Grange Hill. Series Four – Episode Sixteen

grange hill s04e16

Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 20th February 1981

The subject of options is discussed for the first time. There are some (such as Tucker) who complain that they’ll still have to do subjects they dislike, like English and Maths whilst others (Pamela, for instance) have everything mapped out as they’ve already planned their route to University.  We also hear that some pupils consider all options to be a waste of time as they’ll be no jobs for them when they do leave school.

This will be a regular theme that occurs every few years, as options are discussed with each new class in turn, and many of the points that are raised here will occur again and again – although that doesn’t make them any less valid.

An interesting moment occurs when Trisha learns she’s not able to do technical drawing, mainly it’s classed as a boy’s subject.  It hardly needs to be said that if you ever tell Trisha she can’t do something it only makes her more determined to do it anyway.

She has a meeting with Mrs McClusky who tells her that there’s only a limited number of spaces available for technical drawing and it’s already oversubscribed.  She then informs Trisha it’s more likely that a woman will give up her career to bring up a family.  It’s hard to imagine this is a view that Phil Redmond would have endorsed, but it probably would be an accurate picture of the education system at that time – as females could often be classed as subordinate to males.

Although Trisha’s not best pleased, it’s possible to understand Mrs McClusky’s point of view.  The school only has limited resources and whatever way they choose to use them somebody is bound to lose out.

But another of Mrs McClusky’s decisions has drawn more general disfavour – her decision to expel Cathy, Gerry and Ruth.  All three are shocked by this and it does seem a very harsh punishment for skipping class on one afternoon.  It is interesting though that Mrs McClusky tells them that her decision could be overturned if they appeal to the school governors.  I can’t think of many occasions in the future where Mrs McClusky finds herself answerable to others (except when she’s relegated to deputy head in a few years time).

But as it turns out, Cathy’s mother is able to persuade her that it would be better to cane the girl than expel her.  It’s something that Mrs McClusky is reluctant to do, but Mr Keating is more in favour since he considers it will serve to discourage others from breaking the rules.

And poor Tucker’s hopes of a date with Pamela seem to be dashed forever when he overhears her telling Susi that she’d rather go out with Penny Lewis’ pony!

10 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Four – Episode Sixteen

  1. Thanks very much for these episode “commentaries”! There’s something rather odd with this episode: at around 13m50s we see Trisha loitering in a corridor, waiting to go into McCluskey’s office. While she’s waiting, the otherwise long-time-missing Benny Green walks past her. It’s clearly Terry Sue-Patt but relegated to a non-speaking, walk-on role. It seems very odd to have brought back an “established” character/actor for just a fleeting, inconsequential appearance!


    • Terry Sue-Patt’s very dimished role in s4 has always intrigued me. I’m pretty sure that all his brief appearances are on film, so possibly this short scene was shot at the same time as one of his other episodes in order to bulk up his role slightly.


  2. This is a well remembered episode because a pupil got the cane, and you saw her being caned.

    But what is really jarring is Trishia not being allowed to do technical drawing because it’s over subscribed and preference was being given to boys.

    At my school the people who didn’t get their first choices of subject (and the vast majority did) didn’t get it because the course was undersubscribed rather than oversubscribed. And in the first year every pupil, boys and girls, had to try out woodwork, metalwork, needlework and cookery for half a term each, before deciding which craft subjects to take next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We were discussing this on a Grange Hill forum on Facebook and series 4 is where corporal punishment is last used in the series, as Pogo and Cathy get the cane and Mr Hicks knocks Stewpot around and slippers a pupil. Then it’s never mentioned again. I can assume in common with many schools in the early eighties, Grange Hill has phased it out. Also after series 4, Mrs Mc Cluskey seems to mellow a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’d forgotten about ‘slippering’. Back in the late 70s there was a terrifying maths teacher at my school who kept an old plimsol in his desk drawer to apply to the backsides of bad lads. Nobody batted an eyelid at this going on. At my junior school one teacher used to regularly smash the blackboard eraser down on any naughty boy’s head!!!

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    • I was choosing my options at the same time as this series. First form to third form years girls in those days did Home Economics and Needlework, boys did Woodwork and Technical Drawing. Although we see some first year boys doing a cookery class at Grange Hill (Pogo first made some Rice Krispie cake there) I think this may have been unusual for the time. I detested needlework with every fibre of my being and would have much preferred woodwork or tech drawing but it didn’t occur to me that girls could or should such was the strict gender divide at the time!

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      • Where and when did you go to school?

        I started secondary school in 1975, and we did trial periods with the craft subjects in the first year, and we could choose which craft subjects we did after that. No sex discrimination.

        As it turned out most of the girls in my year chose to do needlework and home economics, and there were definitely more boys who did cookery than girls who did woodwork and/or metalwork. So of we’d had the set up that we had in your school there would have been more boys being disgruntled about not being allowed to do cookery.


      • But going back to Grange Hill. In the abysmal first series there was a woodwork lesson and it was all boys. From Pongo Patterson’s year onwards they would never show a cookery lesson without showing some boys doing cookery, or a woodwork or metalwork lesson without some girls in the class.


    • My dad went to a grammar school during the days of the school certificate. At his school pupils either went into the science stream and studied biology, chemistry and physics, and French, and either history or geography, or they went into the arts stream to study history and geography, French and another language, usually Latin, and general science.

      I don’t know if everyone went into the stream they wanted, but in my dad’s year there were more pupils in the science stream who wanted to do geography than those who wanted to do history, so some people who wanted to do geography had to do history instead.


  3. I attended a secondary modern( bottom grade secondary school that only taught CSEs) for two years and the policy was only boys could do craft subject and girls could do hone economics. No one challenged this policy as it was what the school had done for decades. Same as my next secondary school, a semi selective grammar school, although being a more academic school, the only craft subject they offered was TD, and no girl ever asked to do this subject.
    Also in series 4, Mrs Mc Cluskey comes across as a far more authoritarian and less sympathetic figure than the later version, who is quite liberal and understanding to difficult pupils like Danny Kendall. Threatening to expel Cathy and her friends merely for bunking off lessons to rehearse in their groups surely would have merited a week’s detention.


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