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Confidence and resilience through professional development: facing and embracing our EdTech future

In common with other sectors, education finds itself urgently addressing recruitment, retention, and continuous personal development because of multiple outside forces. Find out how investing in staff development has a positive impact. 

Stephen Morales, CEO, Institute of School Business Leadership

Overview – Confidence and resilience through professional development 

Among those outside forces are the rapid adoption of EdTech, the generational shift towards the digital natives of Gen Z, mix-and-match portfolio careers, demand for flexible working, the regular inflow and outflow of talent in education, and the realities of online and blended learning. 

Stephen leads ISBL, which facilitates, guides and reports on school business leadership excellence. He shares with us the vital impact of excellent professional development in building professional confidence. He shows us how we can build the resilience that gives us the ability to face future challenges and developments.  

He talks us through: 

  • The education policy trajectory
  • The importance of the local context
  • How to identify risks through horizon scanning
  • Mitigating risks and seizing opportunities
  • Data insights on what employers are looking for
  • Professional development options and professional confidence. 

Other related topics 

Explore how apparently insignificant moments and gestures can have a huge impact on staff wellbeing, and in turn on effectiveness and retention of our best school staff with Dr Emma Kell, Those That Can. (hyperlink to Emma’s session). 

Hear from two experts in their field as they discuss the importance and practice of harnessing the critical life skills of practicing self-care and promoting resilience and explore the role technology has to play. (Hyperlink to the role of technology in practicing self-care and promoting resilience) 

Next steps

For more information about the Institute of School Business Leadership and access to resources visit their website. 

At Scomis, we’re committed to supporting all staff in schools to ensure you get the most out of your ICT systems.  We know from listening to our customers that you need high quality, relevant training to be delivered in efficient and cost-effective ways and a ‘one size approach’ does not fit all. 

Training is available for all staff in leadership, administration, support, and class-based roles across your school or multi academy trust. Our training portfolio includes: 

  • Self-Directed Digital Learning – Learn anytime, anyplace at a pace that suits you and save time and money.  Access our most popular courses through ScoLearn Digital. 
  • Tutor Led TrainingFor more complex topics such as assessment, reporting and timetabling we offer chargeable training by a subject specialist which is delivered remotely and interactively to small groups for a personalised experience.  
  • Bespoke Training – If you can’t find what you are looking for from our course timetable, or if you would like to ‘pick and mix’ content across different courses, we can create a package of training tailored to your specific needs. 
  • 1:1 Personalised TrainingYou might just want some top up training or have a specific area you would like to explore in more detail on any of our supported applications.  In which case you can receive personalised training directly from one of our specialists. 

View our full course timetable or complete our training course enquiry form and one of training experts will be in touch to understand your development needs.  

Further reading and reference material

To follow

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ScomisLive is recognised by ISBL as Continued Professional Development (CPD)

Offering over 20 hours of appropriate learning content for School Business Leaders. ISBL members can register their attendance against their annual CPD commitment.


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Session transcript

HILARY LLOYD:  Welcome back.  I’m Hillary Lloyd a member of the senior leadership team here in ScomisLive.  We are pleased to let you know that ScomisLive is recognised by our ISBL as offering over 20 hours of learning content for school business leaders.  This means if you are an ISBL member you can register your attendance against your annual CPD commitments.  Even more fitting therefore that today we are joined by Stephen Morales, CEO of ISBL who we would like to welcome to this session.  In common with other sectors education finds itself urgently addressing recruitment, retention, and continuous personal development as a result of multiple outside forces.  Among these are the rapid adoption of EdTech the generation shift towards the digital natives of Gen Z.  Mix and match portfolio careers demand for flexible working inflow and outflow of talented education and realities of online and blended learning.  ISBL facilitates guides and supports in school business leadership excellence.   

Today, Stephen will share with us the vital impact of building confidence and resilience.  Welcome to ScomisLive.   

STEPHEN MORALES:  Thank you very much I’m delighted to be able to join you today.  I think this subject is very, very important, very live and hopefully I will take colleagues on a bit of a journey in terms of where the push and stress points are within the system.  So this presentation today is going to cover confidence and resilience through professional development, facing and embracing our EdTech future.  And we have all had to adapt very quickly to the digital, the remote environment, I think as a sector we’ve done that incredibly well.  Whether it’s frontline teaching and learning delivery or whether it’s remote administration or indeed central teams providing support services to their satellite schools.    

So what do we aim to cover in the session today?  How we can build the resilience that gives us the ability to face future challenges and how to develop our competencies.  The education policy trajectory, the importance of the local context and how to identify risks through horizon scanning, the mitigations for those risks and how we seize opportunity  seize new opportunities as they president themselves.  We will talk a little bit about data and data insights.  We will talking about what employers are looking for.  And then we will go on to discuss professional development options and how we develop our professional confidence.   

So the first thing I want to talk about really is how information skills and knowledge help to underpin confidence and there is a kind of circle if you like and I will do the reverse in a minute, but if we have knowledge and if we are  if we have deep technical mastery in a particular subject we place ourselves in a very empowered position.  We can speak with levels of authority that we wouldn’t be able to do if we didn’t have that knowledge.   

Knowledge leads to  knowledge and confidence leads to an ability to influence and we can influence in a way that that is evidence based, it goes beyond anecdotes and frankly gives us a mandate and authority to lead.  If you take the reverse of what I just said, so those with a lack of knowledge will find themselves feeling vulnerable, feeling exposed.  That in turn means low levels of confidence which often means poor levels of influence, low levels of autonomy and no authority and no mandate to lead properly. So it’s absolutely essential that we pay attention to the value of knowledge and technical expertise.  Notwithstanding that as we build teams we don’t have to be masters of all that we purvey, but we do need to know where to go to in order to cover off areas of activity.   

But certainly the more we know about the things that we are involved in the more influence we exert.  The next thing I would say is education is a sector obsessed with qualifications and I think it’s really difficult.  I’m talking particularly now to the school business leadership community.  It’s very difficult to claim your seat at the top table without a strong set of credentials.  And I’m the first to agree that  I’m the first to agree that experience in some cases is as valuable as qualifications and sometimes we place maybe too much of an emphasis on qualifications and training. But whether it’s regrettable or not, in the environment in which we are operating having demonstrating knowledge, demonstrating high levels of proficiency through formal qualifications is really important and I think we can look at recent surveys, recent evidence and what it tells us is there’s high demand for highly skilled individuals and low supply.  So we do need to address that.   

And, again I’m not advocating, in fact, quite the opposite, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  We’ve got 10,500 school business leaders in the system, they are exceptional.  But regrettably only 10 per cent of them have a degree or above qualification.  What I think we need to do as a system is get behind that 90 per cent and help them to develop their portfolio and qualifications such that they  that number starts to increase.  And, in fact, what we would really like is to have situation where that pyramid, if you like, is inverted.  So we’ve got 90 per cent of the current school business leaders operating at the degree and above level.   

And we do some really interesting work actually in particular with Manchester  sorry, with Chester University and we have taken individuals’ experience and we have converted it through some selfreflection work into a degree qualification.  So essentially colleagues work with Chester University, they look and reflect back on their practice.  They read literature that supports education leadership and they do a piece of work to synthesise their own experience with what the literature is saying and end up with both a piece of academic writing, a reflection of practice, that all leads to legitimising their position as credible professionals with a degree level qualification.   

Again, I’m labouring the point but it’s really important, the sector is crying out for highly qualified individuals to fulfil senior roles in schools and trusts and you don’t need to take my word for it, the Hayes report published last month on recruitment and retention and it points out very clearly that that’s what employers are looking for.  Again, that isn’t to undermine or in any way diminish the important role that colleagues are performing in local settings, in generalist roles in the maintain sector as well as the academy sector that don’t have those qualifications, but I think what is clear is both for the sake of the individual and their professional futures, and for the sake of the sector we need to invest in our people, in our professional community.   

I think we all need to accept that the landscape is very different.  The education sector is very different to when I first joined in the mid 2000s.  There are high levels of autonomy but with that  with those high levels of autonomy come greater levels of direct accountability.  The complexity now that schools and trusts and their leaders face is  you know, it’s just  (audio drops).  Of sustainability.  If you speak to young people now what’s the thing that’s most important to them?  Probably climate change.  And so as school leaders I think it’s really important that we demonstrate that we are doing our bit in that space.  We need greener schools, we need more sustainable schools, we need better designs.  We also need to pay a lot more attention to the whole subject of EDI and individuals with protected characteristics making the school environment a happy and safe place for them to operate.  And that cuts across pupils, parents, governors, teachers, other support staff and of course senior leaders.  And yet there is a huge piece of work to be done there.   

As the academy program continues to move forward the expectations on multiacademy trusts is enormous.  The levels of scrutiny, the extent to which many trusts are being encouraged to grow and to expand move from quite small units into large scale operations.  We are talking in some cases tens of millions, hundreds of millions of pounds worth of public money under the stewardship of chief executives and their trust boards.  And as we see these  as we see these structures expand the role of technology is becoming ever and increasingly important.   

The role of a central team now supporting 20, 30 schools with a geography that can expand, you know, hundreds of miles, means that the digital infrastructure, the approach to both remote learning and remote administration needs very careful consideration.  Not only does it need careful consideration but it needs staff within the structures to be able to cope with that complex infrastructure.   

I think it’s clear and fair to say that there is never diminishing role from the local authority, local Education Departments just do not have the resources or the funding to support schools in the way that they did.  That’s putting pressure on community schools and their leadership teams and even if you are not in an academy structure now, the expectations on you to manage your own affairs are becoming greater.  And I think for many standalone community schools they are looking at the pressure that’s on them and they are saying, can we cope on our own?  Can we operate as an island or actually does it make sense for us to consider being part of something bigger where there are economies of scale, well established systems, a robust infrastructure and technology that will see us through the next few years.   

So lots to think about.  Very different landscape from probably even a decade ago, certainly very, different very different from pre the Academy Act in 2010.  Just a little bit on those flavours of leadership that I alluded to before.  So as a school business professional I think it’s really important and never has it been more important really to reflect on what do you want for your own  for your own professional fulfilment and to secure your position in the system?  And for me there are three broad areas to explore.  One is the generalist role, and increasingly the generalist role is changing.  It’s still important in local settings within a multiacademy trust.  It’s still very important for community schools.  But I think if you are part of a multiacademy trust structure and you want to offer that generalist support to your local setting, I think you need to accept that you will have to let go of certain things and trusts will be keen to take away elements of your role that can be done in an aggregated way that removed duplication across the group of schools within the trust.  So things like finance or consolidated accounts for sure, payroll, some HR functions and high value procurement are all things that you can expect to move to the centre.   

That doesn’t mean there isn’t an important role supporting the head teacher locally, but it’s a different role and recognise that there will be layers of management up to the central team between the local operation and the central team.  The likelihood is that you  the levels of autonomy you enjoy will be lower than those in the central team and I think it goes without saying that those operating at a local level are likely to have less attractive terms and conditions and a lower salary than a colleague that’s operating at an executive level.  And that  you know, that’s quite a sobering statement but I think it’s the reality of where we find ourselves.   

There is one caveat to the generalist role, and that is one could argue that a chief operating officer is an executive generalist.  So they are not necessarily specialising in one particular area of activity, they have a helicopter view across many things.  But the difference between the local generalist and executive generalist is that they are operating at a very strategic level so they will be heavily influencing the strategy for the multiacademy trust.  They will be looking very closely at structures, they will be doing horizon scanning in terms of the local demographic and any trend movements in population that will have an impact on the trust.   

The specialist role, it really says  it does what it says on the tin.  This is the opportunity to take a particular path and specialise in areas such as finance, HR, procurement, infrastructure.  Even PR and marketing.  Some trusts are taking that route.  It means being  demonstrating technical mastery, it will mean minimum levels of qualifications and credentials.  It will mean investing in a deep understanding of the particular area that you want to develop as your career pathway.  And then the executive role, by its very nature means more than one setting, it means having that peripheral vision across various strands of activity but various establishments if you like.  Again, as I said at the beginning, there are executive generalists and there are executive specialists.  So at an executive level you could be the chief finance officer, you could be the director of HR or indeed you could be the chief operating officer in which case your that executive generalist.  But the important thing for school business leaders is to identify as quickly as possible which of those things most interest you and how do you set out on a journey to position yourself for the opportunities that are presenting themselves.  Or, you know, if what you’re really keen on is consolidating your position at a local level, you don’t have lofty ambition but you want to make sure you do a good job for your local school, just recognise you are going to have to concede some ground.   

Okay.  We are in a new digital era and I think this was coming at us at pace but it has certainly been accelerated by COVID.  We are not going back.  I think flexible working, remote working, Teams, Zoom calls, and other platforms that are available are going to be with us for the future.  There is a big debate being had across the system about the extent to which we can extend agile arrangements to the entire education workforce.  I think it’s very straightforward for administrative roles and I think many multiacademy trust central teams are adopting an agile flexible approach to working with some facetoface meetings and many remote meetings and working from home is a big feature of that.  I think the higher up you go the year groups the easier it is to do some remote learning.  I think it’s very difficult to do  to offer a remote provision for primary school.  Not impossible, but more difficult. But there is lots of innovation.  We’ve learnt an awful lot through COVID.  The Oak National Academy was I think a good proof of concept and we saw all sorts of provision being offered through those channels.  And clearly this is Scomis’ bread and butter and the work they do in this space is really important and extremely valued by the sector.  I just think we are going to see is a lot, lot more of it.   

Remote governance is the norm now.  I think very few schools are suggesting that busy people drive from different parts of the region they work in to sit around a table.  It just makes sense to do these meetings, to run these meetings in a digital way.  Integrated technology, I think we are seeing a lot more schools think long and hard about the way technology flows through the whole organisation rather than this kind of piecemeal approach to procuring both hardware and software.  I think certainly trusts are thinking long and hard about proper sustainable futureproofed strategies and most of this now is  involved cloudbased solutions.  I think  I will make this comment and then I will kind of pause and take a bit of a breath because I hope it’s it hands in the way I intend it to. I asked the question of colleagues.  Are you ahead much the kerb or behind it?  And what we want to avoid is the Ostrich behaviour.  So burying our heads in the sand and hoping it will go away and hoping things will return to the way they were in 2020 and before and I really urge you not to do that.  Please don’t be an ostrich because it won’t do you any favours and it certainly won’t do your schools and your community of learners any favours either.  So, please, do the horizon scanning put your head above the parapet and understand what’s coming at you and work out how you can be part of that new  that new digital  new digital era.   

I’m going to offer some tips in terms of how you might stay ahead of the curve.  I think it’s important that the colleagues do a piece of selfassessment and I think it’s selfassessment of their own skills, qualifications, and knowledge.  And the same of colleagues.  If you like it’s a needs analysis of a training needs analysis.  I think it is really important to do that diagnostic piece first.  I would urge colleagues to use our professional standards as a reference point and we are about to do a root and branch review of those stand as so there will be a new set published hopefully towards the end of the year.  I think it’s really important to choose your flavour of leadership and plot your development journey.  Don’t be afraid to lean into providers like Scomis.  It is not a  it’s not a failure to look to others who are experts in their field.  And I think the one thing that we are very bad at as an education system is learning from industry and from the commercial world, and there are many, many of these things are well trodden paths in other sectors.  And I think we should encourage colleagues but we should encourage ourselves to not take these entrenched views about this is the kind of the way we have always done it, there isn’t another way, it’s not going to work.  We don’t have the band with or the appetite for change.  It’s  you know, it goes kind of hand in glove with a ostrich behaviour.  If you do what you’ve always done you will get what you’ve always got and we are in a very dynamic, very changeable environment.  In fact, I listened to a speaker a couple of years ago now, just before the pandemic I was actually over in the States and this was a tech guru and he was saying we have seen unprecedented change over the last five years, the pace of change has been incredible.  It will never be that slow again.  Which I think is quite  it’s quite sobering statement but I think it really is  it does speak the truth.   

In terms of some useful resources, I’m sure we can share these through the Scomis channels.  Please have a look at the professional standards, engage in our selfassessment tool.  We have a qualifications guide which will be set out the options available to you, the pathways funded and unfunded.  We can also share with you a document which is our own view of the SBP professional landscape, the roles that exist, the qualifications and the salaries commensurate with those roles.  It’s our own benchmarking document.  So it isn’t a national benchmark or a national view but we think it is  well, it is well researched and pretty close to reflecting what the system looks like at the moment.   

So I will leave it there.  And happy to take any questions that anyone might have.   

HILARY LLOYD:  Okay.  Thanks very much Stephen.  I think that was a very helpful presentation with some extremely useful insights.  I think one theme that came through very clearly is that we live in a world where we constantly need to contend with change and you said it will never go back to being as slow perhaps as it was before.  And you have given us some really helpful thoughts how we might embrace it as well as practical steps we can take.  And the resources you referred to we will be more than happy to make those available through the website after the event for delegates so they can access them there.   

We have got time to take a few questions if that’s all right with you.   

STEPHEN MORALES:  Of course.   

HILARY LLOYD:  Okay.  So the first one coming through, as someone who is looking at starting a change journey how would you advise going about it?   

STEPHEN MORALES:  Yes, that’s a really good question.  And I think what I would say is that the first thing you need to do before you embark on change is pause.  So you need to understand why the change.  I think you need to be clear why is it you are undertaking change.  What’s the end game?  And I think once you have cleared that up, if you are very confident and can articulate with clarity why the change is in important, then I think it’s important to create the space, the bandwidth to embark on the change journey because change takes in energy.  Change by its very nature creates turbulence.  So it will  change does take resources away from other activities.  So it’s important that you create the space to embark on the change journey.  But I think it’s also important to say that just because we are busy that’s not a reason not to do change.  What it means is prioritising to give yourself that bandwidth to go through that period of turbulence, to come out the other side with clear benefits which you need to be clear about.   

The other thing that I think you need to do in terms of change is that selfaudit piece.  So understand where your strengths and weaknesses are, where you are vulnerable, what expertise exists internally to help manage the change and where do you need to go externally to get additional support.  And as I said, in the presentation, we shouldn’t be afraid to lean into others that are experts in the change space or in the tech space if they can help us  if they can help us along the way.  It is a mistake to  in my opinion to undertake change without proper plan and try to wing it because it will fail, frankly.  And if you really want people to come with us on the change journey what you don’t want is obstacles at the first hurdle because you haven’t done any of the due diligence, any of the preparation, you haven’t plotted things properly.  There aren’t proper milestones.  So any scepticism that existed before will just be exacerbated if you don’t plan things properly.  So those are the things I think I would focus on in the first instance.   

HILARY LLOYD:  Okay.  That’s very helpful.  Thank you.  A related question, so working with education, what do you consider to be the biggest barriers to change and can you give any advice how to overcome them?   

STEPHEN MORALES:  I think the biggest barrier to change is resistance to change.  So it’s back to what I was saying before, is this is the way we have always done it, and this is my  however clunky or clumsy or inefficiency, it’s what I  my comfy pair of slippers and I don’t want to change them.  I don’t want a new pair of slippers.  These are fine, thank you, even though they are falling apart they are just mine and leave me alone in my slippers.  So you’ve got to overcome that.  And that’s why articulating the benefits of change is so important and if you need  I think never assume that people understand where you want to take them if you haven’t had a proper conversation with them about where it is you’re taking them.  And also the  you know, not just all of the benefits but also all of the difficult parts.  It’s  and, again, a terrible analogy maybe, but I will try to use it anyway, if you are taking someone to this beautiful destination, you know, sunny desert island, whatever, and you painted the picture of this lovely kind of paradise location first and  but then you said, but actually we have to go through the really rough waters and I know you get really, really sea sick, you’ve got to work with those individuals to get them on the boat because the prize at the end of it is worth it.  And I think that’s true of any change really.  We know there are going to be choppy water, we know it’s going to be turbulent, we understand that we are taking away your lovely comfy slippers but when you get to the end of it it’s just going to be so good.  And so much better.  So I don’t think we can  we can’t  we shouldn’t be misleading people and sell false promises, but I think if we are really clear about the benefits of change we can articulate them but also say, “come with us on this journey, we will support you through those turbulent waters and give you your sea sickness tablets” or whatever it might be.  We have a better chance of success.  But I’ve seen this topdown approach to project management where there isn’t proper engagement with teams on the ground, where there isn’t proper consultation and people don’t understand the benefits, that’s a car crash.   

HILARY LLOYD:  Yeah.  I couldn’t agree with that more.  A identify a lot of things you said then.  The analogy of travelling to an island was a good one.  I had shark infested waters coming into my head.  People will come at change won’t they from all sorts of different perspectives and sometimes with all sorts of preconceived ideas that may or may not be true.  But it’s really important I think to understand where people are coming from, if you are going to be able to engage them and take them with you.   


STEPHEN MORALES:  Absolutely.  And I understand from my own personal experience that as a leader, and a leader who sometimes is a bit impulsive and a bit impatient, I just want to get  I want to get to the top of the mountain, I’m off.  I’ve got my rucksack on and I’m running.  Now, it needs people around you as well I think to  and colleagues around you, other senior leader team colleagues to just say, you are going too fast.  Slow down a little bit, let’s have a look at the landscape ahead.  Let’s look at some of the hazards that are there and let’s make sure that we are taking care of those that are coming with us.   

HILARY LLOYD:  Yeah.  Quite.  I couldn’t agree more.  So I think we have got time just for one last question.  And any others that we don’t have time to answer we will come back to after the event.  So the last question is, you have alluded to this a little already, Stephen, but how can ISBL help?   

STEPHEN MORALES:  Yes, thank you.  So I think  I think the  well, there’s a few things.  So our network of practitioners  and it’s a very broad church we serve are very keen to share.  And they are very keen to share with other colleagues the experiences they’ve had.  So we can connect people and we just invested in some  in our own digital platform where we can host content, and we can share with colleagues the case studies where we really bring to life experiences that other colleagues have gone through.  We are constantly reviewing our portfolio qualifications and back to the slide that I started with, or sorry, the theme that I started with where I talked about knowledge being the catalyst for influence and a mandate to lead.  We  you know, our portfolio of qualifications is designed to respond to any knowledge gaps that exist out there in the sector.  We are also working very hard with other stakeholder groups to make sure that not only do we support our own community and upskilling but that we also  we also educate head teachers, governors, chief executives and trustees of multiacademy trusts about the role.  And about the importance of having the right individual with the right skills and taking existing practitioners on a journey from where they are today to whenever they need to be to best support the establishment that they work in.  So we are  you know, we are not a union.  Sometimes we have  well, certainly before we became an institute we were mistaken to be the union for school business leaders.  We are not.  We are the professional body.  Other sectors have more than one professional body.  The reality is that in our sector there’s only one school business leadership professional body and that’s us.  So we are trying to do two things really, one is provide colleagues with the professional recognition that they deserve and we do that through spotlighting  shining a spotlight on their qualifications but also helping them to continue to develop and,secondly, we are here to provide the sector with confidence in the work that our members do.  Because we take professional development seriously because we take knowledge acquisition seriously.  So, yeah, I mean, fundamentally we are about developing the proficiency, the calibre of our workforce and ultimately we would like to boast that our school business leadership community are world class.   

HILARY LLOYD:  Okay.  Thank you very much Stephen.  I’m going to draw this session to a close now because we are now running up to the lunch break.  But thank you so much for your time today.  And for your presentation which I personally found very helpful.  Scomis will look forward to working with us its and there is quite a few things you touched on today that are dear to my heart.  I may well pick that up with you after the event if that’s okay with you.   


HILARY LLOYD:  It’s now time to take a break for lunch.  The next session will start at 1.30 on channel 1 with when we will welcome inclusion good you Daniel Sobel back to ScomisLive.  Daniel is a keynote at our last event three years ago in 2019 and he was so well received that we are delighted he’s back again with us there year.  Daniel asks big and unexpected questions about how EdTech contributes to solving inclusivity in schools and trusts.  He challenges our working assumptions and shows us the route into global inclusive best practice we can deploy in our schools here.  So we will see you back here after lunch.  Thank you for your time this morning.  Thank you.