Richard Garner: I have not felt the wrath of a personal adviser come down on me – until this week

Gove turns a blind eye to any opposition from schools. They are seen as 'enemies of promise'

Share
Related Topics

The Education Secretary Michael Gove is a driven man, of that there is no doubt. His ambitious school reforms have to be achieved at breakneck speed if his Government is to leave its legacy on the education system – and ensure that future ministers of a different hue find the changes hard to dismantle, should the Conservatives be defeated in 2015.

Mr Gove has implemented his reforms regardless of what his civil servants feel.  He has used his special advisers – most notably Dominic Cummings – to ensure no opposition to pushing through the reforms. Civil servants complain of being left out of the loop while the juggernaut rolls on. Former minister Tim Loughton talks of an “Upstairs Downstairs” relationship between ministers and their civil servants.

Documents from within his department talk of a target of 5,000 schools becoming academies by the end of this parliament. At present, the number is just over 3,000 – and the meteoric rise we saw in the first 18 months of the Coalition appears to be slowing. So much so that the big area for expansion earmarked by him for this year is forcing struggling primary schools to become academies – whether teachers, heads and parents like it or not.

He turns a blind eye to any opposition from schools that  feel they are being bullied and offered inducements. They are dismissed as “enemies of promise”.

Meanwhile, he is still embarking on a wholesale reform of exams (despite last week’s backing down on plans to scrap GCSEs). Arguably he is still capable of achieving most of the same ends as he had before, with the emphasis returning to end-of-course exams in both GCSEs and A-levels.

I could go on. Teacher training is being reformed and will be rooted in schools rather than teacher training colleges. He is taking on the unions with plans to stop teachers’ annual pay rises, and base pay on performance in future.  And 1,000 civil service jobs in his department are to be axed.

Mr Gove therefore needs every academy he can get – and cannot in his terms brook any Sir Humphrey-ish opposition from civil servants.

There is a story about how Tony Benn, when he became a minister in Harold Wilson’s government in the 1970s, just walked into his ministerial office, handed his civil servants a copy of the Labour party manifesto and said: “Implement that.” It didn’t work. Michael Gove has been more successful than that: his plans probably exceed the expectations many of his (more right-wing) backbenchers had of him.

Mr Gove is unfailingly courteous and charming in his dealings with almost everyone (unlike some of his predecessors). I also have not felt the wrath of a special adviser come down upon me despite being critical on occasions – until this week. As the feature on these pages shows, though, for others it has been a different story.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Francois Hollande at the Paris summit on Iraq with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 15 September  

What's going to happen in Syria and Iraq? A guide to the new anti-Isis coalition's global strategy

Jonathan Russell
The colours of autumn leaves are among the many pleasures of the coming season  

In Sickness and in Health: As autumn arrives, more of us should wear high-vis clothes

Rebecca Armstrong
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week