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Charley Junior's Schooldays (1949)


Main image of Charley Junior's Schooldays (1949)
35mm, 8 min, Technicolor
Written, Produced & Directed byJohn Halas
 Joy Batchelor
Production CompanyHalas & Batchelor
SponsorsCentral Office of Information
 Ministry of Education
ConsultantAlexander Mackendrick
MusicMatyas Seiber

Voices: Max Adrian, Molly Weir

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The government's reforms to the British school education system, as explained to an unborn child.

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Charley Junior's Schooldays was the seventh in a series of eight public information films designed to convey key facts about the Labour government's social reforms in the immediate postwar period. Here, animation company Halas & Batchelor's trademark fusion of clarity of expression and humour is the vehicle for some quite dense information about the proposed radical reforms to the British schools system. The changes were first conceived in the Education Act 1944, devised by Conservative education minister Rab Butler.

One of the key changes was the introduction of a tripartite system of secondary education, consisting of three different types of secondary school - grammar, technical and secondary modern - with pupils allocated to the schools best suited to their 'abilities and aptitudes' based on their attainment in a new 'eleven-plus' examination taken in the last year of primary school.

The Act's complex ramifications are summarised here in an entertaining exchange between the omniscient narrator and the unborn baby son of Charley, the everyman star of the other seven films in the series. Charley Junior is eagerly awaiting his transfer from the celestial heights to a family home "down on the earth of England", and is told how he and his generation will reap the benefits from the new system: "When you're eleven years old or so you leave your junior school and go to a school for bigger boys. There are three different kinds of school course, and you'll go to whichever one suits you best... your Dad's going to have a time with you! But you'll be having a much better start in life than ever he had."

A Scottish version was made after the Scottish information officer decided that "English systems of education differ in nature and terminology and the film... would not be suitable for showing in Scotland." The script was modified to include Scottish colloquialisms (such as "Ooh, bless its wee heart"), which it was hoped would better connect with audiences north of the border. Max Adrian's commentary was re-voiced by Scottish actress Molly Weir, subsequently better known as Hazel McWitch in the hit children's series Rentaghost (BBC, 1976-84).

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
Complete film (8:42)
Charley in New Town (1948)
Robinson Charley (1948)
Your Very Good Health (1948)
Halas, John (1912-1995) and Batchelor, Joy (1914-1991)