At the rough Worrell Street School in London's East End, the pupils are kept in line by the harsh discipline of the staff and the occasional savage beating. An idealistic young schoolteacher (Max Bygraves) takes up his first post since leaving the navy and resists the authoritarian rule of his fellow tutor Gregory (Geoffrey Keen) and the headmaster Jenkins (Donald Pleasence). By playing on the youngsters' interests he tries to teach his unruly students the joy of learning and win their trust. At first he enjoys success with the wayward but bright Harkness (Richard O'Sullivan); but after a prank at Gregory's expense causes a riot amongst the pupils, Saunders clashes with the entrenched regime. The friction at Worrel Street leaves the headmaster with no choice but to support either the bullying practices of his staff, or the unproven ideas of the na'ive newcomer.