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Come and see me - Patrick Ottley-O'Connor

Talking about the significant impact of improving staff wellbeing

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“Look after yourself before looking after others, so that together we can make a difference for all learners”

This was the call to action for all staff 18 months ago on my first day as interim Executive Principal of a MAT plagued by leadership instability, challenge & low staff morale. I focussed on creating a culture that prioritised mental health and wellbeing across our small family of schools. Starting with the staff was the obvious place to start!

Having high expectations of staff, with a “no excuses, no exceptions” approach to teaching is important because we must ensure that all children succeed. However, on its own, this approach can lead to staff isolation and to a high-stakes and often toxic level of accountability.

So, I ensure that this high expectations approach applies to wellbeing: with the same no excuses, no exception approach to how staff look after themselves & each other.

This approach is impactful, replicable and sustainable. In 2015, I became the interim principal of a different academy with the challenging context of leadership instability, significant underperformance and staff feeling real frustration with workload, initiative overload, low morale and a toxic culture of accountability.

Later that year we came out of ‘’Special Measures’, with the Ofsted report stating, “…leaders said they had been liberated from bureaucratic tasks and teachers had been freed to teach.” Staff spoke openly about how they were enthused, engaged and empowered to own their own wellbeing and prioritise their own mental health.

I encourage and support all staff to see, own, solve and act on their own wellbeing, whatever that looked like. After all, one person’s pleasurable wellbeing activity maybe another person’s nightmare!


My session at TeachWellFest will focus on these journeys as well as sharing some practical strategies & tips for leading an approach to wellbeing, as well as achieving personal wellbeing balance.