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.

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
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
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
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

Cover Supervisor

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor jobs...

PE Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Being the UK market l...

Science Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Science Teacher Lon...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: The school, the child…We are proud to su...

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