I will remember him as the most disliked education secretary whose combative manner polarized opinion between those who entered his charmed circle - the "outstanding" ones who happened to agree with him and publicly supported his views - and the rest - the "enemies of promise", "the Blob".
He was a man of contradictions. He said his policies were supported by evidence. But it was cherry-picked or distorted evidence. He ignored the warning not to use the PISA results for the UK in 2000 because the data was flawed. Instead, he used the discredited statistics to underpin his education policies. He rightly said the most successful school systems tended to give a great deal of autonomy to schools and that's why he offered "freedom" to schools which became academies. But the Academies Commission (2013) found English schools already had a great deal of autonomy, the extra freedoms offered by academy status didn't amount to much and non-academies could do most things academies could do. The freedom was an illusion.
He was effusive with his praise: "outstanding" generation of young teachers; "brilliant" education bloggers; "fantastic" principals; the "magnificent" seven. But these superlatives were overused and became mere hyperbole.
But mostly I will remember him for the incalculable harm he has done to education in England:
1Fragmenting the school system.
2Paving the way for schools to be run for profit (50 approved academy sponsors are education businesses).
3Increasing the already excessive emphasis on exam results in England and missing a valuable opportunity to reform England’s already out-of-date exam system by moving gradually to graduation at 18.
4Saying that anything that can’t be assessed is mere “play” thereby diminishing the importance of play in children’s lives.
5Encouraging a system whereby academy governors/trustees can go beyond their remit and interfere excessively in the running of a school and where trustees are able to give contracts to companies linked to trustees.
6Encouraging competition between schools while promoting collaboration. But schools in competition are less likely to collaborate.
7Elevating academic subjects over creative ones. Both are needed.
8Refusing to accept that poverty does handicap children. This attitude lets the government off the hook – there’s no need to take steps to reduce poverty if the blame for underachievement by children living in poverty can be heaped on schools. Yet successful school systems tend to link social policies (health, poverty reduction) with their educational systems.
9Promoting one way of teaching children (traditional) while mocking other ways (progressive). But both methods are appropriate: teachers should be allowed to use their professional judgement over which methods to use and when to use them.
10 For using bullying tactics to force schools to become academies.
11 For deprofessionalising teachers by allowing into academies people with no training in pedagogy and no requirement to ever receive such training.
In short, I will remember him for promoting the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and GERM is the virus that is killing our schools.