Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Eighteen

grange hill s06e18

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.

11 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Six – Episode Eighteen

  1. It’s easier to understand why it’s quite common for children to vanish between series – often because their parents wanted them to concentrate on their schoolwork and exams – but I’d have supposed that adult actors would have had a good idea if they were available for the next series.

    So when the fates of long-running characters are dismissed with a brief mention at the start of the following series (even Mr Baxter didn’t get a leaving scene, we were just told that he left to run a sports shop) it feels a little strange.

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  2. Would the more academically minded originals like Justin Bennett, Pamela Cartwright and Penny Lewis have still been (albeit unseen) at Grange Hill at this time or would they have gone to a Sixth Form College?

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  3. Logically it’s probable they’d have gone to a Sixth Form College as Grange Hill, especially at this period, was always shown to be lacking in resources.

    But then, since they all came from fairly affluent families it always seemed odd that they were at Grange Hill to begin with. In story terms it works, but in the real world you wouldn’t have expected their parents to have considered GH to be a suitable school for them.

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    • There’s a few references in the early years to a sixth form and an implication that Trisha’s elder sister is in it when she’s last seen but it’s all a bit vague and suggests they hadn’t given it too much thought.

      I think the presence of children from especially affluent families is in part a reflection of the very specific time when the show began. The tripartite system had been replaced by comprehensive schools over an extended period but the main drive was between 1965 and 1976 and it was an uneven process due to two changes of government in that time and the decision being kicked down to the local level by the Heath government (although they found too many areas were too advanced to halt the process). But by the late 1970s most of the schools had gone comprehensive even if vestiges of their roots remained (the glimpse of Rodney Bennett this season just screams ex-grammar school and implies Grange Hill was a secondary modern – hence when he arrives in the show Mr Bronson will be a school master – I use term deliberately – who’s seen his subject, school and system all taken away). And IIUC “parental preference” in trying to choose a particular secondary school was weak before the 1980 Education Act.

      As a result there would have been a generation of middle class parents who in earlier years would have done everything possible to get their children to pass the 11+ and in later years would have saved up to send their children to private schools (there was a surge in the 1980s) but instead found themselves caught out by the changes and couldn’t wait to build up reserves to go private or await admissions reforms. Instead they would have found themselves with little choice but to send their children to the local comprehensive, make sure they did well and curse Shirley Williams. Susie McMahon’s mother is an especial example of the parent who disliked the school they’ve wound up with and putting excess pressure on their child as overcompensation.

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  4. I like to think that Andrew, Justin, Penny, and Doyle would’ve all stayed to Sixth Form at Grange Hill. Justin would’ve wanted to do A Levels, but would’ve wanted to stay somewhere familiar with people he knows (We’ve already seen how badly he fares settling in in a new place, and though he may have grown up a lot since then, he’s still the same nervous little Justin we all fell in love with inside), Andrew would’ve stayed there if Justin did, Penny would’ve stayed there because I just can’t see her relinquishing her power on the school council, and Doyle would only go to sixth form because his dad made him, so would probably stay where his dad is on the board of governors, because he just likes power too. 😀

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  5. There’s scope for some follow-on novels there! Of course there was Grange Hill for Sale by Robert Leeson which was a very decent little book – it created various plotlines that, had the class of 78 remained, they might have used for the series (Booga Benson returning and recruiting Gripper, Tucker and Pamela becoming an item, etc).

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  6. Mr McGuffy was one of those ‘hippy’ type of teachers who seemed to be anti-establishment. He was a good egg who was merely a passionate man who cared about education but refused to play lip service to the politics of the teaching profession.

    He would return as a regular for Series 7, but alas he was gone by the time the series moved to Elstree (yet another character who leaves without a goodbye or mention).

    Having watching Grange Hill over the years, I have often found it interesting if certain teachers had been around in a slightly different time period.

    For Mr McGuffy, I often wondered how him and Mr Bronson would have interacted if he had stayed on another couple of years? I can imagine some interesting conversations in that staff room.

    I also reckon Mr McGuffy would have have been one of the few teachers Danny Kendal would have looked up to.

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  7. I think it is reasonable to assume that at the time of filming this episode the actors, especially the adult ones, won’t yet have been offered new contracts for the next series. At least, not until there was confirmation that a new series had been commissioned. Added to that, presumably appearing in a handful of episodes of a kids TV show each year wasn’t enough to pay all the bills. So perhaps sometimes the actors moved on because they had other gigs and couldn’t fit in filming Grange Hill.

    Whatever the reason, unless there was a conscious decision from an actor not to renew their contract, the writers won’t have mentioned the character leaving as they simply would not have known. There are some examples where they clearly did know, as with Michael Percival leaving his role as Mr Mitchell, but this may have been rare.

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  8. Apparently Lee Sparke who played Jonah was meant to drown in the swimming pool in season 7, but refused the storyline and quit the show. They replaced him with his cousin Jeremy who was killed off instead. Sad to see Miss Mooney go, a great character and some serious eye candy.

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