Oakwood Academy - A Visual Arts, Technology & Sports College
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Specialist Leader in Education

As a National Teaching School we offer support to individual colleagues and schools through NLE and SLE work. Amanda Nicholson is a National Leader in Education (NLE) and we currently have 9 Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs).

What is an SLE?

SLEs (Specialist Leader of Education) 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.

We currently have 9 SLE's (Specialist Leader of Education). We have asked our SLE's to give a brief biography of their individual specialisms. If you would like further information or have a specific query regarding accessing our provision, please call us on 0161 921 2880.

What is an LLE?

Local Leaders of Education (LLE) are successful Head teachers with a proven track record of supporting other schools, and with the capacity to work alongside other heads, to drive forward improvements and build capacity to ensure that improvements can be sustained.

Local Leaders of Education provide a range of school-to-school support and coaching and mentoring for head teachers.

If you would like more information on the LLE application or if you require LLE support, please contact:



NLE / SLE Biographies

Amanda Nicholson - Executive Principal / NLE

Amanda Nicholson - Executive Principal / NLE

I am currently the Headteacher of Oakwood Academy, which is an outstanding secondary special school for pupils and students who have moderate/complex learning difficulties. Oakwood is part of a multi academy trust called 'The Oakwood Academy Schools Trust'. We converted to academy status on the 1st May 2012 after 14 months of consultation and planning and have over 200 young people on our roll. The Department for Education agreed our conversion from a single academy trust to a multi academy trust in March 2015. We were also designated a National Support School (NSS) in March 2015 and I have overview of this work as an NLE (National Leader of Education).

Throughout my career I have been dedicated to supporting schools, children and their families in some of the most deprived areas of the country, who often face many barriers to learning. I am a strong advocate for the children I work with having access to the best possible education, high aspirations and getting the support they need to help themselves out of poverty and into the workplace.

It has been the toughest of jobs at times, but the rewards are immeasurable and I am so proud of everyone I have had the privilege to work with.

Lisa Southwood - Associate Head Teacher / SEN-Teaching & Learning

Specialist Area: Teaching and Learning / SEN
Current Post: Deputy Head Teacher / Director of Teaching School at Oakwood Academy

I have been an SLE through the National College for a number of years, starting as an MLE in 2009 as an outstanding practitioner (OFSTED report 2007, in school lesson observations 2004-2014). For the last 10 years, I have always been completely committed to both in reach and outreach work to share good practice and drive school improvement. My MLE role developed further. I became an SLE under the pilot scheme in 2011 but more recently I have joined the SLE team through the alliance with St Patrick's RC High School. This role has developed further with Oakwood Academy being designated as a Teaching School. My role now is Director of Teaching School and Deputy Head. 

The role of SLE involves providing outreach work in the form of school to school support to "Key to Success Schools". In this role I have been providing Coaching and Mentoring to underperforming Subject Leaders. An example of this was when I was working in a school where the Maths department was identified by OFSTED as a weakness of the school for Teaching and Learning and Active Engagement. As a result of my involvement, a recent OFSTED inspection found Maths to be a strength of the school.

Darren Jones - PE / SEN

Specialist Area: PE, Physical Education and School Sport for pupils with SEND
Current Post: Head of Physical Education and coordinator of Greater Manchester Inter - Borough Inclusion Group

I have been working at Oakwood Academy for six years and I am now Head of PE. My passion and drive comes from seeing the unique personal development that young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities have made in Physical Education and School Sport.

During the last few years, I have worked successfully with the Youth Sport Trust on various projects to raise the profile of SEND in Physical Education across the UK and have had experiences working collaboratively with other schools regarding assessment and teaching and learning.

Since I have become an SLE, I have taken on a wider role within our local area. This has included; Taking over the running of the Greater Manchester Inter - Borough Sports Inclusion Group. The aim of which is to provide a wide range of sporting opportunities for all young people with a Special Educational Need or Disability across Greater Manchester.

The PE Department at Oakwood has recently won the 'Secondary National PE Award' with The Youth Sport Trust in February 2015 which has put our school top of the tree nationally.

David Donnelly - Director of Inclusion

Specialist Area: Autism
Current Post: Director of Inclusion

I have worked within special education for over 20 years. Although I have had many different roles within schools, my specialism is in the pastoral care of children and young people and working teachers to support and engage with pupils with complex learning difficulties and disabilities such as Autism, ADHD and FASD.

Over this time, I have developed and maintained provision within schools to support pupils’ social, emotional, behavioural and mental health needs and put in place, facilities and alternative education programmes for children with complex needs which has enabled these pupils to fully engage in learning and school life.

Julie Naylor - Autism Specialist

Specialist Area: Autism
Current Post: Coordinator for Autism at Green Lane School / Early Years ASD teacher

I have worked in Special Needs from 1980 onwards, at various schools. I established the ASD provision at Green Lane in 2001, becoming a member of the senior management team soon after. During this time my role has been to drive school improvement in all areas of ASD and I have been totally committed to this. Our ASD provision has been deemed Outstanding in the last 3 OFSTED reports and I have led three very successful accreditations by the National Autistic Society. Within my role as ASD coordinator and Early Years (ASD) practitioner I have always been identified as an outstanding practitioner, both by OFSTED and during lesson observations.
Although only recently appointed an SLE, I have provided outreach work in the area of Autism since 2001. As a part of this role I have supported schools with the establishment of ASD provision, the use of SCERTS, the use of sensory diets, advice with individual pupils, as well as coaching and mentoring under-performing colleagues.

Sarah Delaney - SEND Teaching & Learning

Specialist Area: SEND Teaching & Learning
Current Post: Key Stage 2 SENDTeacher/Professional Mentor/NQT/RQT Mentor/History Lead

I have worked in SEN since 2007 where I began my teaching career working with children and young people with PMLD. I embraced the opportunity to work with the leadership team to develop a sensory curriculum suitable to our pupils individual learning needs and thoroughly enjoyed my time spent working for Sefton Council. In 2009 I moved to Green Lane School, Warrington which is a SEN school catering for pupils with MLD, SLD, ASD and complex needs. I have been actively involved in supporting the leadership team to maintain our outstanding OFSTED judgements (OFSTED October 2009 and May 2015.) I undergo regular lesson observation and book scrutinies and have consistently been judged as outstanding. I am the schools Professional Mentor and support students and Newly Qualified Teachers in planning, resourcing and assessing learning using a creative approach which invigorates our student’s love of learning. In 2016 I successfully completed NPQML in which I led a team to drive improvement across Key Stages 1-3 in history. I have since supported colleagues in reviewing their lead subjects and overhauling the way in which we teach humanities across school. In December 2016 I was successful in my application to become an SLE under Oakwood Academy. Having previously offered outreach to local primary schools on an informal basis I am looking forward to the new challenges that this role will bring.

Julie Neal - EYFS/Speech and Language Development

Specialist Area: EYFS/Speech and Language Development
Curent Role: EYFS Lead and Assistant Headteacher at St. Mary’s CE Primary, Cadishead

I have been a teacher for 22 years and have taught across all three phases within Primary schools. I spent three years as a KS2 teacher moving to Key Stage One for nine years and then to EYFS for ten years which is where my passion lies. I believe that supporting children’s early language development is crucial to ensuring that the child’s learning journey will be a positive and successful one.
I became ELKLAN trained several years ago and use this effectively to support children with speech and language issues and in cascading knowledge within my SLE role. My research of receptive and expressive language development has helped me to understand the difficulties with language that young children face and how best they can be supported
As part of the SLT, I am involved in sharing good practice and supporting staff development within my own school and with cluster schools. I work with an outstanding Early Years team. I also lead on partnerships with parents to ensure that effective communication is maintained and that parents are involved in their child’s learning as much as possible.

Mike King - SLE, whole school behaviour and welfare lead

I have worked with children with SEN since joining Green Lane Special School, Warrington. I increasingly found that I enjoyed working with the most challenging children in school, and that I was able to form good relationships with them. It is these relationships which I feel have formed the bedrock of my everyday practice. As my interest in the field of behaviour grew, my input was requested more and more from a behaviour perspective. In 2013 I became a registered Team Teach tutor and moved onto the SLT at Green Lane, leading KS3 and 4. Over time, my role has adapted to include whole school behaviour and welfare lead. As my role in school has developed, so too has my external role. I deliver several courses on Managing Challenging Behaviour throughout the year here in school, as well as providing outreach training to colleagues in a wide range of settings. I sit on the SEMH Lead Teacher for Warrington team and became an SLE with Oakwood Academy last year. My experiences have given me a firm understanding of what constitutes outstanding behaviour and I am excited to continue to have the opportunity of supporting colleagues who want to create an outstanding climate for learning.

Joanne McQueen - Maths

Joanne has worked in educational settings in both EYFS, Primary and SEND secondary over the past decade and currently holds the position of Head of Department for Maths at Oakwood Academy.
Joanne wants children to love learning mathematics and this only comes from teachers who love teaching it and who teach it well. She believes that every teacher can be developed and ensures that professional development models are used to upskill and empower. She is passionate about supporting teachers to equip children with the knowledge and skills to grasp mathematical concepts, rather than just the procedures and tricks to get right answers and pass tests.
Through working at Oakwood, Joanne has enjoyed seeing pupils with SEND achieve and develop to their full potential. Breaking down pupils’ barriers to learning is key to achieving more and is something that can consistently develop as the world around us changes.

Oakwood Academy - A Visual Arts, Technology & Sports College

Oakwood Academy, Chatsworth Road,
Ellesmere Park, Eccles, M30 9DY

Tel: 0161 921 2880
Email: enquiries@oakwoodacademy.co.uk

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