What is it about Michael Gove that makes people hate him so much?

No Education Secretary has ever embarked on such radical reform, so quickly, since Kenneth Baker

Michael Gove is the most hated Education Secretary ever. Discuss. If you had been sitting at teachers' union conferences for the past eight days, you might think so. Do not just take my word for that. Listen to what some of the delegates have been saying.

For instance, Sarah Caffrey, from Bristol, at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Torquay, called him an "evil entity who hovers around and seems to think we're doing such an excellent job we should be working longer and longer hours for less and less pay".

So how has this well-mannered man described by one teachers' leader as "charming" during the past week stirred up such a hornet's nest? (The teachers' leader did add, however: "He doesn't listen.")

The truth is that no Education Secretary of right or left has embarked on such a radical programme of reform so quickly since ... well, possibly since Kenneth Baker introduced his Great Education Reform Bill of 1987 which ushered in Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, national testing of all children at 7, 11 and 14 and the first signs of a move towards school autonomy by allowing schools to opt out of local authority control.

It is a moot point as to which incurred the greater wrath – after all there were boycotts of the national tests as a result of Kenneth (now Lord) Baker's reforms.

On balance, I think it would have to be Gove – his reforms have coincided with the squeeze on public spending which have led to curbs on teachers' pay and cuts to their pension. These are the issues that have prompted the most serious threats of industrial during this year's conference season.

Votes by the NUT and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers have left schools facing national strikes on pensions. In the NUTs case it will start in the summer term with a proposed national stoppage in June plus regional strikes and further industrial action by both unions on both issues in the autumn.

To be fair to Mr Gove, these issues have not really emanated from his department. All public servants are facing the same squeeze from the Treasury. What has, though, is the drive to promote academies and free schools – another issue that prompted strike demands this Easter. The NUT, in particular, is calling for teachers in every school planning to become an academy to be sounded out on whether they want to take strike action over it.

The likelihood is that there will be some strikes – 22 took place in the past year as the number of academies soared to 1,800 – but most planning to convert will go ahead unscathed. Where Mr Gove may have trouble is in converting schools into academies against parents' and teachers' wishes, as is happening at Downhills primary school in Haringey, north London. This school – where parents differ from Mr Gove and Ofsted in refusing to believe it is failing – could well become a cause celebre if teachers begin strike action.

That brings us on to Ofsted – where NUT members have asked their executive to look at whether they could withdraw co-operation from inspectors and actually show them the door. The likelihood is this will quietly be pushed into the long grass with such action being declared a breach of contract. With all the other battles it has on, the union is unlikely to want to get involved in that one. That it was called for in the first place is in part down to Mr Gove's decision to appoint the hard-nosed headteacher Sir Michael Wilshaw as chief schools inspector (who believes headteachers should model themselves on Clint Eastwood – standing on their own and getting things done). He wants "satisfactory" schools renamed as "requiring improvement", and "no notice" inspections. With his reforms to exams – A-levels to set by leading academies, a reviewed national curriculum focussing on traditional or 1950's values depending on your point of view, teacher training to be done in the classroom rather than those nasty Marxist teacher training colleges, Mr Gove is making a root and branch reform of the whole education system. Small wonder, therefore, that he has inspired so much ire.

Undoubtedly, there will be significant amounts of industrial action in schools in the months ahead – especially as the two big teachers' unions already have a mandate to strike from earlier ballots on pensions and (in the NASUWT's case) pay. Most hated ever, though? Having sat through 33 years of teachers' union conferences, I find that too close to call.

Testing times: past education secretaries

Sir Keith Joseph (1981-86)

Introduced the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative, which teachers saw as dividing children at 14 into academic "sheep" and vocational "goats".

 

Kenneth Baker (1986-89)

Introduced Ofsted inspections, national-curriculum tests for seven-, 11- and 14-year-olds, proposal to allow schools to opt out of local-authority control and run themselves as grant-maintained schools.

 

John Patten (1992-94)

Generally thought by teachers to be incompetent but famously diverted attention from a serious report on school discipline by declaring he had been flogged by a monk at school.

 

David Blunkett (1997-2001)

Faced a demonstration at an NUT conference and was forced to take refuge in a small room after promising as shadow Education spokesman to introduce Fresh Start scheme – closing down underperforming schools and reopening them with a new name and staff if Labour got in.

 

Charles Clarke (2002-04)

Pushed top-up-fees reforms through the Commons – charging students up to £3,000 a year.

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager (permanent ...

Science Teacher Urgently required for October start

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

ICT Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Art & Design Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering