Michael Gove was a ruthless operator as Secretary of State for education. He had a vision - an autonomous and highly diverse school system, and he realised that if you are going to do change on this scale it has to be done quickly, before anyone notices. Gove pursued his policies with a remarkable determination and drive. An idealogue with excellent media connections, he rivalled David Blunkett in setting the news agenda. This was, however, to be his undoing. It is one thing to attack the education 'blob', it is quite another to displace your leader's Queen's speech with the fallout from a boozy journalistic lunch where your frank and fearless views of the Home Secretary's counter terrorism strategy have been rather too fully shared.
Gove's legacy is most mixed where he most wanted to break the mould - granting freedom and autonomy to schools. Whilst it is undeniable that academy status is now the norm amongst secondary schools, it is also the case that free schools have a much weaker base. Their uncertain beginnings and continuing crises (both financial, educational and situational - too many opened where there is no identified need for pupil places) continues to dog the programme.
However, the truth behind the Govean rhetoric of freedom and autonomy is this: schools are more highly constrained than ever, labouring under the yoke of an Ofsted inspection regime which produces fear and compliance in equal measure. Policy Exchange got it right when they concluded that School Leaders are forced to do what they think Ofsted will understand, rather than what is right for the pupils in their school. Busy work, done not to improve standards of teaching and learning, but to satisfy the requirements of an inspection agency with its own huge quality control problems (school leaders do not know what inspection team will turn up at their door, one that has a clue, or is clueless).
Gove's frenetic pace of change is now beginning to unravel. He was interested in ideas, not their implementation, and did not work hard enough at creating the structures to support his vision of a highly autonomous school system. The Education Funding Agency is unfit for purpose, unable to detect fraud and inappropriate use of public money in free schools and academies. The National College for Teaching and Leadership is, ironically, lacking competent leadership - a shell of its former self and rudderless. The School Direct system of school based teacher training is highly variable in quality and is one factor which is leading to a growing crisis in teacher recruitment, which, happening concurrently with exponentially rising pupil numbers, is a toxic legacy for Gove's successor, Nicky Morgan.
But Gove's biggest legacy, and the real reason for his sacking, is his disastrous relationship with the teaching profession. When he had been in office for about a year I had a meeting with one of Gove's special advisors. I asked him whether it was by accident or design that Michael Gove was becoming one of the most hated Secretary of State for Education. He replied that Michael was seen as one of the brightest stars within the Tory party firmament. As yesterday's events show, that mark of achievement is not enough. There are half a million teachers in England and Wales and, together, they constitute a strong force which influences parents and the public. At the recent Festival of Education at Wellington College, Gove was asked why he hated teachers. No Secretary of State for Education can get out from under that.