Nowadays, with such a rich past to look back on, most people assume you had to be a famous playwright to get a play produced by the BBC’s Play For Today strand. However, John Challen proved that a first attempt by an unknown writer could still make it to the screen. A teacher at an education college in Lincoln, Challen wrote Headmaster, addressed it to BBC Plays Department, and carried on teaching. Director Anthony Page read it, liked it, and asked to direct it.
That “modest achievement”, a result of what Challen called “the hurly burly” of teaching for over 20 years, sees Frank Windsor play the titular head of a school with an increasingly tenuous grip on his position. Intriguingly, given that that it was made 40 years ago, Headnaster shows how little has changed in teaching, given its focus on the conflict between old and modern teaching methods, as well as the eternal jockeying for position amongst teaching staff.
The play was popular enough to merit a six-part series in 1977, written by Challen and with Windsor and other cast members retained. You can watch it below. Enjoy!