Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 23rd January 1979
The next day, Benny continues to fret about Simon’s safety. Tucker’s not concerned though – they went back into the school and he wasn’t there, so he must have got out alright. Tucker being Tucker, of course, can’t help himself by telling the concerned Benny that if they did discover a charred corpse they’d be able to identify it from the dental records!
It turns out that Simon’s fine, although the fire damage is quite costly and money has to be taken from the funds raised by the recent jumble sale.
His inability to read is eventually revealed when he confesses this fact to Trisha. As previously mentioned, it does stretch credibility to breaking point that he’s survived so far into the first year without his problem being recognised. We saw in the previous episode how he was able to get out of reading by feigning sickness – are we supposed to think that he’s been doing the same thing all the year?! Trisha, of course, loves a lame duck and takes it upon herself to teach him (telling the boy he needs to address her as Miss Yates and give her an apple!)
Simon tells her why he’s kept his problems with reading a secret – he doesn’t want to have to leave Grange Hill and be placed in a “special school”. Dyslexia really became a recognised condition in the 1980’s – prior to that, as Simon says, people who couldn’t read were usually labelled “thick or stupid.” It’s another early example of the series’ public-service ethos – undoubtedly some of the audience would have identified with Simon’s problems and Mr Sutcliffe’s sympathetic reaction would have helped to reassure them.
Having said that, it’s slightly concerning that Simon will, after all, have to transfer elsewhere – with all the stigma that attending a special school entails. This may have been seen as quite reasonable back in the late 1970’s, but it does strike a slightly discordant note today.