Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 4th February 1983
Mr Knowles (Eric Jury) isn’t a teacher who’s able to exercise any sort of control over his pupils and N2 are merciless in exploiting his weaknesses. Annette loves to mock his Brummie accent for example and she, together with Julie and Fay, decide to spend their lunchtime stalking him.
With Annette and Julie fluttering their eyes and declaring their love for him (even if it’s only in jest) it’s something of an eye-opening storyline. All three girls delight in copying his bandy-legged walk and follow him to the local Spar, where he does a little shopping. Yes, this isn’t an episode that’s brimming with edge of the seat action. Poor Mr Knowles has no choice but to put up with their ribbing, although it’s highly characteristic that Fay is the first to tire of these games and later leaves Annette and Julie to carry on without her.
Mr Knowles seems like an archetypical one-shot character, since the episode has a very clear arc. He starts off as pretty useless, is later shown to have some positive traits and by the end the kids are much better behaved (although they only mend their ways because they see that a School Inspector is sitting in on his class). But his one-on-one chat with Julie at the bus-stop does demonstrate that he’s able to be an effective communicator when the rest of the class aren’t around, but the question is whether he’ll ever be able to bring those skills into the classroom. And although it appears we’ve seen the last of him, he later does go on to appear as a semi-regular during series seven and by then this question has been answered somewhat.
One of the the reasons why Mr Knowles goes up considerably in Jonah’s estimation is because he supports the boy’s proposal for Flexi-Time. This is a barking mad suggestion which you know that Mrs McClusky will take great delight in dismissing out of hand during the school council meeting. And she does, although she’s icily polite when Mr Knowles pipes up in favour of it.
It may have some positive points, but the negatives (Jonah wants to make optional subjects which the school is legally bound to teach) seem fairly insurmountable. But Mrs McClusky’s instant dismissal of the suggestion isn’t surprising, but it will no doubt only serve to create resentment. Other head-teachers (like the progressive Mr Llewellyn) would have probably been more open to the suggestion, but Mrs McClusky (like her real-world counterpart Mrs Thatcher) was rarely interested in anybody else’s opinions and preferred to steam-roller her way through the school agenda.