Barry Hines revisits the Yorkshire secondary school territory of Kes with this meandering look at the class politics dragged up by a prizegiving speech day. Ronnie Warboys (David ‘Flaxton Boys‘ Smith) and fellow school-leavers from underachieving form 5G1 find themselves roped into various menial tasks in preparation for the ‘prestigious’ afternoon – mowing the lawn, shifting chairs, etc. This they carry out with heroically sarky reluctance. As the event draws near, battle lines are drawn up between the haves and have-nots – senior staff are separated from juniors (including a debuting Paul Copley as woodwork teacher), prizewinning pupils are slagged off in absentia on the bus by Ronnie and pals, and most telling of all, the mayor, a former steel factory compadre of janitor George (Bill ‘Harry Cross’ Dean) blanks him completely.
The action cuts to flashbacks of Ronnie’s hard home life – everyone else in the family works: his dad (Brian Glover) at the steelworks, brother Danny at the factory which looks like Ronnie’s likely destiny, and mum sewing seams. Ronnie pops round to his Grandad’s, to be regaled by some unreconstructed Old Socialism, while George tells him how the mayor sold out from his Labour roots for a spot of social climbing. The progressively liberal stance of the school (the head reads out Martin Luther King speeches, and there are “modern folk songs” instead of hymns) is shown up as the same old divisive guff, leaving kids like Ronnie, unqualified but, clearly from their winningly sharp dialogue, far from gormless, on the industrial scrap-heap.