Schools and Teachers: Radio Plays

The obvious play about teaching which hasn't been written yet is the story of how our education system has changed over the last 25 years.

John Clare commmented recently in his Daily Telegraph column that secondary teachers have been told to implement 547 government initiatives over this period.

Such a play would need a teacher to write it....

There are many plays about schools and teaching, but the ones below are among the best. Listen to them if you can, and enjoy. They are listed in approximate order of broadcast.

1974 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark.
1975 End of Term, by E.H.Hendry
1977 The land where the King is a child
1978 Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill, by Hugh Walpole
1980 An English Lesson, by Paul Thain.
1980 Marking Time, by Jill Hyem. TMT.
1981 The Browning Version, by Terence Rattigan
1985 Unman, Wittering and Zigo, by Giles Cooper
1985 The Passion Flower Hotel (Erskine, ad. Bert Coules)
1985 Conversations from the Engine Room, by Nick Warburton
1986 Syrup of Figs, by Joe Eaton
c1988 Mossie, by Aubrey Evans
1990 The Demon Headmaster, 4 episodes, by Gillian Cross
1991 Breaking Up, by Peter Roberts.
c1998 The Head Man, by Jonathan Smith (several plays)
1990s King Street Junior (100+ episodes), by Jim Eldridge
2000 The Bleeper Man, by Mike Harris
2006 To serve them all my days, by R.F.Delderfield (ad. S. McKenna)
2008 Higher, by Joyce Bryant
2009 Quartermaine's Terms, by Simon Gray
2012 South Downs, by David Hare


A radio adaptation of the famous novel about the schoolmistress with radical ideas, who isn't quite so clever as she thinks. She learns this by the end. The story is set in the thirties, when women with views were not appreciated in the way they are now... a totally absorbing play. At the time of writing I do not have the casting / production details to hand. 90m; I think Saturday Night Theatre.

END OF TERM....1975
29 Jan 75. By "E.H. Hendry". Very funny play about a little-known private school where all is not well. There has been a catastrophic loss of pupils, the staff are resting on imaginary laurels, and it's approaching the end of term. Stars Richard Briers/Peter Sallis/Nigel Lambert/Norma Ronald. 45m. Producer Martin Jenkins. (......I am grateful to Alan Stokes, who supplied a recording - ND)

By Henri de Montherlant (dram. Henry Reed) - a strange, dark tale set in a Catholic boarding school in a Paris suburb between the world wars. (Thanks DP)

By Hugh Walpole. Set in a boarding school at the turn of the 20th century; a new young teacher clashes with an older well-established colleague. (Thanks DP)

By Ivor Wilson. A teacher and a former 'problem' pupil meet in the trenches in WWI and reminisce about the orphan school they attended and its nightmarish headmaster. (Thanks DP)

An ambitious young teacher is demoralised by his class, who claim to have done something to his predecessor. See Giles Cooper page.

The girls' school from hell.

Very funny "sex comedy" set in a girls' school, adapted by Bert Coules. 90m.

By Paul Thain. A London teacher tries to explain the Irish question to a sink-class.

A rather sad play about a once-keen teacher who is no longer respected by his pupils or his colleagues.

By Melville Jones. With Paul Walker. An ill-mannered female student at a secondary school is appallingly rude to a teacher. A convoluted play, leading eventually to her come-uppance. I think mid to late 80s (....date now added-ND).

MOSSIE c1988
By Aubrey Evans - a thirty-minute theatre offering from the late 80s is an interesting play about schools. (Thanks CL)

Breaking Up....1991
By Peter Roberts, who has many years' experience of teaching. A hilarious schools comedy, with the staff in revolt, the school in financial turmoil, and the oiks running riot. 60m, afternoon play, only broadcast on longwave; can't remember why. With Norman Rodway, James Telfer, Carl Wright.

Better Not Singing....1991
By Patrick Costelloe (AP Wed 31 July 1991). An adult looks back on his boarding school experiences reflecting that it is better not to stand out.

THE HEAD MAN....c1998
Several plays broadcast in (I think) two series. Please see Jonathan Smith's page. Jonathan has a great deal of experience as a teacher, and there's no better person to write about "The Learning Game".

The Bleeper Man, by Mike Harris (R4 23 Jun 00; Friday play) - an interesting tale about a failing school and how an unusual Head recruits one of his old teachers, a loony leftie past her best and well into retirement, to help him pull it round. This play was full of surprises, and there was a good twist at the end. The oiks were well played too. The head, Pat, was Nigel Cooke, and Beth, his deputy, Alwyne Taylor. The director was Clive Brill. Indie. (Watchmaker production)...........(....ND, VRPCC newsletter, Sep 2000)

    Comment from Clive Lever:
    Your website says: The obvious play about teaching which hasn't been written yet is the story of how our education system has changed over the last 25 years. John Clare commmented recently in his Daily Telegraph column that secondary teachers have been told to implement 547 government initiatives over this period. Such a play would need a teacher to write it.

    Didn’t Mike Harris attempt to do that in The his Friday play, The Bleeper Man? The problem with saying that we need a play showing how the education system has changed in the last 25 years, is that you may have written that in say, 2000, but of course, 25 years ago then isn’t 25 years ago now. Harris’s play starts and ends with a speech on education reform by David Blunkett. A school in special measures gets a new headmaster. He appoints one deputy head to deal with statistics, and another, the teacher who inspired him to ‘be anything he wanted to be’, to liaise with the parents. Apparently the head gets amazing results turning failing schools around, but is he all that he seems to be, or are he and his statistician cooking the books?

Five afternoon plays broadcast on successive days - serial set in a small public school between the wars. See Cherry Cookson page (Producers). Excellent drama, well-received by those commenting on the BBC radio 4 message board. Repeated on radio 4, Apr-May 2008.

12 May 08. Comic play by Joyce Bryant. Karen is the new head of the Geography Department – renamed Geographical Tourism – at Hayborough University, which isn’t quite part of the elite Russell Group of top universities.  It is Open Day for the department and Karen is keen that she attracts the right students. Cast: Karen ...... Sophie Thompson, David ...... Mark Heap, Jim ...... Jonathan Keeble, Barbara ...... Sue Ryding, Maura ...... Maggie Fox, Angela ...... Sue Kelly, Harry ...... Ben Hood, producer Gary Brown.

Quartermaine's Terms....2009
By Simon Gray (The Saturday Play 24 January 2009). Strictly a sub-set of the genus plays about teachers and schools since it is set in a Cambridge school for foreign learners of English.

South Downs....2012
By David Hare (Saturday Drama 1 Sep 2012) The Guardian review called this a companion piece to "The Browning Version". Based on the author's own experiences at Lancing College in the 1960s.

Same title plays:
The two plays I know of called Excluded would fit into the ‘Schools and teachers’ category. They are a stand-alone play by Michael Stewart, and episode 2 of the second series of Clara Glynn’s legal dramas, Behind Closed Doors. (- CL)

Compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website, with additions by Clive Lever.

Above plays known to exist in VRPCC collections

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