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    Willey Russell’s play, “Our Day Out” Essay

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    In Willey Russell’s play, “Our Day Out” the deprivd youth of inner city Liverpool are treated to an exciting day out to Wales. They are so poor they cannot aford a proper breakfast or even school uniform. Four teachers r responsible for them. First there is the kind, gentle and understanding Mrs. Kay, described as a “mother hen”. Mr Briggs, the strict disciplinerian is sent to watch over the trip. The young teachers and lovers Susan and Colin do not play a larg part, but add humour to the play. But, after an incident at the beach, both Mrs. Kay and Mr. Briggs change.

    The playright makes it clear that different teaching methods and ideas clearly suit different classes, and that one of the teachers is clearly better at teaching the Progress Class. This is because of the way they treat the children and their understanging of the children’s situation. This is shown by the way the playwright uses the visits to the zoo, castle, fairground and beach, especially Briggs and Carols encounter on the clifftop, which changes his view of her and her inner-city neighbors. Mrs. Kay is the teacher all the children love. At the begginning of the play she is surounded by them: “One group of kids surrounds a teacher, Mrs. Kay. ”

    She is kind and caring towards the children because she understands their problems and feels sorry for them. She calls them “love”. Even when Briggs is angry, she still smiles, and although she is civil towards him it is clear she disagrese with his harsh and impolite behaviour. She has to be polite towards him because he is intent upon getting her sacked: “When we get back to school…your number up. ” She is slightly ironic and sarcastic as well, as she calls him “Mr Happiness”. This is funny because he is clearly a very grumpy and disagreeable character, one of the reasons he is not a good teacher for the Progress Class.

    Mrs. Kay knows the area the children live in, one of the roughest around, and teaches the very worst of them, the Progress Class, so called because they cannot read or write properly: ” Y’ go down there … if y’ backward like. ” Therefore she tries not to stub their hopes: “Well you could try, couldn’t you, love? ” She knows they will probably not get the qualifications they need to get a good job, and will end up as “factory fodder”. Their school is poorly funded as they are unpopular with parents and attract fewer pupils than most other schools.

    They are unlikely to get a job at all, as all the factories are closing down, as well as the docks. She tries to make their lessons fun because their lives at home are so bad. Some of the children’s mothers are prostitutes: “all the fellers she picks up on Parly…them Blacks pay a fortune for a bit of White. ” Others beat them because they will not share their cigarettes: “but when me dad comes home, sir, sir, he belts me… because I won’t give him one. ” They must be so poor that their parents cannot afford to buy cigarettes, and somehow Andrews has some. Perhaps he has taken to stealing them.

    For these reasons she tries to make the lessons more fun so that they want to learn, and although she cannot control them, they all love her so much they wouldn’t want to cause any trouble. When they are told off by her they learn from it because she explains why it is wrong: “let’s have no silly squabbling or doing anything that might be dangerous”. Her only rules are to “think of other people too. ” This means that they do learn to read and write, and they carry on to examination classes: “Now you can read and write you’re back in normal classes. ” If they get that far maybe they will have a future.

    This is Mrs. Kay’s reason for teaching them. She tries to act like a mother to them, because a lot of them have never had someone to cuddle up to who loved them. Andrews’ mother is too busy selling her body to keep the family going, and his father beats him. She is warm and personal, she tries to “get them to call her Helen”, and they end up chanting it. She even breaks rules so that the children can enjoy themselves, by letting Digga and Reilly come, even though they aren’t in the Progress Class: “You know I’d take you. But it’s not up to me…you’ll have to get Briggs’ permission. She wants them to enjoy themselves as well. She persuades the coach driver not to search them for lemonade because “lemonade never touches their lips. ”

    Her little speech is so effective the coach driver sends a kid to get sweets for them all. She lies for them, and trusts them to keep their lemonade and chocolate out of the driver’s view. When she tries to discipline them, it doesn’t really work, and the kids know this: “Andrews I’m gonna tell miss…Digga go’n tell her. She won’t do nott’n anyway. ” She is a soft teacher. The children would rather tell Mrs. Kay because Mr. Briggs is too strict. Mrs. Kay does not tell them off for smoking, because she knows how hard things are and she smokes herself:

    “Mrs. Kay sits at a table … she lights a cigarette. ” At the beach Mrs. Kay has fun and plays with them, but is a very irresponsible because she loses Carol. This is the only really bad point about her character. When things go wrong it is her fault. This is one of the reasons Briggs is so different; everything he does is perfectly scheduled and timed. The main reason Mrs. Kay is a good teacher is because she makes their lessons fun and they want to learn.

    The way she teaches them, by example not punishment makes them want to please her, by learning well. She is experienced at teaching their level. She understands their problems and just how awful their lives at home are. She is a little ray of sunshine in their lives. After the events on the cliff she gets herself together, organises the group and becomes much more responsible: “At the moment I’d say the most important thing is to find the girl … Susan, you keep these lads playing football. We’ll split up and look for her. ” She becomes the leader, directing the others, and it turns out she is a good leader.

    By being impulsive and splitting them up, she is found. She also stops the alarm being raised among the kids by leaving Susan to keep them busy. All Briggs can do is to criticise them and be negative: “All I can say is it’s a wonder you haven’t lost a dozen of them…when we get back to school, your numbers up. ” Mr Briggs teaches the examination classes. The children he teaches are also from this deprived area, but are not so demanding. His strict teaching methods tend to work better with his classes because they have better manners. He tends to be much more strict and impersonal.

    It is not until he saves Carol from the cliff he realises just how bad it is. Mr Briggs is grumpy and bossy. Even when he is greeted cheerfully by Mrs Kay, he still replies “begrudgingly”. He likes order and is very keen on discipline. The children dislike him for the same reason they love Mrs Kay – he is horrible and appears to hate them: “You hate all the kids”, but she is kind and loves them. To the children he seems boring and his idea of ‘fun’ is very different to theirs, for example when they pass the old docks:

    “I’m often down here…taking notes, photographs. He totally disapproves of the children getting sweets, as he wants it to be a educational trip: “sweets! ” Mr Briggs obviously comes from a better-off area, and although he is gentlemanly he is quite snobbish towards them. He feels it is bad to cane a girl: “be grateful you’re not a lad” but would not think twice about giving her an earful. On the cliff Carol says: “Sir, sir, y’know if you’d been my old feller, it woulda been all right. ” He knows they come from a bad area, but has no real idea of their lifestyle, and if he does he chooses to ignore it or he would feel guilty.

    He looks down on them, especially those in the Progress Class. He shows this when he lets Reilly off and punishes Andrews: “All right, all right to Reilly” and “Get to the front! to Andrews”. Andrews is still in the Progress Class, so he picks on him, even though he knows it was Reilly’s cigarette. He treats them like dirt, not even bothering to call them by their names or to be polite. To him they are there to be stuffed full of facts, so he gets paid. He does not realise that this will not work for the Progress Class and would be useless to teach them. As soon as he gets on the coach he shouts: “Sit down now, come on, move “.

    He thinks they are trouble just because of the class they are in: “There’s a few of them I could sling off right now. ” He makes this judgement even though he has never taken them. Mr Briggs is used to the kids being cheeky and hating him, and expects it from all of them. You can imagine his surprise when some girls try to link arms with him and is not ready for this kind of chummy relationship: “[The two girls link his arms…he stops] Oh! [Taking their arms away] walk properly. ” Everything he does is negative, he tells them what they must NOT do: “We do not shout at our mates…We do not wander up and down the aisles.

    He dictates exactly what they must not do. Mrs Kay however, is positive all the time she believes that they will find Carol and tells them to make their own decisions whether something is wrong: “think of others as well”. The area the children live in is the roughest in Liverpool. There are no trees or playgrounds: “the kids chopped ’em down an’ burnt them all”. It is the kind of street where you would not leave your car at night. The parents of the children work in the factories or docks, “me old man works down ere”.

    They bring in very little money, they may also spend it on drugs or drink. There is none left for the children to get clothes: “Carol rushes along the street wearing a school uniform which doubles as a street outfit and her Sunday best. ” Many do not get a proper breakfast: “She is eating half a sandwich and clutching a supermarket carrier bag. ” They have not even heard of Wales, and do not know how to get there:

    “Will we have t’ get a boat? ” Andrews’ mother has to be a prostitute to bring in some money: “She’s always with them blacks off the boats, your ma. The children will probably never get a better job than their parents, because schools that attract less pupils get less money, as Mrs Kay points out: “You won’t teach them because you’re in a job that’s designed and funded to fail! ” Unlike Mr Briggs she realises a lot of things about them that he cannot accept. This helps her teach them in an appropriate way. She feels truly sorry for them and understands that they have no hope for a bright future. This is why she is so kind to them, so they have at least one happy memory of life and school. It is the only way to get through to them.

    The children are not affected by Briggs’ ranting, they have “heard it all before”. It does not affect them in any way. He does not understand their difficulties and wants to ignore them; he is just like society, not wanting to feel guilty about those worse off than themselves. This is highlighted when he says: “I’ll see that it’s the last you ever go on school trip. ” He doesn’t realise that it probably will be anyway. When the children are at the zoo, they discuss the bear, and how it doesn’t know any other life, without realising it also applies to them.

    Just as the bear is trapped in its pit the children are also captive. They know no other life, even where Wales is. When they are set free they go wild and steal the animals, just as a bear would kill. They would not know it was wrong as it was how they survived. I think the owners taking advantage of them by raising the prices justified the children’s actions in the Café: “We’ll milk this little lot. ” They do not have any experience of this type of kid. At the zoo they steal the pets because they have never had anyone to cuddle up with or to love. This is Mrs Kay’s function to Carol on the coach.

    The kids are fascinated by Briggs’ teaching about the animals, but bored by his speech at the castle. Mr Briggs will never trust them again after the event and Mrs Kay is upset because she also trusts them, but as they did not know it was wrong she could not be upset for long. Carol gets a pet at the fair: “Handing a goldfish…to Carol. ” Mr Briggs’ main concern is to educate them, like his examination class field trips. Mrs Kay knows they cannot be educated and works to give them a fun day out. At the zoo Mr Briggs manages to teach them while letting them have fun, making him more like Mrs Kay, until they break his trust.

    At the beach he totally disowns and abandons them: “I made it quite plain I was having nothing more to do with your outing. ” He is disgusted by the lack of discipline and control and is intent on finally getting Mrs Kay and the others fired: “Don’t worry, when we get back to school your numbers up, and hers. ” He is needed, however, when Carol goes missing. Mr Briggs is the one who finds Carol, having a moment of peace on the clifftop, but she behaves defiantly towards him. At this point Mrs Kay is worried about Carol’s welfare, but Mr Briggs worries about the rules and getting the others sacked.

    He does not know any other way to handle the situation but to be angry and fierce, and it doesn’t work. He suddenly realises it will be his fault if she falls and tries to get her back by telling her off. She makes him realise how bad her life is and how she and other pupils feel about him. When he sees she is so desperate she is prepared to jump off the cliff, he gets some kind of idea of the plight they are in and encourages her to see that he doesn’t really hate them and that she could do well if she tried really hard. He starts to care about her.

    He takes a bit of Mrs Kay’s persuasive nature and manages to get Carol to believe that if she has the will she can get free of her life. He also picks up Mrs Kay’s caring and affection when he hugs Carol. He has changed so much he takes them to the fair and has FUN. He sings with them on the coach: “Briggs is also on the back seat – cowboy hat on, tie pulled down and singing with them. ” It is like he has become another person altogether. Unfortunately, as soon as he sees the familiar surroundings he reverts to his old self: “He sits up, puts his tie back to normal, goes to straighten his hair and feels the cowboy hat.

    He takes it off and puts it on Andrews. He then takes out a comb and combs his hair. ” He forgets his new feelings for the class, and the whole day has been a waste. I think it is very sad that he is ashamed of himself, and forgets how bad things are. It must be the city that reminded him. He is so ashamed he “pulls open the film and exposes it to the light, crumples it up and puts it in his pocket. ” He doesn’t even seem to notice Carol, which is even sadder after he has just saved her life. He is his old, pigheaded snobby self.

    I think the playwright has made it clear that both teachers have their own methods and attitudes to their classes, and are both good teachers, but that one teacher is clearly better at teaching the class involved: the Progress Class. He conveys this by the attitudes of the pupils and by the events in the play. Mrs Kay may not be a good teacher for the examination classes, but the playwright gives us little evidence for her experience with other classes, so I have assumed that the question applies to the class with them that day, the Progress Class.

    In the case of the Progress Class, Willy Russell makes it clear that Mr Briggs would be useless at teaching them, and that through experience Mrs Kay has figured out how to get the most effective teaching with them. She is the best teacher for them because she knows and understands them; she has a very clear idea of what their home lives are like, and sympathises with them. She is realistic but does not snub their hopes and dreams for the future, even though she knows they are unlikely. Briggs, however, chooses to blot out this part of their lives.

    The children in her classes like her, and because of this they are eager to please her by doing well. Briggs is hated and nobody cares what he thinks. They are happy to obey her. Although she is normally scatterbrained and unorganised, when it is necessary such as when Carol is missing, she assumes the role of leader and is very good at ordering the others, as well as not alarming the kids. Although organised all the time, Briggs has no ‘fun side’ at all, and always uses rules rather than his judgement when making decisions.

    When he tells the kids off often and loudly, they are cheeky and usually disobey him anyway. They take pleasure in getting him wound up. When Mrs Kay has to tell them what to do, she gives them a reason, such as ‘it could be dangerous’. The kids see the logic and have a reason to stop it. She gives them an opportunity to choose right or wrong, and guides them. Mrs Kay is on their wavelength, and she never looks down on them, or judges them. Mr Briggs is planets away and looks down on them all, when he doesn’t know them at all.

    She wants to make it better for them, and she cares and loves for them as if they were her own children. She is always positive and teaches them by example. Briggs is always negative and teaches by punishment. If Briggs were left in charge, there would be a riot. Willy Russell clearly shows Mrs Kay is better because her class learns faster and is dedicated to getting things right so they can impress her. There are also fewer disturbances in her class, as they do not want to miss out on the fun they have. Years of experience have meant her lessons are perfectly suited to their ability and special needs.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Willey Russell’s play, “Our Day Out” Essay. (2018, Apr 24). Retrieved from

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