Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 16th January 1979
The staff/pupil council was a popular theme during the early series of Grange Hill, but after series five it rarely surfaced again. This is a little surprising, since it offered a rare opportunity for all members of the school community to have a say (even if, of course, the teachers tended to win the day most of the time – much to the pupil’s chagrin).
The thorny topic of school uniform, a running thread through series two, is brought up here. There are some, such as third-former Jess (Sara Sugarman), who are strongly opposed to uniforms – later in the episode she mutters that they might as well just brand them all and be done with it. Sugarman’s performance is so deadly earnest that it does raise a smile – for some reason the issue of school uniform seems to obsess her intensely.
Penny Lewis, as the new first year rep, has less contentious topics on her mind. She wants the school to create a bookshop, whilst the other first years want a tuck shop instead. Poor Penny – when she asks for a show of hands to support her proposal for a bookshop, none are raised, but everybody supports the idea of a tuckshop.
Her mother later suggests an obvious solution – why not have a combined tuck and bookshop. And it’s instructive to hear her pass off the idea next day in school as her own! She’s a sneaky one, is that Penny Lewis.
The school council meeting also gives us a chance to see Michael Doyle’s father, the very important (at least in his own mind) Councillor Doyle. Like his son, he’s not the nicest of chaps – Doyle Snr is pompous and officious and seems keen to block any suggestions made by the pupils. His character is in sharp contrast to Mr Llewellyn, who is prepared to listen to suggestions (and is much more approachable than his successor, Mrs McClusky would ever be).
Elsewhere, this is one of the first episodes where the trio of Tucker, Benny and Alan is clearly established. Alan was a very peripheral character in the first series, but we’ll see him become a much more central figure over the next few years. And by the time of series four he’s supplanted Benny as Tucker’s best friend (especially when Benny fades away from view in the second half of the series).
In this episode they get into trouble for taking to the school jumble sale a chaise-long they thought was left for the binman. The owner of the antique shop (or junk shop, as Tucker more accurately called it) wasn’t best pleased – but it seems that an honest mistake was made, so once the boys lug it back to the shop all was forgiven.
It’s an eye-opener to hear that the clothes sold at the jumble sale were going for five pence each. I know this was 1979, but that seems like a bargain even then! It’s even more impressive when it’s revealed that the jumble sale made £435.00. How many items at five pence a time must they have sold to make that amount of money?!
Another lovely Tucker moment occurs when he shamefacedly realises he’s sold Mrs Bennett’s rather expensive coat for five pence! Although he did honestly think it was part of the jumble, so we can’t blame him for that.