|Fifteen years is a long time in teaching, with the classroom
a completely different place now to what it was in 1988. But one person
who's seen it all is Grange Hill's headteacher Peter Robson. He's
taught them all from Ziggy Greaves to Leah Stewart. But he was also
Grange Hill's longest serving teacher, clocking up 15 years at the
famous school. That's four more years than Mrs McClusky!
Hang on a minute - "was" the longest serving teacher? You've
guessed it - everyone's favourite headteacher has called it a day
after sixteen series. Will Grange Hill ever be the same? So, as Mr
Robson leaves on a high, let's look back at his meteoric rise from
sportsmaster to headmaster.
Robson's first appearance
1988 - SPORT'S NEW BROOM
Mr Robson first arrived at Grange Hill in its tenth series, first
shown in 1988. Grange Hill was celebrating its tenth anniversary and
he was one of several new additions that year. He was the new head
of sport, a vacancy unfilled since the departure of "Bullet"
Baxter two years earlier. He was also E4's form tutor. Straight
away, Mr Robson gained a reputation as a no-nonsense, firm-but-fair
type. He wouldn't stand any larking about from the likes of Trevor
Cleaver! But he was anything but the typical, sadistic Sportsmaster
which Grange Hill had seen before - Mr Robson believed P.E. wasn't
about winning. He wanted sport to be for everyone, not just the champions.
And so, he set up lunchtime sports clubs.
Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated Mr Robson's "sport for
all" philosophy. Traditionalist Freddie Mainwaring, the
school sports captain, believed the school teams would suffer and
clashed with Mr Robson throughout the series. "England have got
Bobby Robson, we've got Wally Robson!", Freddie told his
girlfriend Laura Reagan. But despite numerous childish protests, Mr
Robson admired Freddie's resolve and backed down on withdrawing Grange
Hill from the district cup.
As the years progressed, Mr Robson soon rose to become deputy head
following the departure of Mrs McClusky, a job he got permanently
in 1995. But it was the icing on the cake when in 1998, Mr Robson
finally became head teacher after 10 years of service at Grange Hill.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
"A PE teacher named Robson?", you might have thought when
he first appeared. Why not - three years earlier there was a music
teacher named - McCartney! Not to mention Brian Capron's character,
the woodwork teacher Mr HopWOOD. There was certainly a trend in the
1980s for Grange Hill teachers to have names in some way connected
with their subjects. Why this is we don't know. However, as Mr Robson
moved away from the PE department the significance of his name became
Freddie Mainwaring may not have welcomed Mr Robson's approach to PE,
but his "sport for all" ideology said a lot about Mr Robson
himself. In an age where teacher find themselves flooded with bureaucracy,
Mr Robson always put the pupils first. "I won't lose contact
with the kids", he promised Mrs Monroe once promoted to deputy
head in 1991. And he kept his promise; acting as personal trainer
to athletic ace Mike Bentley and arranging work experience to boost
Calley Donnington's confidence. What's more, he still taught PE as
late as 1995. And he's always enjoyed a good relationship with his
staff; even as headmaster, he remained on first name terms.The more
caring side of Mr Robson has emerged in recent series. When Maddie
was caught drinking in school in 2002, Mr Robson could have excluded
her. Instead he provided a sympathetic ear and after a heart-to-heart,
visited Maddie's mum urging her to be around more for her daughter.
The following year Mr Robson came to Amy's rescue when the pressure
of exams was too much for her.
LOSER IN LOVE...THEN MISS RIGHT COMES ALONG
In many ways Mr Robson is a traditional "old style" Grange
Hill character. Like the majority of Grange Hill's teachers he was
single for many years. But not for want of trying. A romance with
visiting American teacher Martha Jordan in 1994 fell apart and she
returned to Texas. The following year, Mr Robson was to meet his future
wife. Jayne Carver started teaching at Grange Hill as a probationer
in 1995, but it wasn't until 2002 they realised their feelings for
each other. After a whirlwind romance, they got married and the couple
have just celebrated the birth of their daughter, Clara. Congratulations
to them both!
LINKING MANY ERAS
When Mr Robson began teaching at Grange Hill, it was a very different
school. With ten years of teaching experience behind him, he was brought
in to become the school's new head of PE since Bullet Baxter. Head
teacher was the formidable Mrs McClusky, with the fearsome Maurice
Bronson her deputy. Little did Peter realise that in the years to
follow he'd be doing both jobs!
As form tutor of E4 - later E5, Mr Robson had in his charge such Grange
Hill icons as Ziggy Greaves, Calley Donnington, Trevor Cleaver and
Danny Kendall. When Danny died in 1989, Peter was a rock to both Miss
Booth and Mrs McClusky who were most affected by the rebel's passing.
As Mr Bronson and eventually Mrs McClusky moved to pastures new, Mr
Robson found himself ascending the career ladder at an astonishing
rate. In 1991 he found himself acting deputy head, despite not being
the most long-standing staff member of the day. Grange Hill itself
was undergoing something of a transition in the late 1980s. Starting
with Zammo's heroin addiction in 1986, the show was gradually progressing
towards the current format of hard issues. But day-to-day school life
would not be ignored - there would still be the crazy scams, unruly
pupils and belly laughs which gained the programme its reputation.
It was less common in 1988 for teachers to have their own storylines,
but soon that would change. Who would have imagined Grange Hill of
15 years ago doing a storyline about the effects of a government inspection
on the head teacher?
||New head of PE, replacing Geoff Baxter.
Also E4's form tutor
||Acting deputy head after Mrs McClusky's departure
||Sixth Form co-ordinator
||Mr Robson quits - the end of an era
THE MAN IN THE HEADMASTER'S OFFICE
Mr Robson also set another precedent. Before his arrival, Grange Hill
teachers only to stick around for a few years. But Mr Robson was with
the show now for 16 series. What made Stuart Organ, the actor who
played him, stick with the show? "Well, Im pleased to say
in the business its pretty highly regarded,"
he said in an interview for Grange Hill.com. "I mean, I wouldnt
stay with it for so long if I didnt believe in the series. I
think its a terrific series. And most people I speak to who
are actors think the same (they think its one of the best childrens
dramas, if not the best on TV)".
Interestingly, Stuart's parents wouldn't
let him watch GH when he was young;and reacted with dismay
when they discovered their son landed a part in the series. "Now
they won't miss an episode!", Stuart adds.In recent years, Stuart
has appeared in several other shows alongside his work for Grange
Hill. These include Wycliffe, The Bill, Holby City and London's Burning.
His latest role in The Bill was 29 April 2003. Before Grange Hill,
Stuart was best known as Brookside's Kevin Cross, son of grumpy pensioner
Harry. He now lives in London, though once lived in Liverpool, where
Grange Hill is now filmed, based at the Everyman Theatre.
HOW DID HE GO?
||* As well as PE, Mr Robson teaches
maths and geography.
* At the end of his stint on Grange Hill he'd been teaching
for 25 years (any significance there?)
* A firm believer in sport for all, Mr Robson tried to
block the appointment of the competitive Dai Hard Jones
* The pressure of Grange Hill's Ofsted inspection became
too much in 2000, Mr Robson suffered a breakdown and descent
into alcoholism. But he's usually cool in a crisis and
is known for his sympathetic ear.
* Mr Robson was last seen teaching PE in 1995, dealing
with Lucy's bigoted classmates who refused to get in the
swimming pool because they thought she had AIDS.
* Until his final year Mr Robson's first priority was
the welfare of pupils. But the school fire led him to
seek Special Technology status for Grange Hill and, to
fund this, he sanctioned the sale of school playing fields.
It's certainly an achievement playing Grange Hill's longest serving
teacher. But now Stuart has finally cleared out the headmaster's desk,
apparently unhappy with recent series. There have been many ideas
about Mr Robson's departure - would he become a househusband and look
after his new daughter? Or has Malarkey worked his way to the top
No. Mr Robson was asked to chair the regional committee for special
technology status. Mr Robson will remain an iconic figure of Grange
Hill whose presence linked together the show's evolution.