Waterloo Road heads north of the border

2nd September 2011 at 01:00
TV soap to send characters to Glasgow to open up a private school

As one of the most popular drama series on television, the BBC's award-winning Waterloo Road is well known for its depiction of life at a tough comprehensive in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Over the past five years, its teachers have taken the school off the "scrapheap", seen off a bid to turn it into an academy and rebuilt it after a devastating fire - scenarios with some basis in reality.

But, proving that art does not always imitate life, producers have announced that the next series will see a group of teachers and pupils move more than 200 miles north to open a private school in Glasgow.

The school will be a joint venture between teachers and pupils, who secure backing worth millions of pounds from a philanthropist.

The inspiration for the move came from the creator of the show, Ann McManus, who previously spent several years teaching in Glasgow secondary schools.

But it was also a practical decision because the set - a former school - was falling into disrepair.

"The move is a hop to Scotland," she said. "Waterloo Road School was a scuzzy, rundown comprehensive and was falling down, so we had to move on.

"I am a believer in excellent comprehensive education, but I wanted to explore this independent school."

In a development that would be the envy of private schools this side of the border, the backing from the millionaire supporter will be so large that no child will be denied access over their ability to pay. In real life, not even Eton College boasts such an impressive endowment fund.

"It is open to all," said Ms McManus. "The headteacher, Michael, has invested in children, and they have invested in him. He creates a haven for them.

"It shows how quickly an owner of a school can invest in a school."

Exactly what will prompt Michael to set up the independent school is unknown, although according to the BBC it will be the result of a "dramatic and explosive storyline".

Reaction on the TES Forums was not wholly positive, but the big changes to the series, which regularly attracts more than five million viewers, should not alarm fans of the programme, Ms McManus said.

"There are always huge turnovers of staff in schools, and there will still be a lot of familiar faces, so it won't be a shock," she said.

Regardless of the fact that England and Scotland have different education systems, Ms McManus will still adhere to the English curriculum and use A- levels in the new series.

She said: "The debate between types of curriculum is so scary. It is bureaucracy which allows schools to deteriorate."


`How on earth?'


"Is it going to be like The Wizard of Oz, with a tornado lifting the school and flinging it down in Scotland?"

Professor Fixit

"If it were me writing the scripts, I would have the headteacher waking up in the shower and saying to his wife, `I had the strangest dream about teaching in Rochdale for the last 10 years'."


"How on earth can they come up with any plausible storyline to grab a chunk of pupils and the key staff characters, change them to independent status and move them all en masse? I know dear Mr Gove likes his free schools, but really!"


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