There is a spectre haunting schools this Christmas… the spectre of Michael Gove

The former education secretary haunts teachers like Lord Voldemort

Ed Dorrell

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I was having a conversation about schools policy this week with a well-known educational figure when he mentioned "he-who-shall-not-be-named".

It was immediately clear who he meant, of course.

Though his tongue was firmly in his cheek, it was a slightly insightful moment. Like Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter novels, it was as if it was better not name the subject of our conversation, for fear of disturbing the educational gods...

But I'm going to do it anyway... MICHAEL GOVE!

There. It wasn't that bad, was it?

Actually it probably was that bad. Did it send shivers down your spine? Did it make you put a protective arm around your children? Or punch the wall?

The fact is that my contact’s Voldemort-esque reference was only partially in jest. On my travels around Schools Land it is always Mr Gove’s work that still crops up when teachers gather (way more than that of his successor Nicky Morgan, or even Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw).

There is the small minority – the neo-trad nu-blob – for whom he is close to saintly. And then there’s the rest – the vast majority – for whom the merest mention of "That Gove" is enough to make them draw a deep breath and look around with a mixture of anger and terror.

Both are true, depending on your perspective. Certainly, he was a figure of enormous controversy for teachers and schools (performance pay, academisation, curriculum and exams reform, and the rest, saw to that), but he has now become a Bogie Man possibly bigger even than his work.

How long will this spectre haunt education? Well, if the resonance of the late Chris Woodhead is anything to go by we have decades of this sort of thing to come.

It is, at this point, perhaps worth gently pointing out that he’s gone. Off to "sort out" the legal system. If rumours are to be believed he was actually fired from the DfE by Downing St because he had so alienated you, the profession. 

But that won’t work. Because like the Bogie Man, Lord Voldemort or Kaiser Soze, it’s the idea that’s so very terrifying – possibly even more than the reality.

Sleep tight.

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Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell is deputy editor and head of content at the TES, former features and comment editor and former news editor. 

Find me on Twitter @Ed_Dorrell

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