Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode Twelve

grange hill s02e12

Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 9th February 1979

SAG continues to demonstrate (with placards bearing the catchy slogan “Uniform’s a drag – go with SAG”).

The noise irritates the mild-mannered Mr Sutcliffe, but Mr Llewellyn seems quite unconcerned, regarding it as “one of the problems of living with democracy, having to tolerate elements you don’t agree with.”  He asks for a delegation to air their grievances – which is led, of course, by the young militant Jessica Samuels.  We know by now exactly what Jess will say (and the Headmaster knows as well, hence his slightly mocking tone).

He makes the point that he’s not prepared to do anything until it can be proved that the majority of pupils are in favour of abolishing uniform – a concept which SAG never seem to have contemplated.  He offers to raise it at the next staff/pupil council meeting – where the proposal to abolish uniform is defeated by nine votes to two.  Coincidentally, Penny Lewis is gathering support for a referendum to accurately gauge everybody’s opinions (which would seem to be the obvious way to prove, once and for all, what the majority of pupils actually want). It’s therefore odd that neither SAG or Mr Llewellyn ever seem to consider the possibility of a referendum themselves.

Naturally, Jess and the others don’t take this latest setback at all well and decide to organise a sit-in, barricading themselves into the secretary’s office.  Maximum embarrassment is created for Mr Llewellyn when Jess calls the local paper – but he’s able to diffuse the situation by telling the reporter that it’s hardly a full-scale riot – just a handful of individuals.  When the SAG members sees the reporter has left without speaking to them, this is the final straw and they begin to wreck the office (much to the dismay of Trisha and Cathy).

After the heavy artillery (Mr Baxter) is brought in to restore order, the SAG leaders are expelled whilst Trisha and Cathy are suspended for seven days.  It brings to an end one of the most confrontational plot-threads that the series would ever attempt.  Off hand, it’s difficult to recall any other teacher/pupil conflicts on such a scale as this. Although Grange Hill would deal with many contentious issues in the decades to come, this sort of open disobedience would rarely be seen again.

One thought on “Grange Hill. Series Two – Episode Twelve

  1. There’s a history of groups of students protesting and taking direct action with not much more than lip service to the wider student body in whose name they claim to be acting. An obvious real world influence (especially given the geographic proximity) may well have been the protests at the Polytechnic of North London a few years earlier when student groups almost seized control of the running of the institution and the curriculum with decisions taken by a general meeting where votes were open and intimidatory. Three lecturers wrote a book entitled “Rape of Reason” about the situation in 1975.

    The ringleaders of militant protest groups are often so convinced of the virtue of their cause (and sometimes the need to liberate sceptics from themselves) that they aren’t particularly interested in putting the issue to the all-member vote or in going through formal representative channels (and if the group as a whole goes down that approach the more militant ones approach the whole thing as “Told you so!”). So Llewellyn is being rather canny in calling their bluff and treating them as a noisy small group who can be relied upon to drive the cause into the ground rather than the riskier approach of putting the matter in the hands of the whole school body and attracting bad publicity – note how he deftly handles the press. (In an earlier episode he may have conceded the abolition of the free school meals table but publicly defending unequal treatment and humiliating pupils from poorer families is not something any rational head would want to do so best to get out of that mess. Whereas with uniforms one of the biggest lines of argument is precisely that of helping poorer families by being a leveller.)

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