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Despair at BBC picture of a comp

Staff slate new drama from Footballers' Wives stable... but wouldn't mind sharing a staffroom with some of its gorgeous stars.

The cast has sent pulses racing in schools the length of Britain, even if the plot so far seems far-fetched and Utopian.

Waterloo Road, the latest school drama, has prompted heated debate among real teachers over how they, and schools in general, are portrayed on prime-time television.

The BBC1 series stars some of Britain's most popular actors. Just two episodes in and there have already been scenes of violence and drunkenness, as well as the promise of a tangled web of sexual intrigue - and that is just among the staff. Nothing like a normal comprehensive then.

Those in the know about what really goes on in the nation's schools have flooded the TES staffroom (www.tes.co.uksectionstaffroom) in despair over some of the early storylines.

How realistic is it, for example, that a deputy head would be poached from a posh fee-paying school to help turn around a rough comprehensive, over a pint in the pub? And how could the English teacher snog his new wife's best friend - the three are all colleagues at the school - at their wedding reception?

But then, what should be expected from the people who brought us Footballers' Wives?

Some believe the programme could damage recruitment to the profession, while others feel it is time to show schools as they actually are. Many want to see the "zero tolerance" of bad discipline that is being tried out at the fictional school succeed, if only to prove that it really can be done even with the most disruptive and unruly kids, with or without artistic licence.

The reaction of "Duckie"' to the first episode in the TES online staffroom was fairly typical. "What a load of rubbish! If there really was a school full of such numpties it really should be shut. Totally unrealistic, the acting was appalling and the script sounded like it had been written by a bunch of Year 8s".

"RussianTeaRoom" wrote: "I just wasted an hour of my life getting indignant about something to do with work again."

Shed Productions, which make the series, said this week it was "thrilled"

with the early viewing figures. Waterloo Road attracted 5.2 million viewers for its opening episode, or 22.1 per cent of the total audience. Among its target audience of 16 to 34-year-olds it took 27.1 per cent of the audience.

The drama stars Jason Merrells (Gavin in the BBC's hair-dressing drama Cutting It) as Jack Rimmer, the troubled headteacher.

Angela Griffin, his co-star in the salon, joins Waterloo Road as Kim Campbell, head of pastoral care. Jill Halfpenny, formerly Kate in Eastenders and a winner of Strictly Come Dancing, is Izzie Redpath, a drama teacher and one third of the emerging love triangle.

If nothing else, it is the cast list that looks most likely to keep the nation's teachers tuning in.

"Janemk" said she would continue watching as the series was closer to reality than Channel 4's drama Teachers, and "also for the gorgeous Jason Merrells".

Meanwhile, "pliny the younger", said: "I'll apply to anywhere Angela Griffin is working."

Waterloo Road is screened on Thursdays at 8pm, on BBC1 * dorothy.lepkowska@tes.co.uk

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