John Short Ring, Founder and CEO, Support-Edu & Chair, Education Committee and Education Consultant for Dar al Marefa School, Dubai

John Short Ring is Founder and CEO of Support-Edu, an educational consultancy service that aims to make a difference to people by developing and supporting aspiring, new and experienced leaders. Before he founded Support-Edu, he was deputy head at one of the world’s most successful schools, King’s College School Wimbledon. His experience is wide ranging: he has been a governor at Ricards Lodge School in Merton, The Mall School in Twickenham and is currently Chair of the Education Committee, board member and consultant at Dar al Marefa School in Dubai, an all through bilingual IB school. He has spoken at a number of conferences, on topics ranging from “Teacher Retention and Wellbeing” to “EdTech in the classroom – friend or foe?”

John has supported schools across the world with quality assurance and school improvement, advised schools on senior leadership and headship appointments and developed professional learning systems for global organisations. John is also a Principal Examiner for OCR. Before working at King’s, he was Director of Learning and Innovation at Epsom College and Head of History and Politics at Trinity School, Croydon.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with K12 Digest, John shared his professional trajectory, insights on how the K12 education landscape has transformed over the last five years and its future, what sets Support-Edu apart from other market competitors, personal leadership style, significant career milestones, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview. 

John, could you please briefly introduce yourself and tell us about your journey, background, and areas of interest?

I’m a 41-year-old married father of two boys whose purpose in life is to empower people to shape their future. I started my journey in education as a History teacher at Trinity School, Croydon. I quickly become Head of Department before, in 2015, becoming Director of Learning at Epsom College. Two years later I was then promoted to Deputy Head at one of the world’s most successful schools, King’s College School Wimbledon. I was predominantly responsible for staff development, leadership training and digital transformation, but also ran admissions, co-curricular education, partnerships and the operational side of the school throughout my tenure. I’ve also been a governor at two schools in the UK and am a principal examiner for A Level History. Since 2020 I’ve also worked with Dar al Marefa Private School in Dubai, firstly as a board member but now as the chair of the Education committee and consultant.

I decided to launch my own business, Support-Edu, in September 2023. This was because I really enjoyed the elements of my role that enabled me to support schools in their leadership journeys. I worked with over 150 aspiring, new and experienced leaders across the King’s family of schools and wanted to bring this experience and my skill set to schools across the world.

How has the K12 education landscape transformed over the last five years and where is it heading now?

In my view the education landscape has altered greatly. This has been driven predominantly by the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact that this has had, not only on schools, but also on communities. This, in my mind, means that the landscape will be heading in the following directions. Firstly, there will always be a key focus on the teaching and learning that takes place in the classroom, but I believe that we will see a greater focus on the use of AI to drive personalization of learning. Secondly, the role (and expectations) of teachers will change. With the nature of a transient workforce, and the generational demands of Millennials, schools will need to develop strong value propositions to retain high quality staff. Thirdly, as technology becomes ubiquitous, we will need to consider its position in examinations (and also the relative value of the number of traditional examinations). Finally, the need to reintegrate parents and the wider community into schools is vital. Schools will need to consider the best ways to be hubs of learning, providing support to not only their students but also the parents.

What are the challenges in the current field of education, and how and what can we do to improve?

There are two main challenges facing the current field of education. The first is the nature of wellbeing for both staff and students and the increase in mental health concerns amongst teachers and students. To improve this, we need to acknowledge that this is an issue and to stop the practice of “wellbeing washing” in schools. By this, I mean that rather than focusing on superfluous initiatives we should make our schools better places to learn and work, through developing environments of trust, empowering teachers but also making them safe places for students to express how they are feeling.

Secondly, we have a recruitment and retention crisis amongst teachers. The profession is becoming less and less attractive to younger generations. Again, the solutions are similar – develop schools that value their staff, trust them and want to develop them. We should look at pay and make it equitable with the most respected of jobs. Finally, we should empower middle leaders through time and trust, enabling them to lead their teams.

Please brief us about the mission and vision of Support-Edu. What sets it apart from other market competitors?

Support-Edu’s purpose is to empower people and organisations to shape their own future. Our vision is to be a sector leading consultancy service that enables individuals, teams and organisations to find strength in solutions.

What sets us apart is that we want to make a difference in three ways. Our main purpose is nurturing leadership in schools. We do this by offering bespoke leadership training, based on the individual needs of those we work with. Over recent years we have trained a global cohort in excess of 250 middle and senior leaders, of which over 50% have been promoted into more senior roles, including headships. We also support schools in transforming wellbeing. Through our coaching and mentoring programmes for staff, pupils and parents, we aim to support schools to become better places to work and learn. Finally, we also guide senior leaders in developing strategy. Whether this is through the construction of development plans, preparing for inspection or developing admissions and marketing pathways, we can help schools reimagine their future.

The key for us is that we provide unique solutions based on the challenges that people and organisations face.

You are also the Chair of the Education Committee and Education Consultant for Dar al Marefa School in Dubai. Can you please tell us about the school and your role in it?

Dar al Marefa Private School is the only all through IB bilingual school in Dubai. It’s owned by the Al Ghurair Investment group, one of the largest diversified family business groups in the Middle East. It strives to educate and empower young minds, creating a community of curious and confident lifelong learners. DMS has an incredible, award-winning campus and is one of the top IB schools in Dubai. It predominantly serves the Emirati community but is open to all families. I currently act as the Chair of the Education Committee, driving academic standards forward, in conjunction with the senior leadership team. As a consultant I support this senior team, observing lessons, guiding strategy, advising on governance and focusing on the journey to high performance.

What are your thoughts on the role of AI in the K12 education system?

We should see AI as an opportunity for good. Whilst, however, there have been many recent comments on its role in learning, I would love to see a greater exploration as to the impact it could have on school leadership. For example, AI can lead to greater automation in organizational processes, freeing up time for teachers to teach and leaders to lead. In short, we should see it as another tool that will support the front facing nature of education.

How would you describe your leadership style?

One of the things that I am particularly interested in at present is cultural intelligence and the ability to lead people from different cultures and in different contexts. Support-Edu offers a unique cultural intelligence leadership training course for international schools, which explores, amongst other things, leadership styles. I would therefore say that my leadership style adapts depending on the context of the situation and team that I am leading.

Who is your role model in life and why?

I don’t have a particular role model, but it is worth noting that my two sons, Teddy and Abraham, are named after two of the greatest US Presidents. I am a particular adherent to Theodore Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” speech as a way of living one’s life, as well as Abraham Lincoln’s inclusive leadership.

What are some of your greatest achievements in your career till date? What makes them special?

This is a great question! I think it’s easiest to settle on one achievement that relates to a number of people. At King’s I completely changed the system of professional development. We moved from a very linear system whereby only ten members of staff could receive leadership training per year to a system, called the King’s Teaching and Leading Programme, that was open to all teaching and support staff. This meant that every member of staff could access face to face and online training that was directly related to their own goals and situation.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I hope that, in five years’ time, I am still involved with Dar al Marefa Private School, supporting the leadership team in maintaining an outstanding KHDA rating that has been achieved. I also hope that Support-Edu continues to thrive, has expanded, and that we have nurtured another generation of leaders in schools.

What is the one thing you would recommend to someone who wishes to pursue a career in teaching?

Honestly, find a mentor. I was lucky enough to be supported by two senior leaders at different stages of my career, both of whom I can still turn to for advice. I wanted to pay this forward and now mentor a wide range of teachers and leaders. It is one of the most rewarding things that I currently do!

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