UCS headteacher reacts to Michael Gove comment: ‘Highgate School is the Arsenal to UCS’s Spurs’

13:00 06 March 2014

Highgate School headteacher Adam Pettitt and Michael Gove at the launch of a schools scheme last Wednesday. Picture: Jonathan Richards

Highgate School headteacher Adam Pettitt and Michael Gove at the launch of a schools scheme last Wednesday. Picture: Jonathan Richards


Education secretary Michael Gove has outraged pupils at a Hampstead public school after suggesting it is inferior to its Highgate rival – by comparing the two schools to football clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

UCS headteacher Mark Beard. Picture: Dieter PerryUCS headteacher Mark Beard. Picture: Dieter Perry

The cabinet minster said that University College School (UCS) was Tottenham, to Highgate School’s Arsenal at the launch of a project to get students into the retail industry at Highgate School.

He added: “UCS might think it’s special but the glittering trophies go to Highgate. I can tell I’ve just lost about half the audience, but the right half to lose.”

Arsenal have finished above bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League every year since 1995 and the Gunners have won many more “glittering trophies” than Spurs throughout their history.

In January, UCS topped the Ham&High’s league table for GCSE results and featured in the top 100 schools in the UK, ­although it was outperformed by Highgate School in the A-Level league tables.

In an open letter to Mr Gove, UCS pupil Samuel Cowling, 15, said he felt “belittled” by the MP’s comments. “To suggest that the work I put in daily is not of the same calibre as the students of Highgate is something that is simply unfounded,” he wrote on the school’s student blog, The Compass.

“Above all else I am saddened to see a man of your position and ­influence orchestrating a personal attack on a school, and student body, in the name of humour.

“I speak for myself and my peers when I say that I am ­extremely disappointed and I hope in the future you can focus on the successes of both schools, leaving the friendly rivalry to the schoolboys.”

Mr Gove’s tongue-in-cheek comments were made as he pledged his support to a scheme launched by Topshop boss Sir Philip Green and Highgate School last week to offer work experience and career opportunities in the retail i­ndustry to pupils at more than 20 schools across Camden, Barnet and Haringey.

UCS headteacher Mark Beard said: “Michael Gove’s comments last week were most likely meant in jest but, like many a politician’s jokes, they fell wide of the mark.

“Did he appreciate that Arsenal have not won a trophy (glittering or otherwise) in almost nine years and, at the end of both of the last two seasons, a solitary point has stood between them and Spurs? Mr Gove might instead have acknowledged that UCS and Highgate School enjoy an excellent working relationship and a healthy local rivalry in all sporting and academic pursuits.”

Adam Pettitt, Highgate School’s headteacher, said: “We were ­delighted to host Michael Gove at Highgate last week.

“His speech was warmly supportive of our partnership with Arcadia [owner of Topshop] and was in places very funny.

“I’m sure he was no more serious about the respective qualities of Highgate and UCS than when he compared me to Kylie Minogue.”


Latest News Stories

The LA Fitness gym in Highgate Road, Kentish Town

A petition has been launched to save a Kentish Town swimming pool threatened with closure because a gym is changing hands.

The suspected brothel is in Lyme Street

Three women have been arrested at a suspected brothel in Camden Town following complaints from residents.

Charlie and Lola author Lauren Child visits Highgate Pre-Preparatory School. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The author of popular children’s book series Charlie and Lola signed books and gave an assembly for young pupils.

Yesterday, 17:00
Headteacher Elizabeth Kitcatt, pupil Rachael Allen, Keir Starmer MP and parent fundraiser Francis Butler at the solar panel launch party. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

Eco-warriors threw a party to celebrate raising enough money to buy solar panels for the roof of their girls’ school.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


You won't need to fork out for groceries for a while!

Asda, one of the country’s leading supermarkets, prides itself in being one of the cheapest places to shop, so you can be sure that your money will go a long way here!

Shop till you drop!

Here’s your chance to treat yourself to a new wardrobe and a whole lot more with this MyOffers competition to win an incredible £2,500 to spend at Primark on whatever you like!

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder