TV preview: Waterloo Road

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Hankies at the ready - Waterloo Road might be starting term afresh, but this milestone 10th series is to be its last. Yep, after eight years this fine establishment is closing its doors for good.

Still, after winning an Inside Soap Award the other week for Best Drama (for the fifth year on the trot, we might add), the cast and crew can bow out proudly after completing a job very well done indeed.

So, as expected, the programme is pulling out all the stops for the occasion, including the introduction of two new characters, headteacher Vaughan Fitzgerald (played by Neil Pearson), and his partner Allie (Nicola Stephenson), who is taking the reins of the art department.

The two of them are madly in love, but their home life is far from perfect thanks to their blended family - they have four children between them, but none of them get along.

And as their feuding spills over in to the classroom, will their professional veneer be tested?

“Balancing work and family is a problem for everyone,” explains Pearson. “When, like Vaughan, you’re trying to balance work and two families, the problems come thick and fast.

“He has a lot going on: a new job, a new relationship and, with the arrival of two step-children, new domestic responsibilities too. It was never going to be dull.”

But we’re in good company here - Pearson is no stranger to dramatic roles. He made his mark on the box with sitcom Drop the Dead Donkey and thriller Between the Lines; performances which sat so well with viewers and critics alike that he’s been able to cherry- pick his projects ever since.

Something tells us he’s going to fit in well at Waterloo Road, as he explains: “I always enjoy working with young actors: it’s great to watch them finding their feet, and their enthusiasm is infectious.”

However, the actor insists that while he knows headteacher Vaughan has to prove himself among the kids - and even the other teachers - he is good at his job.

“Vaughan is an experienced headteacher with a successful track record and a clear idea of the sort of education he wants any school of his to provide: an education which will help his pupils through life, not just exams.”

Asked why he thinks Waterloo Road has remained so popular for so long now, it’s clear he didn’t have to think twice about signing up to his role.

He explains: “Whatever the subject or setting, a show always has a chance if its audience feels connected to it, and Waterloo Road has a strong, loyal following among the kids and young adults I know. It talks about the subjects that concern them, and in a voice they recognise. They’ll be sorry to see it go. Me too.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves - there’s 20 episodes to get through before then.

So tonight, as Vaughan and Allie settle in, Christine makes a promise to Darren that she will help him deal with his difficult situation at home - but nothing can prepare them for what happens when they confront his mother.

Waterloo Road, Wednesday, 8pm, BBC1

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