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

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Middle East crisis: Things have moved on – at least when I met bin Laden, I didn’t fear for my life

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment