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.

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Crewe Teacher Perm Ch...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the lea...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Teaching Cheshire

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Long term position in large p...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit