The 54-year-old found himself on the end of a grassroots rebellion by thousands of English heads after being named as the executive's choice for leader of the National Association of Head Teachers in 2004. Eventually, he lost out to Mick Brookes, at the time a primary head and former president of the union.
Then Professor Hawker found himself in the middle of a row over a lottery system for school places in Brighton, where he was director of children, families and schools.
In October 2007, Professor Hawker, who last year was elected a Professor of the College of Teachers, left Brighton for a position as deputy chief executive at Westminster Council. This appears to have presaged a rare six-month spell out of the headlines.
Those in Wales who are happy with its abolition of Sats might note that he was heavily involved in shaping national tests policy while head of curriculum and assessment at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Does this herald a return to high-stakes testing west of Offa's Dyke? Probably not. Even so, his tenancy is likely to be anything but dull.