Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 6th February 1979
SAG are becoming increasingly militant. The first flashpoint occurs over a dispute in the school canteen, but much to their dismay Mr Llewellyn accedes to their demands. So they decide to target extra-curricular sport activities – which means that they’ll meet Mr Baxter head on …..
This episode is a fascinating time capsule of the period. Industrial unrest was an everyday occurrence in late 1970’s Britain and here we see that Grange Hill isn’t immune. SAG decide to organise picket-lines across the changing-rooms and do their best to stop their fellow pupils crossing them. The rhetoric spouted by Jess and her followers has become increasingly heated. Whereas in the earlier episodes it was possible to believe that they had a genuine desire to abolish school uniform on a point of principle, here it appears that they’re simply looking for any cause that’ll allow them to create the maximum amount of disruption.
Was this Phil Redmond having a none too subtle dig at the unions? The speedy resolution of the canteen crisis seems to confirm this, as Jess seems very disappointed that Mr Llewellyn accepted that all their points were valid. The problem centered around a table designated for those (such as Benny) who were receiving free school dinners. The stigma this causes, which Doyle gleefully uses to pick a fight with Tucker and Benny, has been a bone of contention for some time.
There’s another example of (mild) bad language, which is nevertheless a surprise to hear. But this pales into insignificance when Jess stands on the table, insisting that the Headmaster is brought to them immediately. Others follow suit and all of the pupils make a lot of noise. It’s not exactly a riot, but it’s still a scene that would have no doubt provided more ammunition for those who contended that Grange Hill was a bad influence.
When Mr Llewellyn arrives, Jess outlines their grievances. “This is merely a demonstration to highlight the humiliation, the degradation and the embarrassment a lot of students have to suffer. Not only due to their family circumstances, but because they’re forced into a situation which stigmatizes the poor.” It’s another dramatic moment which shows how the series had evolved from the fairly low-key first series.
Tucker is also able to wring from the Headmaster another concession – that the older pupils will no longer serve the younger ones with their meals. He’s unhappy that some, like Booga Benson, have been short-changing them. This is the first time that Booga (later to become Tucker’s nemesis) is mentioned but it’ll be some time before we actually see him in the flesh.
Mr Baxter later refers to the SAG committee as louts and there’s a telling confrontation between him and the SAG leaders on the playing fields. They might be able to intimidate some of the other teachers, but there’s no doubt that Mr Baxter isn’t going to back down. However, he does require the help of some of the older pupils (led by Gary Hargreaves) to ensure that the cricket team (heading off to play a match against Brookdale) are able to reach the school bus unmolested.
Several players are pressurised to step down, so Tucker, Alan and Justin step in. This leads to some classic comedy moments between Tucker and Mr Baxter. Tucker is keen as mustard – he wants to be the wicket-keeper, but Mr Baxter tells him to get out into the field instead. And when it’s their turn to bat, he’s constantly trying to get onto the pitch, but Baxter tells him that he’ll only get a turn when he’s given up hope!