Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Three

Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 9th January 1990

Today’s episode opens with a race against time – Ronnie and Calley are using the school photocopier to run off more anti-vivisection posters, but Mr Hargreaves is getting ever closer to them ….

As the photocopier keeps ticking away agonisingly slowly, will they be able to escape before he catches them? Well yes. But he does find a warm photocopier, which sends him scurrying to the log to see who last used the machine. The total cost is probably just a drop in the ocean, but it’s plain that every penny counts for him.

I’m a bit baffled as to why the staff-room (where the photocopier is located) was unlocked. That just seems to be asking for trouble.

After a few years during which the teaching staff became fairly negligible characters, it’s interesting to observe that we’re entering an era where they become much more central again. Today that’s highlighted by an entertaining staff room meeting where Mr Hargreaves holds court to an air of general apathy.

Chief apathetic is Mrs Monroe, who masks her dislike of the man with an air of polite brutality. Mr Hargreaves has now emerged as a thrusting Thatcherite figure – eagerly espousing concepts such as economy and image, worrying about how Grange Hill is seen in the marketplace and attempting to find ways to provide good value for their consumers (i.e. the parents). He rounds off his speech with a rallying cry of “traditional values”.

Mrs Monroe later attempts to give him what he wants – a school song sung in Latin by R1 (her “empty-headed vessels” as she delightfully calls them). This leads to a nice beat of tension between the pair as he correctly assumes that she’s mocking him. Mr Hargreaves is a very different character from Mr Bronson then, but I’d say the change has done the series good.

Elsewhere, Mike and Georgina start to get a little closer, although this means that he misses his lunchtime training session (much to Robbie’s chagrin, who’s been working out on his own). Mr Hargreaves is displeased with Mike’s lack of application – as a star athlete he brings prestige to the school but without this skill he’s nothing.

Although Mr Hargreaves has been set up as a somewhat pompous and comic character (today he receives his nickname “Mad Max”) moments like this are illuminating. His single-minded drive to raise the profile of the school means that he has little interest in the pupils as people – only in what they can deliver for Grange Hill’s greater glory.

We also find out that Justine’s boyfriend is called Andy and that Rod is an extremely sharp type. Pretending to Trevor that he can’t play darts and then fleecing him in a money game isn’t very friendly.

2 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Three

  1. I lose track of all the big Education reforms of recent decades but I’ve got a feeling the writers were reacting to the Education Reform Act 1988 which was one of the biggest shake-ups since the war. As well as abolishing the Inner London Education Authority (which Grange Hill appeared to have been under although the show hasn’t touched on its control for a while), it gave heads greater financial control over the schools at the expense of local authorities and I think also extended parental choice of school. So a Deputy Head who acts in part like a Bursar/School Business Manager and approaches the institution as a business providing a service does bring part of the real life debate around what schools should be striving for into the show, though I wonder how much of this was grasped by the contemporary audience or if they had much interest in thinking through the issues themselves. Still it allows for good moments as the teachers react in different ways, especially Mrs Monroe’s defiance.

    I think this is also the first time “Ms” has been heard in the show when the Art teacher is annoyed with Mr Hargreaves and corrects his usage, though the credits still call her “Miss Booth”. When did the usage take off in the UK? I can’t remember any of my teachers being “Ms”.

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    • I had an English teacher in the very early 1980s, Ms Carruthers, who was very insistent on the Mzzzzz. It seemed very new at the time. But everyone else was a Mrs or a Miss so it wasn’t very common.

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