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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 1 Primary teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent primary school based ...

AER Teachers: Cover Supervisor - Central London - September

£70 - £80 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This outstanding school s...

AER Teachers: SEN Teaching Assistant - London - September

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This central London prima...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary Teaching Assistant

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: A good primary school in ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen