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
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
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

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?