Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 4th March 1985
One of the drawbacks about switching focus between the first and fourth years is that you sometimes have to wait a little while for continuing storylines to develop. So although we left (shock horror) Stewpot and Annette locked in an embrace at the end of the second episode, it’s only at the start of this instalment that the plot kicks forward.
Stewpot, still sporting something of a hangdog expression, has to confess to Annette that he’s yet to tell Claire that it’s all over. Stroppy Annette is far from pleased about this of course. Mind you, Claire is equally as stroppy so goodness knows how he’s going to choose between them – but his habit of lying to each of everybody is obviously going to catch him out pretty soon.
And Stewpot’s appearance, in school uniform, raises the interesting topic of uniform policy during series eight. Leaving aside for the moment why a sixth-former like Stewpot would be wearing school uniform (I can’t recall this happening at GH at any other time) we’re told early on that uniform is optional from the fourth form onwards. That some ex-Brookdale and Rodney Bennett pupils turn up at the start of term in their old uniforms is explained by the fact that they’re still clinging onto the memories and loyalties of their former schools. This doesn’t explain why so many of the old Grange Hill types in the fourth year are still wearing uniform though ….
There’s also something of a glaring continuity error between the studio and film sequences (fairly understandable since they were probably shot months apart). Inside the school Stewpot is wearing a blazer, jumper and no tie, but when he ventures outside he’s lost the jumper but gained a tie. It makes him look very odd, especially when Annette, two years his junior, is a vision beside him in orange.
The arrival of Mr Bronson sees something of a realignment of Mr Smart’s character. With Mr Bronson taking on the mantle of the hard (and occasionally fair) teacher, Mr Smart has become more conciliatory – although this may be simply due to the fact he enjoys baiting Mr Bronson. There’s a great example in this episode as Mr Smart nips into the last parking place in the school, leaving a highly aggrieved Mr Bronson with no other option than to park on the street. Watch how quickly Mr Bronson speeds off through the playground after he fails to persuade Mr Smart to give way – it’s lucky he didn’t knock anyone over.
Zammo continues to rail against the Brookies, whilst Banksie and Jackie get slightly closer. The constant fighting between the rival (and now non-existent) schools irritates Jackie no end, but all becomes clear – in story terms – when Miss Washington and Mr McCartney (Tony Armatrading) announce they plan to stage West Side Story. Casting Zammo and Banksie as the rival gang leaders with Jackie as the object of their rival affections is a perfect example of life and art imitating each other.
5 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Five”
I had this comment in mind while watching Series 7, and I did notice that the art club in the penultimate episode were all in uniform, even though the guest pupils were said to be sixth formers. How accurate that is to real life at the time I don’t know!
It was ironic that Tony Armatrading would be cast as music teacher Mr McCartney as he is the younger brother of singer Joan Armatrading.
Mr McCartney was another welcome addition to Series 8 – he was down to earth and had a modern enjoyable approach to his teaching.
Sadly, Mr McCartney seemed to be one of the casualties of the post Series 8 ‘cull’ where several of cast were gone by the following year.
It is not clear, whether Tony’s decision to leave after one series was his own, as they introduced Mr Kennedy in Series 9 – another black teacher who had similarities to Mr McCartney.
Tragically, Tony Armatrading passed away in May 2021 after a prolonged illness at the young age of 59.
I don’t think his death was widely mentioned in the media and there was no reference to his passing on the Grange Hill Gold site (which hasn’t been update much during the Covid pandemic).
I think the school uniform policy for the higher years is a bit of a mess that falls into the same category as “what are the rules on pupils switching schools within the borough” – it changes depending on the needs of the episode and is also complicated by the fact that no fourth year class is focused upon until the sixth season and it takes some time for the series to make up its mind as to whether Grange Hill even has a sixth form.
In the first couple of seasons it seemed that uniform was compulsory for first through third years, unclear in the fourth year and it wasn’t always clear just which year Carol Yates and Jackie Heron were actually in or if Grange Hill even had a sixth form at this time. (Logically Carol would be in it when Trisha is in the third form but logic isn’t always there.)
The third and fourth seasons take place with an optional policy for the school but only classes in the first and third years are focused upon. Come the fifth season the fifth year is in mufti but the lower years are all in uniform. Maybe the compulsory reintroduction was staggered to avoid the problems of parents suddenly having to (re)buy uniform for only one or two years (and also to avoid a confrontation with the last year who would have been around when it was abolished in the first place). Then in the sixth and seventh season everyone is in uniform in at least the first five years and there’s almost no sign of the sixth form at all.
This season seems complicated by the merger and what looks like a waiver to encourage a smoother integration but the first years are all in uniform (as said on another post I think the costume department overdid this by giving everyone the existing uniform instead of a merger mess as the script for a later episode makes a big thing of Hollo suddenly having a new blazer); the fourth years from Brookdale and Rodney Bennett seem to be allowed mufti or their old uniform whereas pre merger Grange Hill pupils are wearing theirs; and the sixth formers we see are usually in mufti bar Stewpot here. The ninth season has all the pupils shown in uniform but no sign of a sixth form and ex Brookdale pupils in the fifth year suddenly have a Grange Hill uniform for what looks like one year only.
I’m also not entirely sure just what Stewpot is doing at the school – A-Levels, resits, something else? His dialogue with Claire in the first episode of the season suggests only she is doing the first.
It is made clear in an earlier episode that Stewpot is resitting his O-levels, so is presumably in classes with the 5th years. And maybe he still has to wear uniform because of that? Of course, that doesn’t explain the rather random distribution of uniform/mufti across the rest of the years.
The random mix is a product of the merger and the mufti would appear to be a hangover from Brookdale abolishing its uniform in its last years – last season there was no sign of Jackie or other pupils wearing the old grey outfit. The merger was confirmed pretty late in the year and so it wouldn’t have been workable to enforce a single uniform on the merged school because even if a quick decision was made to use one of the pre merger uniforms the suppliers just wouldn’t have time to get sufficient stock in. It also helps to reinforce the way the school merger isn’t complete in everyone’s minds.