There was a time when Waterloo Road looked like a mixture of Grange Hill and Coronation Street with a pop soundtrack punctuating every other scene.
However, partly thanks to fewer songs and more drama, the show has come on in leaps and bounds.
One of the reasons for its success has been the fresh blood pumped into the show each term.
It kicked off eight years ago with Angela Griffin and Jason Merrells heading the adult cast. Over the years we’ve also seen Neil Morrissey, Eva Pope, Amanda Burton and Alec Newman play long-suffering staff members coping with all manner of domestic and professional problems.
Now the ever-engaging school-based drama returns for a fresh term, and the locals had better watch out as there’s a new girl on site.
While Gabriella Wark (Naomi Battrick) leaves some pupils wide-eyed, she also creates a few problems for the long-suffering staff. She may be smart, sassy and stunning, but her disruptive behaviour has already led to her being expelled from several schools.
And now that she has set her sights firmly on attractive new PE teacher Hector (Leon Ockenden), she’s clearly not about to become a shy and retiring student just yet.
Meanwhile, newlywed Simon (Richard Mylan) kicks off his new Resilience Education scheme, and incurs the wrath of Christine (Laurie Brett).
He thinks this is exactly what the school needs to get the pupils ready for life in the real world, but not everyone shares his point of view.
And while loved up with Sue’s (Vanessa Hehir) sister Vix (Kristin Atherton), Nikki (Heather Peace) has no idea she has also caught the attention of someone else.
Naomi Battrick, who previously featured in Doctors and Paul Bettany movie Blood, admits she had been a tad worried about becoming part of the cast: “I was really nervous joining such an established show at first but everyone’s been so welcoming and it’s been so much fun to film.
“I’ve had an incredible time and can’t wait to see it all come together in January.”
How would she describe her character?
“Gabriella is a bit of a dark horse - she comes across really mean and vindictive but there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye and it’ll be interesting to see her character unravel throughout the series.”
Heather Peace is thrilled to be back for the new run, not least because the show is so popular with viewers: “The fanbase for Waterloo Road are incredible, we’re blown away every week by their response online and I think they will really enjoy the next 10 episodes in the New Year,” she explains.
What can we expect from the new run, and her character, Ms Boston?
“There are some awesome new characters and a few really huge storylines that will be exciting and surprising.”