Sorry I was such a rebel, says Gove. Not a bit of it – you were a goody two-shoes, says his teacher

Education Secretary makes grovelling apology in letter, but mentor of 30 years ago remembers things differently

It is something that most of Britain's teachers could only dream about – receiving a written apology from Michael Gove.

But rather than expressing contrition over his controversial GCSE reforms or drive to create more free schools, the Education Secretary has apologised to his French teacher for misbehaving in lessons 30 years ago.

In an open letter to Daniel Montgomery, a teacher at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen where Mr Gove was educated, he claims he was one of a "cocksure crew of precociously assertive boys who recognised you were only a few years older – a rookie in the classroom – and therefore ripe for ragging."

He continues: "When I look back at the 15-year-old I was, lurking at the back of your French class... I cringe."

However, Mr Gove's former teacher – who is still teaching at the school – promptly wrote a glowing letter back to his former pupil, saying he in fact remembered him for his "sharp wit, strongly held beliefs, backed by apparently limitless general knowledge and keen debating skills, which resulted in the downfall of many opponents."

"I remember the words of one of my colleagues at the time: 'That boy is a future leader of the Conservative party'," Mr Montgomery added.

Mr Gove's mea culpa – in which he praises the profession and argues that "respect for teachers is growing" – was immediately greeted with derision by teachers' leaders.

"The Secretary of State's words are really welcome," said Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. "Isn't it a pity, therefore, that the once cocksure and precociously assertive boy of 15 who admits not treating his teacher with respect is repeating history, not with one teacher, but with 450,000 of them who feel deprofessionalised and hugely demoralised as a result of his policies?"

Adrian Prandle, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: "We are delighted that Mr Gove has finally realised that he is sometimes wrong and misguided in his views... [but] an apology in 30 years' time won't help today's pupils and will be far too late to undo the damage he is doing to education in this country. If he is going to write to all the teachers he has offended, he will have a full-time occupation for the next 10 years."

The Education Secretary's letter is published in today's Radio Times as his contribution to this year's Teaching Awards, which will be aired by BBC2 next Sunday. In it, he tells Mr Montgomery: "You were trying patiently, doggedly, good-humouredly, to broaden our horizons. You were, without any pretension or pomposity, attempting to coax a group of hormonal lads to look beyond familiar horizons and venture further... [yet] all we could do was compete to think of clever-dick questions to embarrass you and indulge in pathetic showing-off at your expense."

Referring to his former teacher as "Danny", the letter concludes: "It may be too late to say I'm sorry. But, as my mum told me, it's never too late to set the record straight. You were a great teacher – one of many who helped introduce me to the work of great thinkers and writers and thus gave me the greatest gift of all – the chance to write my own life story."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "I take this open letter as an apology to the profession... and a recognition that teachers do an amazing job."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...