Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 28th February 1984
It’s exam time and Stewpot’s feeling the pressure ….
His mood isn’t helped by Pogo cheerily telling him that he should have sat CSE’s rather than O Levels – as Pogo’s exams are nearly over. Stewpot also doesn’t seem terribly interested to learn that Pogo’s got the chance of a job (as a double-glazing salesman, a perfect occupation for him!)
The classroom used for the exam is a cheerless place – shabby and joyless – no doubt this doesn’t help to improve the general tension that everybody’s feeling. Over the next few years GH will undergo something of a transformation, most notably in the style and look of the school (the pending merger with Brookdale and Rodney Bennett has, in part, come about in order to explain why the school will look so different in the years to come). One side-effect of the changes is the way that the crumbling Victorian nature of the school to date is replaced with a much more modern environment. This is a shame in some ways, as the inner-city bleakness of the earlier years rather fades away.
Stewpot snaps out of his catatonic state once the exam starts but not in a positive way. He has something of a breakdown and has to be lead out. Prior to this, the silence in the room – as the others start writing – is used effectively to ramp up the tension as he stares at the paper blankly. Mrs McClusky is on hand to give him a pep talk which sends him back. She’s not prepared to put up with any nonsense from him. “Don’t be such a stupid little fool. Stop being weak and pull yourself together.” Fighting talk! It’s just what he needs of course, and he’s able to go back and complete the paper.
Mrs McClusky later briefly mentions that exams put the children under a great deal of pressure, but there’s no debate as to whether this pressure is too great or if there’s anything that can be done to help the more vunerable pupils. The message seems to be that you just have to get on with it the best you can.
Miss Gordon continues her quest to secure a nude model for the art club, whilst Mrs McClusky continues to be far from convinced it’s a good idea. It would certainly liven up proceedings as we see them sketching a number of twigs, not terribly exciting!
Suzanne returns. She’s looking very different (seemingly having modelled her appearance on Boy George) and outwardly is happy with her life outside Grange Hill. But her inability to get a job depresses her (which ties in neatly to the exam theme of the episode). Mr McGuffy offers to help, but Suzane isn’t convinced that exam passes are the answer. “O Levels, A Levels, that’s all you teachers think about isn’t it? Look, what is the point? There are no jobs.” This is an argument that’s been played out several times before, but Suzanne’s eventual grudging acknowledgment that he’s right leads him to suggest she attends sixth form college.
Suzanne meets up with Claire and the others, but this only serves to make her feel more isolated. The others don’t ignore her deliberately, but their banter highlights that she’s no longer a member of the school community and therefore isn’t able to join in. She’s got what she’s always wanted – Suzanne has long desired to leave Grange Hill – but now it’s happened the girl is a little lost and scared.
Her final conforontation with Mrs McClusky is an oft-repeated moment. The headmistress is appaled by the sight of the bizarrely attired girl. But Suzanne is able to have the final world by telling Mrs McClusky that since she no longer attends Grange Hill she can wear what she likes. She then proceeds to sashay down the corridor, hips swinging impressively.
Mrs McClusky agrees that the art club can have a nude model. Pogo, on hearing the news, can barely contain his excitement (he’s practically frothing at the mouth) and immediately signs up to join the club. The eventual revelation that the model is a wrinkled old man rather than an attractive young woman is a nice (if obvious) gag.