When a local private school called John Foster closes, about 100 of its wealthy pupils must now enroll at Waterloo Road. Neither the "posh" John Foster pupils nor the "scuzzy" Waterloo Road kids are happy about it.
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The hostility between the former John Foster pupils and their Waterloo Road peers continues unabated when new student Amy accuses Bolton of attempted rape after luring him into the girls' restroom for a tryst. Happy to have a distraction from her father's funeral that day, fellow pupil Lindsay is quick to use the incident as another indication that Waterloo Road pupils are trouble.
When Danielle and Aleesha stagger into school suffering the aftereffects of a night spent drinking in the area's bars and clubs, Steph doesn't report them because she needs her star pupils to show up in class that day. Steph's performance is under scrutiny by Jo, who in turn is being pressured by Max to expose Steph's incompetence so he can fire Steph as an example to the other teachers.
Student Luke Pendle has kept the fact that he lives in a care home a secret from everyone, including his girlfriend, Siobhan. But when Siobhan finds out and tells her friend, the whole school eventually learns, and Luke has to put up with snide comments about his background all day.
It's school open day, a chance for the governors and parents from both the old John Foster school and Waterloo Road to see the new united school in action. Max strives to keep the floundering Helen out of the spotlight, and Ruby upgrades the school's buffet menu with caviar and other pricey sundries, thanks to the company credit card of her husband, John.
Chris becomes concerned when one of his most able and popular students, Vicki MacDonald, begins missing classes and handing in work late and incomplete. Upon discovering that Vicki has been sneaking off during school hours to work as an exotic dancer, he visits the club to talk her out of it but ends up in a vulnerable position.
When quiet student Cassie Turner accuses Amy, Siobhan and Michaela of bullying her, Kim believes her, thinking that this is the cause of Cassie's recent detached behaviour and falling grades.
On the day of her inspection, Helen is desperate to impress, especially since Max spent the night with her and she believes their past romance might be reignited.
After Steph warns Kim to be wary of men like Max, he punishes Steph by escalating his campaign to have her ousted, insinuating that Jo wants Steph terminated. Max also takes credit for Jo being nominated for an outstanding teacher award, although it was Steph's doing. When Jo finds out about Max's lie, she supports Steph, even walking out in sympathy after Max fires Steph.
On the last day of the term, the Waterloo Road Has Talent contest kicks off with Denzil breakdancing, Josh and Luke playing guitar and Philip doing a controversial comedy act hinting at Max's temper. Afterward, Max bullies Philip into keeping quiet about their recent physical altercation.
Rowdy new student Finn Harvey seems determined to get himself expelled, but his bad boy persona attracts Amy, who covers up his misdeeds. He also tries to lead Josh and Siobhan astray. But Chris, whose life was made a living hell by Finn at a previous school, is happy to discipline him.
Student Craig resists his brother, Mark, who wants him to run the struggling family farm. Mark doesn't want visitors, but Craig allows Ruby to plan a trip to the farm, hoping she will see how awful it is and help him convince Mark to let him go to college instead of working there.
Kim and Chris clash over his introduction of an advanced university preparation program for Ros since she is the school's brightest pupil. Kim believes the program should be available to all of the students, but Chris thinks it's cruel to build up a pupil's hopes of getting into a top university if his or her grades aren't strong enough.
Josh flirts with fellow student Lauren, but their relationship is thwarted when the other pupils find out that Lauren has a large birthmark on her back. The humiliation causes Lauren to desperately steal hydrogen peroxide from the science lab and try to bleach the birthmark.
When Chris must use Finn as his teaching assistant, Finn encourages a student mutiny in class. Chris teaches Finn a lesson by giving him full teaching authority, resulting in the class laughing at Finn and humiliating him.
After Tom scolds Josh for using "legal high" drugs, Josh spikes Tom's lunch with the substance. When Kim has a scare with her pregnancy, Tom drives her to the hospital but becomes disoriented because of the drugs and crashes his car.
Ros celebrates success in her first French exam by trying to kiss Jo! Previously unaware of Ros's crush on her, Jo quickly tells Rachel. When Ros finds out that Rachel knows about the attempted kiss, she publicly declares her love for Jo. But Jo angrily denies any relationship, prompting Ros to formally accuse Jo of inappropriate behaviour.
During a class trip to an art gallery, Finn overhears Kim telling Amy not to let him lead her astray. When Finn threatens to break up with her, Amy desperately agrees to prove her love for him. Using paint that Finn stole from the gift shop, Amy defaces a valuable painting with a declaration of love for Finn.
Distraught and lonely Ruby suffers two setbacks in one day: her husband, John, tells her he wants a divorce, and Rachel adds to Ruby's workload by putting her in charge of organizing the school prom. When Adam and Rachel announce their engagement, Ruby is devastated, still believing there is something between herself and Adam.
When Finn's parents tell him they're moving to Los Angeles, his relationship with Amy looks doomed. He stuns Amy by proposing that they make a suicide pact instead of living without each other. Amy has become so dependent on Finn that she nervously agrees to the plan, and they head off to an isolated beach.