Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Sixteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 26th February 1988

Time has moved on since the events of the last episode. We never see Ronnie’s police interview or the reaction of her mother after she learns that her daughter has been arrested. Instead, the episode opens with Mrs Birtles and Ronnie both sitting in their living room – Ronnie is staring into space whilst Mrs Birtles is doing a spot of needlework (possibly it’s simply to take her mind off the horror of recent events).

Mrs Birtles isn’t positioned as a particularly strict or forbidding parent. Instead she regards her daughter more in sorrow than anger, an attitude which no doubt only helps to increase Ronnie’s sense of guilt and shame. Unlike Tegs, to whom criminality comes naturally, the Birtles are a nice, middle-class family who no doubt aren’t familiar with a scandal of this nature.

When Ronnie eventually does speak it’s in an unearthly monotone. Mrs Birtles appears to be more distraught than her daughter, fretting that Ronnie will have a black mark against her name for the rest of her life. And how will she get a job then? The contrast between the scenes here and Tegs’ free and easy attitude to the law is striking.

There’s also a fascinating moment of role reversal after Mrs Birtles breaks down in tears and Ronnie goes over to comfort her.

Calley is guilt striken to learn that she may have been responsible for Ronnie’s shoplifting misadventure. She’s keen to confess her own crimes, but Helen and Georgina would prefer to keep quiet ….

We haven’t seen Mrs Pearson for a while. She drops Matthew off at school and tells him that although things are difficult at the moment, they will get better. There’s an interesting story beat after she tells him that she’s sure he always has fun with his father on the weekends. The look on her face and her faint hesitancy implies that she knows all is far from well, but if that’s the case, why hasn’t she done anything about it?

Mr MacKenzie continues to be anxious about Matthew’s wellbeing, but his concern still hasn’t resulted in any positive action yet – although a meeting with the educational welfare officer has been arranged for the following week.

Justine’s hair is very red today. This is something which yet again catches Mrs McClusky’s eye, although it’s not too dramatic a change (had it been green, then fair enough). She continues to fret about the best way to help Tegs learn to read. Trisha schooled Simon in secret, but Justine doesn’t seem to have considered this – instead, she wants the school to help (not unreasonable).

Freddie and Laura begin their protest campaign against Mr Robson’s policy of non-competitive sports. The sit-down protest on the hockey field is chiefly memorable for the way it stuns the cheerful and relentlessly hearty games mistress. It doesn’t matter how many times she blows her whistle, they ‘ain’t shifting.

Finally the truth about Matthew’s abusive father comes to light. Mr MacKenzie, who had earlier expressed concern about the boy once again, is aware that during his craft lesson Matthew’s rather apathetic and listless. Given this though, it seems rather irresponsible for the teacher to let Matthew loose on a dangerous piece of equipment.

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6 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Eleven – Episode Sixteen

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