TV & Movies

Sheridan Smith’s New Drama Is Anything But Easy Viewing

The Teacher touches on subjects like grooming, consent, power, accountability, and boundaries.

TV still from Channel 5 drama 'The Teacher'
Galgóczi Németh Kristóf / Chalkboard TV

Trigger warning: This piece contains mentions of grooming and abuse that may be disturbing to some readers.

Airing on Channel 5 on Jan. 31, The Teacher tells the story of Jenna Garvey (Sheridan Smith), a Bradford secondary school English teacher accused of having sex with one of her students, 15-year-old Kyle, played by Samuel Bottomley of Ackley Bridge fame. As seen in the trailer, Smith’s character claims to have no memory of the encounter. “I have blackouts when I drink,” she tearfully tells the investigating officer. Eager to uncover the truth, an unravelling Garvey is forced to revisit a traumatic event from her past, but will it trigger her memory? The four-part series is expected to reveal whether the educator is guilty or if she’s been wrongfully accused.

Is The Teacher based on a true story?

The Teacher is a work of fiction, and is not based on any particular incident. However, the show’s creator and writer, Barunka O'Shaughnessy, wanted to emulate the harsh reality of similar real-life cases. Talking to TellyMix, she expressed a desire to “explore the challenging and provocative themes thrown up by these types of cases.”

Following suit, the series’ director, Dominic Leclerc, made a conscious effort to ensure that the difficult topics were represented in an authentic, responsible way. He did this by talking to members of his family who are teachers and social workers.

Galgóczi Németh Kristóf / Chalkboard TV

In an interview with RadioTimes, he explained: “We wanted to be informed. The last thing we wanted was to grab viewers via salacious taboos. We wanted to approach the story through character, to make this a nuanced, subtle exploration of the subject matter. There’s complex terrain here that brings up issues about grooming, consent, power, accountability, and boundaries."

The series will undoubtedly spark conversations among viewers on what to know about grooming and abuse.

Galgóczi Németh Kristóf / Chalkboard TV

Will we see any other familiar faces in The Teacher?

Strictly Come Dancing winner and Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher stars in The Teacher. Acting opposite Smith, he plays Garvey’s colleague, Jack. Meanwhile, Sharon Rooney, best known for starring alongside Jodie Comer in hit teen drama My Mad Fat Diary, will play fellow teacher Nina, who disapproves of Garvey’s chaotic lifestyle. Viewers may also recognise David Fleeshman, who is portraying Garvey’s dad. Fleeshman has enjoyed roles in a number of popular TV shows, such as Silent Witness and Coronation Street. He also made an appearance in 2021’s hit Channel 4 series It’s A Sin.