Leader of the House of Lords opens new building at Highgate School

Leader of the House of Lords and former education minister Lord Jonathan Hill returned to his old school in Highgate on Friday (January 18) to open a new wing of the top independent school.

Forty years after his own first day at Highgate School - when to the peer’s embarrassment he called a fellow pupil “Sir” - Lord Hill unveiled a plaque at the brand new four storey Charter Building in North Road.

The new teaching building has provided 12 new classrooms, a science laboratory and IT suite, as well as a new main entrance for the school.

As a former governor of the school, Lord Hill confessed to having doubts about the new development.

He said: “I was quite sceptical about some of the changes that governors wanted to take forward.”

But he added that he was “wrong for being cautious” and said: “To see the school flourishing is a wonderful thing.”

The new wing of the school took three years to build and was designed by architects ORMS, who have been responsible for several high profile school buildings including the modern languages and art departments at University College School in Hampstead.

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Headteacher of Highgate School, Adam Pettitt, said: “The Charter Building provides a fantastic new home for the geography and English departments close to the heart of the senior school, makes Highgate accessible to those pupils, staff and visitors with reduced mobility, and releases much-needed space for music and drama.”

He added: “It has been an amazing experience to see how a new building and a new entrance have impacted on the quality of learning and the quality of living.”

Lord Hill enrolled as a pupil at Highgate senior school in 1973.

Despite early poor performances in his Latin prose and woodwork – where Lord Hill revealed he was often chastised with the phrase “wood doesn’t grow on trees you know” – the former education minister said he was grateful for all the school had given him.

“I now spend all my time trying to take redundant adjectives out of every piece of prose that I can possibly find, so the influence of Highgate on me lives on,” he said.

Lord Hill was made a life peer and was introduced to the House of Lords in 2010, also taking up the office of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools.

Prime Minister David Cameron appointed him leader of the House of Lords this month.