Skip to content

Professional Biography

HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and The Earl of Wessex visit 7-11 St Matthew Street to open the newly refurbished offices of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation and The Royal Commonwealth Society, 12th March 2014Photography by Fergus Burnett

John May is the Secretary General of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award; a campaigner, storyteller, teacher, youth worker, independent diplomat, writer, broadcaster, urban cyclist, occasional long-distance runner, habitual chocolate cake eater and mischief-maker who has spent his career working with and for young people in the United Kingdom and around the world.

He works with senior leaders from business, government, education and civil society to improve the opportunities and aspirations of the next generation.

He speaks and writes on leadership, education and responsible business practice, drawing on his experience in the classrooms, youth centres, civic halls and boardrooms of different countries.

John is himself a Gold Award holder, following participation at school and university.

Trained as a teacher, John has worked with children and young people in a variety of situations, ranging from schools in suburban England to refugee camps in Uganda. He became a Headteacher at 28, going on to develop a reputation for regenerating underperforming schools. John has since been the national Education Director of Business in the Community, founding Chief Executive of Career Ready and Chief Executive of Young Enterprise.

John is a former non-executive director of UNICEF, helped to found ‘Teach First’ in the UK, and is a past Vice Chairman of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. He is a visiting lecturer in education and corporate social responsibility at Oxford Brookes University, Leicester De Montfort University and the University of Surrey’s Business School. He is a trustee of the Marine Society and Sea Cadets and a Leadership Fellow at St George’s House, Windsor Castle. John is a Deputy Lieutenant for Oxfordshire.

John is a Stonewall Ambassador, part of a growing group helping Stonewall continue their vital work for acceptance without exception for all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in the UK and abroad.

In 2008, John received The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in recognition of his long-standing dedication to enterprise education. In 2009, he received the Freedom of the City of London. In 2020, he was awarded an OBE for “services to young people”.

John’s Who’s Who entry lists his spare time activities as Scouting, long-distance running, hill-walking, theatre, good food, and attempting, usually unsuccessfully, to visit the gym regularly.

Skip to content