It's time to head back to the locker-lined corridors of Ackley Bridge College – because Channel 4's comedy drama is back for a third series.


Here's what you need to know...

When is Ackley Bridge back for series 3?

Series three of Ackley Bridge began on Tuesday 18th June at 8pm on Channel 4 and will run on Tuesdays at 8pm for eight episodes.

In an announcement after the series two finale, Commissioning Editor Manpreet Dosanjh said: “We’re thrilled that our beloved Ackley gang are returning to Channel 4 next year for what is sure to be another joyful, outrageous and unmissable series. This bold and ballsy show reflects modern Britain in all its diverse glory and does so with wit, grit and its heart firmly in the right place.”

What is Ackley Bridge about?

Jo Joyner plays headmistress Mandy Carter in Ackley Bridge

Executive Producer Ayub Khan Din put it this way: "The Ackley Bridge curriculum gives you the three 'R's: Race! Religion! and Rioting! Like a good Chicken Tikka Masala it has all the best ingredients with just the right amount of spice!"

The drama, which is filmed in Halifax, is set within a fictional school – but was inspired by real schools in Lancashire and Yorkshire that were set up to integrate the white and Asian communities in some of the most divided towns in the country.

With its near-the-knuckle humour and emotional storylines, it explores the complicated lives of pupils and teachers alike.

What will happen in Ackley Bridge series 3?

Jo Joyner will be back as the school's headmistress, Mandy. Also returning are Poppy Lee Friar (as Missy Booth), Amy-Leigh Hickman (as Nasreen Paracha) and Sunetra Sarker (as Kaneez Paracha).

Joining the cast are Downton Abbey's Robert James-Collier and ex-Emmerdale star Charlie Hardwick, who have arrived at Ackley Bridge for series three.

James-Collier, who starred as servant Thomas Barrow in Downton, is our new Deputy Head Martin Evershed, while Hardwick (aka Val Pollard) plays the Director of Behaviour at the school.

In the finale of the second series, the future of Ackley Bridge looked precarious as Mandy was struggling to figure out how she would afford to keep the school open without having to make mass redundancies or sell off its assets. At the last minute, the school was taken over and saved by the Valley Trust – and to Mandy’s relief, she held onto her job as headteacher.

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But it's not going to be plain sailing. Series three takes place in a "new era" as new Deputy Head Martin Evershed (Robert James-Collier) and Director of Behaviour Sue Carp (Charlie Hardwick) arrive ready to "whip the pupils into shape." The duo are set to "ruffle some feathers" in the upcoming series.

Meanwhile, Nas and Missy are in their final year of school – and Nas is off to her interview at the University of Oxford. Where will the two girls go next, and how will this affect their friendship?

Meet the cast of Ackley Bridge

Jo Joyner plays Mandy

Jo Joyner plays Mandy in Ackley Bridge

Who is Mandy? The headteacher of Ackley Bridge, she is extremely driven and passionate about teaching, but is also at the end of her tether as new nightmare boss Ken dumps a load of unruly kids from the Trust's other schools straight into Mandy's school.

What else has Jo Joyner been in? Jo Joyner is known to EastEnders fans as Tanya Branning, a role she played for an impressive 679 episodes. Most recently she has starred as Luella Shakespeare in the BBC's hit daytime drama Shakespeare & Hathaway. Previous credits include Porters, Mount Pleasant, No Angels, The Confessions of Dorian Gray, and Ordinary Lies.

Amy-Leigh Hickman plays Nasreen Paracha

Amy-Leigh Hickman plays Nasreen Paracha in Ackley Bridge

Who is Nasreen “Nas” Paracha? Year 13 student Nas is strong, intelligent and studious – and she has her sights set on a place at Oxford where she hopes to study medicine. Having realised she is a lesbian and accepted her own sexual orientation, she must navigate the expectations of her family and her community. Her best friend is Missy.

What else has Amy-Leigh Hickman been in? Over on Netflix you’ll find Amy Leigh Hickman as Sia Marshall in Michael C Hall drama Safe. You may also have spotted her in Strike Back, Tracey Beaker Returns, EastEnders, or The Dumping Ground.

Poppy Lee Friar plays Missy Booth

Poppy Lee Friar plays Missy Booth in Ackley Bridge

Who is Missy Booth? Nasreen's best friend Missy is also in her final year at Ackley Bridge. She has had a rough start in life, having to look after her own mum who struggles with addiction and her tumultuous love life. Missy is not academic and struggles at school, but she is talented at drama.

What else has Poppy Lee Friar been in? ITV's Christmas biopic Torvill & Dean featured Poppy Lee Friar as ice-dancing legend Jayne Torvill. The actress has also played Mary Pascoe in My Cousin Rachel alongside Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin, and starred as Rosalie Selfridge in the TV series Mr Selfridge.

Sunetra Sarker plays Kaneez Paracha

Sunetra Sarker plays Kaneez Paracha in Ackley Bridge

Who is Kaneez Paracha? The mother of Nas, and also the school dinner lady. Kaneez is a “force of nature” and is full of personality and opinions. She arrived in England at the age of 16 and is now a prominent voice in the community, raising her family practically single-handedly. In series two we discovered that her husband Iqbal, who supposedly worked abroad, was actually two-timing her and had another whole family.

What else has Sunetra Sarker been in? The actress starred in Casualty, playing the role of Zoe Hanna for more than a decade. She has also starred alongside Ackley Bridge's Jo Joyner in No Angels, appeared as DCI Jane Burr in Safe House, Sahana Harrison in Broadchurch, and – most recently – as Sadia Shar in the TV series Informer. Sunetra Sarker competed in Strictly Come Dancing in 2014.

Robert James-Collier plays Martin Evershed

Robert James-Collier plays Martin Evershed in Ackley Bridge

Who is Martin Evershed? The "hot-headed" new Deputy Head, brought in by the Trust to make some changes at Ackley Bridge.

What else has Robert James-Collier been in? You're most likely to recognise him as Thomas Barrow from Downton Abbey, a role he is set to reprise in the upcoming Downton movie, or as Liam Connor from Coronation Street. Other credits include Death in Paradise, Vera and The Level.

Charlie Hardwick plays Sue Carp

Charlie Hardwick plays Sue Carp in Ackley Bridge

Who is Sue Carp? According to Charlie Hardwick, Ackley Bridge's new Director of Behaviour is "belligerent and unwilling, and instead of dedicating her time to the well-being and development of her teenage students, she appears to be solely concerned with counting down the next ten years to her retirement." But the actress adds: "She is unwittingly witty though, and somewhat unintentionally anarchic, which gets the school into deep doo-doo and herself into dangerously sackable situations."

What else has Charlie Hardwick been in? Best known for playing Val Pollard in ITV soap opera Emmerdale for over a decade, Charlie Hardwick has also appeared in Different for Girls, Byker Grove, and Billy Elliot.

Megan Parkinson plays Sam

Megan Parkinson plays Sam in Ackley Bridge

Who is Sam? Sam Murgatroyd arrived halfway through series two. She is a pupil at Ackley Bridge, and is out and proud as a lesbian.

What else has Megan Parkinson been in? The actress starred as Alys Karstark in series seven and eight of Game of Thrones. She has also appeared in Strike, Harlots, Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters, and Damilola Our Loved Boy.

Natalie Gavin plays Nadine

Natalie Gavin plays Nadine in Ackley Bridge

Who is Nadine? Sam's formidable mum, who has just been released from prison. She locks horns with Deputy Head Martin Evershed. According to Channel 4, Sam "is made up when her mum gets out of prison only to find that she’s encouraging her into criminal behaviour."

What else has Natalie Gavin been in? The actress made a brief but memorable appearance in the latest series of Line of Duty, playing murderous PS Tina Tranter. She currently stars as Alice Hardcastle in Gentleman Jack, and has previously appeared in Jericho, The Syndicate, Casualty, and Prisoners Wives.


Further cast includes...

  • Phoebe Tuffs-Berry as new Year 10 bad girl Rukhsana
  • George Potts as Mandy's new boss Ken
  • Tony Jayawardena as science teacher Rashid, who is keen on Kaneez
  • Sam Retford as Cory
  • Gurjeet Singh as Naveed
  • Adil Ray as Sadiq
  • Maariah Hussain as Alya
  • Nohail Mohammed as Riz