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5 great British TV shows about school life

Well-made British TV shows provide a window into British way of life and public discourse

Well-made British TV shows provide a window into British way of life and public discourse, touching upon many topical issues facing the country today. They are also infused with uniquely British wit and humour, have engaging character dynamics, and tell stories in such a way that it makes them truly binge-worthy.

Watching TV series is also a great way for English learners to improve a range of their language skills - from vocabulary and speaking to listening and grammar - while being immersed in a diverse and rich British culture and history. Keep scrolling to explore the best British shows that are set in schools and offer a unique insight into the lives and experiences of students, teachers, and parents in different periods of the UK history:

Waterloo Road

The long-running, award-winning drama series follows the daily life of Waterloo Road School's teachers and pupils. Originally, it takes place at a comprehensive school in Rochdale, England and explores a number of complex social issues. Despite having been off air for six years, the older seasons of the show became an unexpected hit during Covid lockdowns, with the series ending up as BBC iPlayer’s sixth-biggest show of 2021.


This spin-off of Doctor Who, one of the biggest sci-fi TV shows of all time tells about the time-travelling adventures of students at London's Coal Hill School while also showing them grappling with common teenage problems - from schoolwork and relationships with parents to friendships and romances.

Ackley Bridge

Another award-winning drama that takes place in a widely diverse Yorkshire community (Northern England) against the backdrop of two schools merging into one because of financial struggles. This TV series focuses both on teachers and students and explores tensions between two divided communities and other contemporary problems related to school education and modern life in the UK in general through complex character storylines and developments.


This comedy-drama series revolves around a group of secondary school teachers and their unique challenges both inside and out of the classroom. The show was nominated for six BAFTA awards between 2002 and 2004, and was nominated for Best Comedy Drama at the British Comedy Awards in 2003.

Derry Girls

To understand the influence and popularity of this award-winning sitcom, especially in Northern Ireland, it's enough to say that it was honoured with a large public mural depicting the main characters. This modern classic follows the exploits of a group of teenagers growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles - violent sectarian conflict from about 1968 to 1998 between the Protestant unionists, who desired Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK, and the Roman Catholic nationalists, who wanted it to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

Want to know more about British education in general? LEO International Online School offers a number of programmes for different age groups, including a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for entry to universities in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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