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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Peter Mandelson first resigned from the cabinet on 23 December 1998  

2015's dim-sum index has too many courses

John Rentoul
 

I'm just as merry without a drink, thank you

Fiona Sturges
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015