23/10/2012 06:05 BST | Updated 23/10/2012 06:33 BST

Michael Gove Writes 'Heartfelt' Apology To Former French Teacher Danny Montgomery

It may be 30 years too late, but Michael Gove issued a heartfelt apology to his former French teacher today for misbehaving in class.

In an open letter, the Education Secretary said he cringes when he remembers his 15-year-old self, lurking at the back of the classroom, competing to ask "clever-dick questions" and indulging in "pathetic showing off".

michael gove apology

Michael Gove has apologised for being a 'clever-dick'

He urges Mr Montgomery, to whom he refers as Danny, to accept his tardy apology, since apologies from politicians are "as rare as away wins for Queens Park Rangers".

Gove, who is a QPR fan, said he now realises that Mr Montgomery, who schooled the minister in languages at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen, was trying to broaden his pupils' horizons.

The letter, published in the Radio Times, says: "It may be too late to say I'm sorry. Thirty years too late. But since apologies from politicians are considered as rare as away wins for Queen's Park Rangers, I hope you will accept mine.

"Because when I look back at the 15-year-old I was, lurking at the back of your French class at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen, I cringe.

"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.

"You weren't just dinning irregular verbs into our heads, you were opening up a different way of seeing. And all we could do was compete to think of clever-dick questions to embarrass you and indulge in pathetic showing-off at your expense."

Gove writes that his former teacher was "unaffectedly passionate" about both French and German.

But he was confronted with 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".

Gove acknowledges that because they misbehaved they missed out, and thanks Mr Montgomery for his perseverance.

"As I've grown up - and become a father myself - my gratitude only grows. To you, and to everyone else in your profession," he says.

Gove goes on to tell the teacher that his work, and that of the rest of the teaching profession is "hugely appreciated".

He ends by saying: "So Danny, 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.

"And 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."