Audiences have always loved a good school drama but it’s not since the days of Grange Hill, Teachers and Waterloo Road that we headed to the classroom for a prime-time TV drama.
But the similarities end there as Ackley Bridge is new kind of school drama, produced by a documentary maker and harnessing local talent from the Calderdale community where it was filmed.
The fictional Ackley Bridge is a Yorkshire Mill town documenting the lives of a culturally diverse community thrown together through circumstance and necessity to survive where ‘foodbanks, smack heads and no jobs’ are the norm.
The opening scenes show best friends Missy and Nas swigging cider on a sofa before the clever shot pans to reveal they are sitting in a skip in a back alley.
This is a drama which doesn’t shy away from punchy one liners either, as one of the opening remarks from Missy’s Nanna upon seeing a queue of Asian men is “it’s like opening time at the visa section’.
But the first day at the newly integrated school, Ackley Bridge College, puts Nas and Missy’s lifelong friendship to the test as Nas’ more conservative school friends take against Missy. Nas sides with her school friends.
Meanwhile English teacher Emma Keane gets the surprise of her life when she finds out that she’ll be working with ex-boyfriend Sami.
She gets a further surprise when her 15-year-old daughter Chloe bursts into her classroom and throws up in a waste paper basket, having caught an Uber from Peckham.
But when Chloe seeks revenge - it puts Miss Keane’s career in jepodary before the term has even got going.
There is a tense scene between the students of both of the former schools in the PE yard as they refuse to intergrate and the true rift of cultures is revealed.
Viewers are given a harsh insight into Missy’s troubled home life when her junkie mother appears at school and Naz refuses to acknowledge her, leading to tensions reaching boiling point in a hair-pulling playground scrap.
Elsewhere Headteacher Mandy has problems of her own and puts her husband, PE teacher Steve, in charge of troubled pupil Jordan.
The self-proclaimed ‘wind up’ merchant is put in isolation for his mocking behaviour of muslim students and disregard for their culture.
But Jordan might prove too much for him to handle - especially when he crudely points out how close Mandy’s getting to school sponsor Sadiq Nawaz.
Jordon lashes out at Mr Bell but his response makes an already challenging situation a whole lot worse.
The first episode ends where it began in the skip sofa as Missy seeks advice for a fellow pupil and plots a plan to even the score with Naz.
The six-part series, is created by Ayub Khan Din (East is East), Kevin Erlis and Malcolm Campbell (Shameless), starts tonight on Channel 4 at 8pm and can watched on Catch up at http://www.channel4.com/programmes/catchup