where students excel.   

Carly Irwin- Specialism- SEND
I am currently the Year One teacher and SENDCo at The Grove Primary School, Consett. I have been at the school for nearly two years and before that worked in a Junior School for five years where I was also the SENDCo. I have a real passion for quality SEND teaching and have worked hard within my current setting to ensure we are meeting the needs of our children. I am passionate about making a difference for young children and their families by helping our children make the best start to their education. I firmly believe in early intervention, close monitoring and working as a team around the child to support children to make progress. I have ensured that, within my current setting, these are built into our teaching for our children with SEND. I am looking forward to sharing the good practice I have developed within my own setting and working with different leaders and schools to share this. I believe that I will also learn from the other leaders I work with and will help to develop my role as SENDCo within my own setting. Most importantly, I want to help support as many young people as I can to reach their full potential and I hope that within this role I will be able to do this.


Claire Barnes – Specialism English and Maths

I am an experienced teacher and I have worked in Lumley Junior School for the past ten years. I have the responsibility of developing teaching and learning in my school. Within this role, I have enhanced the teaching of writing across the whole school by introducing and leading the ‘Talk for Writing’ approach. This has led to pupils making outstanding progress and has also inspired my colleagues to incorporate new and innovative teaching strategies. Alongside this, I have achieved a diploma is Primary Mathematics and lead maths across the school. I work with colleagues to develop their own subject knowledge and their approach to teaching mathematics. One of the ways in which I have done this is to model how to develop pupils’ mathematical thinking through the use of rich, problem-solving tasks. I am extremely passionate about teaching and I am driven by my aspiration to ensure that pupils achieve their maximum potential. I am a positive and enthusiastic person who enjoys working with colleagues by offering my own experiences and knowledge. I look forward to continuing working with colleagues in my role as SLE.


Justin Peoples-Specialism Assessment/English

I am deputy headteacher at Fishburn Primary School, I have had a range of teaching experience across the primary age range. I lead English, Assessment and Curriculum at present and have previously led other curriculum areas such as PE too. I have been highly effective in raising standards and developing others in my career so far and I feel this is one of my key strengths.  I am delighted to have been designated as an SLE. I know that school to school support is the most effective way to raise standards and ensure consistency in judgements.  I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experience and drawing on the outstanding practice of others. 


Melissa Morton – Specialism Curriculum, Assessment and PE

I am Deputy Head Teacher at Peases West Primary School and have worked in education for 15 years. I have had the pleasure of teaching all ages from 3-11 with my most recent experience in Year 1/2 and Year 5/6.  I have worked alongside some inspirational educators and in my opinion the most successful educators are those who are passionate, curious and seek to evolve their practice to enhance teaching and learning to improve outcomes for all children. In my current setting I have led the development and implementation of Curriculum 2014. Ensuring the curriculum remains creative, current and purposeful are areas I remain passionate about. Assessment has been paramount to ensuring the new curriculum is a success for all pupils. Supporting Subject Leaders to design a bespoke assessment system that works for children, Educators and Senior Leaders has been a major piece of work that has taken time, patience and the occasional act of bravery (to admit when something has not worked and make improvements). Previous to my role as DHT, I completed a secondment with the Education Development Service as an Associate Education Development Advisor, researching and carrying out Teaching Assistant/Learning Support training as well as delivering PE and Sport CPD throughout County Durham. This is a role I relished and am delighted to be building upon by working with Durham Alliance schools in my new role as Specialist Leader of Education


Debra Colegrove – Specialism SEND

I have been in teaching for 20 years mainly teaching in KS2 however, I have led a KS1 team for several years giving me a broad overview of Primary Education.  Nine years ago, I joined Ramshaw Primary School where I have continued to work across the Key Stages.  I have held the post of SENDCO for 7 of those years.

I am passionate and enthusiastic about my role as SENDCO – working hard to ensure that I lead the school into providing excellent provision for both children and their families.  I work hard to engage staff, parents and agencies to ensure the child is given the best provision possible in order to meet their needs or remove barriers to their learning.

Being an SLE will not only build on and enhance my own skills but also allow me to share my experiences and support others, to contribute in ensuring positive outcomes and progress for children and families.


Erin Coxon- Specialism Assessment and Science

I am Lower School Team Leader at Prince Bishops Primary School. I have been teaching since 2005, and have taught across the full primary age range.

I have successfully developed and implemented strategies to improve Assessment for Learning, marking and feedback in my school, and have provided training and support with assessment for other schools, drawing upon up-to-date research and evidence.

I have also delivered training to primary school colleagues to improve their subject knowledge and confidence in the teaching and learning of key concepts in Science.

I approach all tasks with positivity, and I find that working with others towards a shared aim or goal is very rewarding. I am passionate about giving every child the opportunity to reach their full potential, and I look forward to supporting others in providing the best outcomes for all learners.


Claire Patchett – Specialism Mathematics and Assessment

I am assistant headteacher and Year 6 teacher at Prince Bishops Primary School; I have had a variety of responsibilities, whilst teaching across the primary age range in different countries.

I currently lead maths and assessment, two roles which are of great interest to me and as such I have developed a wide range of strategies to ensure our children reach their maximum potential. Recently, I have had the pleasure of delivering training to leaders from other schools. I relish the opportunity to share best practice and enjoy drawing on the outstanding practice of others to build upon current successes.  I am extremely enthusiastic about improving outcomes for children and delighted to be working as an SLE with Durham Teaching Alliance.


Sarah Meroniuk- Specialism Early Years

I am currently Early Years Leader at Prince Bishops Primary School in Bishop Auckland, where I teach children aged 2 to 4 years in our nursery unit.  I have been a teacher for nearly twenty years and have taught in a range of County Durham schools across all primary phases.  For the past ten years, I have specialised in Early Years and have had the privilege of teaching in a variety of settings.  Since 2015, I have been a Professional Tutor for the Early Years Teacher Status Programme run by Northumbria University and more recently, I have begun to provide school-to-school support and deliver training for Durham Teaching School Alliance.  I am passionate about working with young children and strive to deliver the best possible learning opportunities and provision for pupils.  I am delighted to have been designated as a Specialist Leader of Education and look forward to using my skills, knowledge and experience to support other Early Years colleagues


Melody Hockaday- Specialism Finance

I am very proud to have been designated as a Specialist Leader of Education for School Business Management.I am currently employed at Fishburn Primary School and another two schools in Durham (one primary and one junior school).My experience includes budget management and forecasting, Health and Safety, safeguarding, safer recruitment, effective systems and processes and governance.I am keen to share my experience for the benefit of others by working as an SLE for the Durham Teaching Schools Alliance.