5. Grange Hill
A world away from the clean air and pure living of the Chalet School is Grange Hill. A British TV series set in a North London secondary school (similar to a high school), it was gritty and dealt with the issues that teenagers faced in the mid 80s. One character’s heroin addiction eventually led to a single (“Just Say No”) and the Grange Hill cast appeared at the White House to secure Nancy Reagan‘s backing for their anti-drugs campaign. The series actually ran for 30 years, from 1978 to 2008, but never quite regained the highs of that mid 80s trip to Pennsylvania Avenue. During that time, it saw hundreds of “students” pass through the school doors, and a myriad of issues covered from dwarfism to rape. If you did want to send your kid to a fictional school, this probably wouldn’t be high on your list.
4. Sunnydale High
Talking of schools you probably wouldn’t send your kids to, how about one where students “skip straight to the obits” when reading the school paper? Yes, it’s Sunnydale High, as featured in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its attractive features include a sunlit courtyard and a freakishly high mortality rate. There’s also a bell tower that’s perfect for students wishing to shoot themselves, a gym where cheerleaders occasionally combust and a cafeteria where the food sometimes turns into snakes. Oh, and a gloomy library stocked with nothing but books on witchcraft and demons. And it’s also a hole in the ground, following the finale of series 7. But don’t let that put you off – they have a lovely prom, apparently. With barely any hellhounds.
3. Malory Towers
There are many stories set in girls’ boarding schools in Britain but this is perhaps the definitive one. Written by Enid Blyton, it follows the story of “hotheaded” Darrell Rivers, who gets herself into trouble all the time, thanks to her temper. But at heart, she’s a “good egg”. Midnight feasts are compulsory, Lacrosse is the game of choice and there are larks aplenty. But there are some dark issues covered, even in the first book when Darrell almost kills a girl called Sally, who is later proved to be a compulsive liar, pathologically jealous of her baby sister. There’s a lot of rage pent up in this school by the sea. But somehow it has become the blueprint for every school story written ever since, and the planned destination of every small girl who had ever packed a suitcase and declared themselves “off to boarding school” Or was that just me?
2. Bayside High School
In some ways the American equivalent of “Grange Hill”, “Saved by the Bell” ran from 1989 to 1993 and was set in Bayside High School, but was an altogether lighter proposition than the gritty British show. True, there were occasional serious issues dealt with, like drugs and divorce, but it was mostly just a gang of kids getting through high school as best they could and the fun they had along the way. The clothes were bad, the hair was even worse, but it was cool in its own, very geeky way. The exploits of Screech, Slater, Lisa, Kelly, Jessie and Zack spawned several spin-offs and has even made it onto lists of the best comedy shows ever. If you had to choose a TV school for your child, you could do worse than Bayside.
But why settle for an an ordinary school when you could choose a magic one? True, the student mortality rate equals that of Sunnydale High and there may still be a basilisk lurking around the basement somewhere, but think of all the cool things they’d learn! Floating pencils, summoning silvery things to ward off things you never knew you had to worry about…all great life skills that they can take out into the workplace! Of course, the big disadvantage is the exclusivity – it’s invitation only, and if you wait until your child’s 11th birthday for the letter confirming their place, then you’ve probably missed out on applying to other educational options. So, if you suspect your child is all-Muggle (or a squib), then Hogwarts isn’t the place for them. Good luck in explaining why their school will have no broomsticks or magically-appearing food. But if they seem too disappointed, remember that not attending Hogwarts greatly improves your chances of surviving to graduation!