Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 8th January 1980
It’s the start of a new school year and Grange Hill is preparing itself for an influx of fresh first years. Mr Sutcliffe has spent hours going around the school putting up signs to help the newcomers, but unfortunately things don’t quite go to plan.
As with the notices seen in the very first episode, the arrows can be moved in the opposite direction – and Cathy does so here. When will people learn that it’s a much better idea to draw the arrows on! Mr Sutcliffe also attracts the ire of Mr Garfield and his colleague – since all the notices (affixed with sellotape) have damaged the walls. This allows Mr Sutcliffe to make some forceable points to both of the caretakers, about how a school exists to serve the interests of the pupils (leaving you with the feeling that all school caretakers would much prefer it if there were no children about …)
Amongst the influx of new arrivals are Michael Green (Mark Bishop) and Karen Stanton (Carey Born). Both are escorted to school by their older brothers, Benny and Andrew – but once they arrive things are very different. Andrew is overprotective to a ridiculous degree, which irritates the independent Karen no end, whilst Benny leaves the overawed Michael very much to his own devices.
The other main characters in the first form are Duane Orpington (Mark Baxter), Tracey Edwards (Amanda Mealing) and Douglas “Pogo” Patterson (Peter Moran). Out of this crop of newcomers, only Pogo and Duane would reach the fifth form – poor Karen and Tracey don’t even manage to make it to the second half of this school year!
This was a common problem during the series’ entire run – children would drop out for various reasons (exams, etc) and replacements would have to be drafted in. In series four, it’s clear to see that Tracey’s place was taken by Clare Scott (both of them were friends with Duane, for example) whilst Karen was replaced by Suzanne Ross.
On the teacher front, Miss Peterson (Cheryl Branker) attracts some casual racist comments from Doyle, although he’s wise enough to make them just out of her earshot. Our first sight of Miss Mooney – dropping a pile of textbooks with an annoyed comment of “bother” – is a characteristic introduction to someone who always seems slightly disorganised, but is also a first-rate teacher who cares for her pupils.
Since the first two series covered one school year, series three and four cover another – and in the gap between the second and third series the original influx of pupils have moved from the first form to the third. The only time this gap doesn’t quite work is when Trisha asks Sudhanami Patel (Sheila Chandra) why she’s still wearing school uniform, since it’s now been made optional. She’s had a whole (unseen) year to ask that question!
The theft of Duane’s bike seems to be an isolated incident, but we’ll see that the bike thefts become a running theme through the early episodes – culminating in Madelin Tanner receiving her long-awaited comeuppance.
4 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode One”
What was unrealistic about series three and four of Grange Hill was that some pupils wore uniform and some didn’t. (The ones who did were probably the ones whose parents made them.)
It was during the academic year that this series was broadcast that we had a debate on school uniform at school and our teacher said that you either have a school uniform that everyone wears, or you don’t have a uniform at all. You can’t have a uniform that’s optional.
I wonder if there were real life schools of the period who did have/keep the uniform as optional?
Although it’s not explicitly said (yet?) there are several suggestions in the series that Northam has only recently switched over to comprehensive education (in real life the move had been going on for many years but one of the biggest shocks was the 1976 Education Act that forbade selection) and there are still parents who are not particularly happy with comprehensive schools but feel trapped in them because other options aren’t viable because of cost or disruption. Such parents would be horrified at the complete abolition of school uniforms and it’s easy to see a school keeping the uniform as optional *for parents to choose* to cater to such parents (and in turn the uniform would not automatically carry a stigma of being from a poor home). Susi McMahon’s mother is the best depiction so far.
(Jumping forward several seasons we’ll meet a teacher who almost certainly started out as a grammar school master – the term is quite deliberate – who winds up at Grange Hill through comprehensivisation and amalgamation. Much of his attitude is easy to understand as someone who hates all the changes but can’t do anything to reverse them.)
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I always found Series 3 of Grange Hill to be a mixed bag.
The arrival of the new first years (the second intake of pupils after Tucker’s year) are a welcome addition, but some of the newcomers would be gone by Series 4, as they would introduce favourites like Suzanne, Claire and of course Gripper.
Another odd thing here was the absence of Mr Llewellyn throughout the third series. He is still the Head and would ultimately hand the baton over to the legendary Mrs McClusky the following year.
At first, I thought actor Sean Arnold had left to do Bergerac, but that didn’t begin production until 1981, when GH’s fifth series was in the pipeline.
Mr Llewellyn’s absence this year does seem to leave a bit of a void after he made such an impression the previous year.
If you listen to the dialogue in the season carefully it seems that Sean Arnold proved unavailable at very short notice. There are some scenes on film that namecheck Mr Llewellyn as the person characters are going to see only for the meeting to be a studio scene with Mr Keating. Clearly even at the location stage it was assumed Arnold would be available for the studio recordings hence the resort to a deputy covering on film rather than a replacement.