Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Eleven

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 9th February 1988

Mr Pearson speaks! His parting words to Matthew aren’t particularly friendly though. “How many times have I told you? Don’t say ‘aint’. Just because you have to go to this dump of a school doesn’t mean you have to forget how to talk properly”. As with Mr MacKenzie’s diatribe regarding the paucity of funds during the last episode, this comment helps to reinforce the notion (not often touched upon during recent years) that Grange Hill is a far from an affluent or top-rated school.

Of course, if the Pearson family are well-off, as has been mentioned in the past, why isn’t Matthew going to a private school?

Mr Pearson’s comment also helps to restate the impression that he’s a distant and uncaring father. With Mrs Pearson and Matthew’s sister having disappeared to the country (Mrs Pearson would return, making occasional appearances for the next few years, but we’ve seen the last of the brattish Lucy) it’s not too surprising that Matthew’s wearing a troubled expression – especially if he’s now been forced to live with his father.

There’s a big hip hop competition coming up and Danny’s keen to partner Ronnie and Fiona. He’s decided that – despite his inexperience – he’d be a wizard on the decks. Fiona believes that Danny would be a liability though, so she and Ronnie are economical with the truth when Danny mentions it. This seems slightly unkind – given Danny’s recent withdrawn and angry nature, something like this would appear to be just the thing he needs to perk him up. Fiona’s decision that they need someone more professional (which Ronnie hesitatingly goes along with) marks her down as – at best – a very ambitious young women. Clearly she doesn’t want to enter the completion just for fun, she wants to win.

And still the saga of the strip hire rumbles on. Gonch is besieged by angry punters, which seems less than credible. It appears that nobody in the school ever remembers to bring their strips, so Gonch and the others face an ever increasing cycle of kit maintenance. Like Vince’s belief that Helen is desperately in love with him, suspention of disbelief is required here. Poor Gonch, having just got out of his neck brace, now receives a nasty off-screen beating from Big Tel. There’s blood everywhere (especially on the kit) which doesn’t make their business any easier ….

Tegs’ decision to attend the remedial reading class is an interesting wrinkle. Given his unconvential homelife it’s not surprising that he’s fallen behind with his studies. Tegs displays a pleasing sense of vulnerability during this scene, although he returns to his more usual persona after sensing that he’s being accused of being behind the recent spate of petty thefts.

Tensions between Calley and Ronnie continue to bubble away. Calley’s unhappy that she’s been lumbered with the kit washing (Ronnie’s spending all her time hip hopping). Calley’s complaints are the latest reason why the kit hire scheme is beginning to crumble – hopefully so, as I think it’s about time it was knocked on the head.

Gonch, Ziggy and Robbie share quite a long scene in the launderette. It’s noteworthy since it’s a one take, single camera effort . This explains why when George Christopher slightly stumbles over a few lines they’re kept in (if it was a normal scene then they’d be able to drop in an insert to cover this fumbled moment).

Freddie continues to mock the efforts of those participating in the access group – such as Vince playing badminton – at all times. It’s another boorish display from a character who doesn’t have many positive traits (unless narcissistically self-obsessed womanisers appeal). Laura and a number of extras also join in with the general jeering. Luckily Mr Robson’s on hand to ram his point of view home. “I’ve no doubt you find it very amusing, you lads, who’ve never had any trouble with sport. But it’s people like you, to whom games come easily, who make it hell for the people who find it hard”.

Even after Mr Robson concludes by telling him that his job is to ensure everybody in the school enjoys physical education, Freddie remains locked in his tunnel-vision outlook. This clearly irritates Laura – who at least has the good grace to accept that Mr Robson has a point.

As with the previous episode, Mr Bronson only makes a brief appearance, but it’s certainly memorable. When Ziggy, Robbie and a clearly unenthusiastic Gonch decide that the time has come to teach Mauler a lesson, I was all set for another interminable “comedy” chase. But luckily that wasn’t so. Instead, they all cannon into Mr Bronson, knocking him to the ground and dislodging his wig. Not only is it a rare chance to see Mr Bronson sans hairpiece, but any time that Mr Bronson’s dignity is ruffled it allows Michael Sheard to shine. The sight of Mr Bronson, his wig replaced somewhat haphazardly, desperately attempting to reassert his authority is a lovely one.

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5 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Eleven

  1. “Of course, if the Pearson family are well-off, as has been mentioned in the past, why isn’t Matthew going to a private school?”

    I can’t remember too many details from the original transmissions but my instinct on the basis the episodes in this season so far is that he was previously at one but the family have had a big financial setback (possibly related to what appears to be the parents’ separation) and school fees have become an early target saving. Lucy’s uniform in earlier episodes looks quite private school (but I’m not sure if that was as obvious in 1988) which suggests she’s still at one for now, so Matthew will be taking the immediate burden being the right age to start at a state secondary at the same time as others, though he will probably have left his old school a couple of years before the regular finish (the boys’ private sector is traditionally three tier with the relevant transfer at 13 not 11) which can’t help his mood. Note also that at times he’s more knowledgeable about subjects than his classmates but at other times ignorant and withdrawn, suggesting he’s had a different pre-secondary schooling to them. Even the way he was being dropped off at school by his mother who saw it as totally natural suggests a private school based mentality (many private school pupils live too far away to walk and don’t have direct public transport routes from home so being dropped off by parents is pretty common).

    If it’s not made explicit then it was probably to make Matthew a bit more relatable to pupils starting a new school across the board rather than narrowing the character to a limited subset.


  2. Tel was clearly about to give Gonch the ‘Glasgow Kiss’, even though the camera cut away I found it quite shocking especially as it was played for laughs.


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