Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 4th March 1983
This is an all-film school-based episode (something which was quite common during previous series but not so during this year). The main theme is how Mrs McClusky is able to manipulate events to her best advantage.
She’s already decided to reinstate Mr McGuffy, but that presents a slight problem – since the staff are well aware of the impending demo by the pupils to demand his return. Mr Smart, rather delightfully, is the only teacher brave enough to query whether she’s been at all influenced by their protests. As ever, Gwyneth Powell gives Mrs McClusky a wonderful mixture of sweetness and steel as she tells him that no, she always makes her own mind up.
Mr Smart is in a scene-stealing mood. As Miss Mooney and Mrs McClusky discuss how gifted Jonah is, and whether he’s planning to sacrifice academic achievement in order to maintain his popularity, Mr Smart looms in the background, making tea and not speaking a word – although the eye is irresistibly drawn to him!
Jonah’s not terribly popular at the moment though. He’s disinclined to get involved with the demo at first, but then changes his mind as he decides to create an impressive banner. But his ambition outstrips his ability and despite all the previous comments about his brilliance, he doesn’t seem to notice that he’s not left enough space to get all the letters in. This alienates him from the others even more, but he makes amends by opening the locked school doors, which enables the protestors to occupy the assembly hall.
And that’s his last contribution to the series. Also bowing out in this episode are Miss Mooney and Mr Hopwood and, like Jonah, they just fade away with no acknowledgement made that they won’t be returning. A slight pity, as both Lucinda Gane and Brian Capron had been notable presences over a number of years, but it’s not the first or last time that staff and pupils at Grange Hill just vanish with no ceremony.
The return of Mr McGuffy is a gloriously awkward moment. As the impressively large body of pupils chant for his return, they then eerily fall silent as he does appear and slowly makes his way to the front. Claire, Suzanne and the others are appalled to discover that he was reinstated the previous day, so they feel they’ve made all this effort for nothing. The irony that they’re not even slightly pleased to see him (despite the banners and chanting) is picked up by him – and there’s also a real sense that they used Mr McGuffy simply as the figurehead for all their frustrations about the school. If Mr McGuffy had been reinstated due to their pressure they would have been delighted, but since the decision was taken out of their hands it only serves to reinforce how impotent and powerless they are.
Mrs McClusky does offer the olive branch of possibly allowing the pupils to take more of a role in future decision making, but – like her manipulation of the flexi-time referendum – you can be sure she’ll always end up on top.
And with the long-range reveal of Pogo’s girlfriend (an unnamed pupil from St Mary’s) series six draws to a close. Always a favourite series of mine, it still impresses, more than thirty years on.