Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Six

grange hill s07e06.jpg

Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 20th January 1984

Annette has received a letter inviting her to take part of the finals of the fashion contest she entered a few weeks back, but neither Miss Gordon or Mr Howard will allow her to take time off school.  This doesn’t bother her as she bunks off anyway.  Jeremy returns from suspension, as mischievous as ever.  The others give him the cold shoulder but he continues to act up during their swimming lesson, where tragedy strikes ….

Ms Firmin is her usual charming self, unable to hide her glee that she’s the only one from the school chosen for the finals.  Mandy sums her up succulently with a single word (“cow”).  It’s a mild form of abuse, but it still a slightly jolting moment.

The third years have a biology lesson where they witness a rat being dissected.  If this had occured a decade later there probably would have been a debate as to whether it should have happened at all.  But here, the teacher just gets on with it and those who want to stay do and those that don’t are free to sit in the other room.  There’s no suggestion that they don’t stay out of a sense of animal rights, simply that they felt a little squeamish.  This scene might be a little jarring for modern viewers, but it’s an accurate picture of school life back in the 1980’s.  Back then, animals were used in lessons and I personally don’t recall any objections being raised.

Jeremy can’t resist hiding Diane’s schoolbag in the same cupboard as the dissected rat, which has inevitable consequences.  It’s yet another idiotic action which further estranges him from the rest of the class and drives Mr Howard to despair.

For those keeping track of Mr Howard’s pursuit of Miss Gordon, this episode he bumps into her (literally) which seems to please him no end.  He’s certainly gained some ground on Mr Smart who hasn’t made a move for a few episodes …..

Annette’s dreams of stardom come to nothing when she realises that there’s hundreds of girls in the queue ahead of her (and they taunt her by pointing out that she’s the only one in school uniform).   She returns to school, downhearted, and refuses to get changed for swimming.  This initially seems to be just another case of her stroppiness, but then we see her roll up her jumper to look at her arm.  Together with the comments from previous episodes it’s another moment that suggests all isn’t well.  It’s also an example of how the series was now much more confident to develop plot-threads over an extended number of episodes, no doubt happy that the audience would be tuning in week after week and also that they’d be paying close attention.  Back in series two or three this would have probably been dealt with much sooner.

When I rewatched series six for this blog, I noticed that Mr Baxter mostly tended to show up on film.  And again the same thing seems to be happening here – this is the first time we’ve seen him during series seven and all his scenes here are on film.  Did Michael Cronin have other commitments which meant his time was limited, meaning many of his scenes had to be pre-filmed?

It’s rather nice to see Dennis Blanch as Mr Devereaux and he helps to serve as a reminder that I really should dig out Strangers to rewatch soon.  He’s in the one swimming pool, teaching the beginners, whilst Miss Hartley (Angela Newmarch) takes the main class in the other pool.  This isn’t the first time that pupils have been left unattended by the pool (series one, episode four) but this has fatal results.  Miss Hartley decides to go back into the changing room to speak to Annette, who’s still refusing to come out of the cubicle, although her visit proves rather fruitless.  As with the series one episode, it beggars belief that a whole class would be left to their own devices so close to water.  And the fact that nobody seems to be to blame is something we’ll discuss a little more next time.

The moment when Zammo surfaces to shout that Jeremy’s in trouble is a chilling one.  And the last few minutes, as Devereaux and Baxter frantically try to resuscitate the boy whilst the rest of the class looks on, is another striking image.  As Devereaux tells Baxter that it’s hopeless – the boy’s lungs must have filled with water immediately – the picture freeze frames.

6 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Seven – Episode Six

  1. Interesting bit of trivia – the death of Jeremy’s death was originally written for the character of Jonah Jones.

    However, the parents of the actor Lee Sparke who played Jonah made the decision to remove him from the series at the end of Series 6.

    The writers were determine to press ahead with a school death this year, and re-introduced the Jeremy Irvine character purely to be used as a sacrificial lamb. Jeremy had briefly appeared as Jonah’s cousin the year before.

    In my view, Series 7 was one of GH’s weakest years. The pool tragedy was probably the highlight – I do think because Jeremy was only a short term character, his death didn’t really have as much impact on the series as it would have done if they had gone ahead with the original idea of killing off Jonah.

    This is still a strong episode and was probably a little shocking for a tea time viewing back in 1984. The final shot with Zammo peering over the teachers at the pool side is a simple but effect ending to the tragedy of this episode.


  2. It’s a pity Jeremy wound up purely as a quick substitute character to get killed off early on as there’s a lot of story potential in how children who move school outside the regular sequence adapt and cope, especially when the schools have very different ethoses and are at different stages in the curriculum. Often their attempts to fit in go badly wrong and they can wind up as friendless loners deriving what little pleasure they can get by annoying others whilst they may also breeze through classes that do what they’ve already done. Even just the circumstances behind their move can be a factor – it’s one thing to change schools because the family’s moved area but quite another to change without moving that suggests something dramatic happened that the pupil may not be entirely forthcoming about and the others want to get to the bottom of.

    Watching the episode it isn’t very clear just why the class all suddenly react in horror. Jeremy’s been down a while but it’s not obvious that he’s in trouble unless Zammo says something that’s not clear over the splashing water.

    Also is Miss Gordon’s furious reaction a sign that she was personally disappointed in her own past?


  3. Not wishing to make light of a serious episode but I was amused by the comedic subplot of the boy with the note that gets him out of swimming. As far as I recall, he isn’t a recurring character, or has not been to date, and yet he gets quite a lot of screen time and a few genuinely entertaining scenes, especially when he is mimicking Mr Devereaux.


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