Educating Cardiff, TV review: Channel 4 series may take a while to warm up

Can we fall in love with these teachers this term?

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The Independent Culture

School is back on Channel 4 as its most popular fly-on-the-wall education show returns for a fourth series. After educating Essex, Yorkshire and the East End, we are in Cardiff for the new term, where head teacher Joy Ballard is helping to turn around the fate of Willows High School.

Mrs Ballard admitted she'd only ever been to Wales once before accepting the job on a Gavin and Stacey-inspired trip to Barry Island. The softly spoken former cleaner, who left school with no qualifications, doesn't seem the type of heavy-handed headmistress who will have her students quaking in their Bootleg shoes.

Indeed, it wasn't immediately clear whether Mrs Ballard or any of her staff will have big enough personalities to make us want to return for more. Mr Hennessy, a down-at-the-mouth maths teacher who was tasked with getting year 11 problem girl Leah to stop truanting, lacked the comedy value of English teacher Mr Bispham whose charisma radiated through the TV in last year's Educating the East End.

The extent of Mr Hennessy's "emotional journey" with Leah included him shrugging and giving her a quick call after she texted him to say she didn't think she was good enough to finish the school year.

The delightfully named English teacher Mrs Bubbins had to take on fellow challenging year 11 girl Jessica, who instead of truanting was rather too good at school – rubbing other students up the wrong way.

While it's as heartwarming as ever to follow these stories, the episode themes are beginning to get repetitive. Next week will doubtless see a year 8 boy with behaviour issues, followed by a group of bitchy year 9 girls, before a story of a teen overcoming the odds ends the series on a teary-eyed high.

Educating Cardiff has the potential to be one of the most enjoyable series on TV this autumn; let's hope it lives up to its predecessors.

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