Why is Netflix's Sex Education ending with season 4?

Otis and co are heading back to class... for the last time

Sex Education fans, it's time to return to school. The long-awaited fourth and final season of Netflix's acclaimed comedy-drama is finally here.

The show has made stars of its ensemble cast, including Emma Mackey, Ncuti Gatwa and Aimee Lou Wood, and won praise for tackling issues around sexuality and gender.

Read more: New on Netflix in September 2023

The new season will look a little different, though, after a cast shake-up and a change of location following a big twist in the season 3 finale.

As its characters prepare to say goodbye, here's everything we know about the return of Sex Education, including the cast, plot and trailers for season 4.

Beware: there are spoilers ahead if you haven't caught up on the show yet...

Why is Sex Education ending with season 4?

Ncuti Gatwa and Asa Butterfield in Sex Education season 4
Ncuti Gatwa and Asa Butterfield in Sex Education season 4. (Thomas Wood/Netflix)

The good news for Sex Education fans is that, after a lengthy wait, season 4 is here. All eight episodes landed on Netflix on Thursday, 21 September – three years after the season was first announced.

The bad news is that it will be the show's final outing. "This was not an easy decision to make," creator Laurie Nunn said, "but as the themes and stories of the new season crystallised, it became clear that this was the right time to graduate."

But she teased a possible spin-off, telling Netflix that "there's always potential for more to be explored in that world", so stay tuned...

In a separate interview with the Guardian, Nunn said the finale would be tinged with "bittersweetness" and warned fans that it "might not be wrapped up completely perfectly".

Is Sex Education season 4 worth watching?

TV critics have delivered mixed verdicts on Sex Education's climax. Yahoo's Martin Carr said the Netflix show "goes out with a bang", while the Evening Standard praised the chemistry of the cast and the season's handling of "meaningful" issues.

But the Telegraph said it was the show's weakest season, and the Guardian called the storylines "underdeveloped".

Read a selection of reviews below:

Yahoo TV UK: Netflix hit goes out with a bang (3-min read)

The Guardian: One long list of frustrations (4-min read)

Evening Standard: Back with a bang (5-min read)

The Telegraph: A series that once eschewed soppiness ends up encrusted in schmaltz (2-min read)

The Independent: This has always been a show rendered in black and white (4-min read)

Is there a Sex Education season 4 trailer?

The innuendo-filled trailer for the new season was released on 12 September, introducing viewers to the misfit students and adding some new faces.

It followed the release of a short teaser clip in July.

What happened in Sex Education season 3?

The season 3 finale of Sex Education ended on several cliffhangers. The most dramatic was Moordale Secondary School, the show's setting, announcing it would close down and be sold to property developers.

Sardonic pupil Maeve (Emma Mackey) finally got together with awkward classmate Otis (Asa Butterfield) after a prolonged will-they-won't-they storyline. But she decided to follow her academic dreams by studying abroad in America, throwing their relationship into doubt.

Read more: The best shows coming to our screens this autumn

Otis' mother Jean (Gillian Anderson) gave birth to a baby girl, Joy, two months prematurely. The results of a paternity test shocked her, suggesting her partner Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt) isn't the father.

Three couples broke up: Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and Adam (Connor Swindells), Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and Steve (Chris Jenks), and Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) and Cal (Dua Saleh).

Another couple, Lily (Tanya Reynolds) and Ola (Patricia Allison), made amends after an argument. But Adam's mother Maureen (Samantha Spiro) chose not to reconcile with her estranged husband, and former Moordale headmaster, Michael (Alistair Petrie).

What will happen in Sex Education season 4?

Emma Mackey in Sex Education season 4
Emma Mackey in Sex Education season 4. (Samuel Taylor/Netflix)

After the closure of Moordale, season 4 sees the characters move to Cavendish College, a progressive sixth-form where they struggle to fit in.

Otis tries to set up a new sex therapy clinic but faces competition from rival student Sarah, aka 'O' (Thaddea Graham).

Back home, he is adjusting to no longer being an only child, and trying to juggle his long-distance relationship with Maeve, who is being tutored by cult author Thomas Molloy (Dan Levy) at a top US university.

Read more: Sex Education creator Laurie Nunn on a dark final series

Fan favourite Aimee is feeling equally lost without Maeve – her closest friend – and getting used to single life after her break-up from Steve.

Eric is grappling with his religion and making new friends, while Jean is experiencing postpartum depression and starting a new job.

As the show's dynamics change, non-binary student Cal – who was introduced in season 3 – becomes a more central figure. Two new trans characters, Abbi (Anthony Lexa) and Roman (Felix Mufti), also play a key part this season.

Who's in the Sex Education season 4 cast?

Mimi Keene in Sex Education season 4
Mimi Keene in Sex Education season 4. (Samuel Taylor/Netflix)

Most of Sex Education's ensemble cast are returning to the show for season 4. However, fans will be disappointed to learn that Simone Ashley (Olivia), Patricia Allison (Ola), Tanya Reynolds (Lily), Anwar (Chaneil Kular) and Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt) don't appear at all.

Ashley left the show following her breakout role on Netflix's period drama Bridgerton. "I think my time on [Sex Education] has come to an end," she told Glamour last year. "It's very sad because I love them all so much."

Last summer, The Hollywood Reporter said the cast departures were part of a "creative reset" ahead of the show's fourth outing.

Dua Saleh in Sex Education season 4
Dua Saleh in Sex Education season 4. (Netflix)

Here's a quick run-down of the familiar faces heading back to our screens:

  • Aimee Lou Wood (Aimee)

  • Alistair Petrie (Michael)

  • Asa Butterfield (Otis)

  • Chinenye Ezeudu (Viv)

  • Connor Swindells (Adam)

  • Daniel Ings (Dan)

  • Dua Saleh (Cal)

  • Emma Mackey (Maeve)

  • George Robinson (Isaac)

  • Gillian Anderson (Jean)

  • Jim Howick (Mr Hendricks)

  • Kedar Williams-Stirling (Jackson)

  • Mimi Keene (Ruby)

  • Ncuti Gatwa (Eric)

  • Rakhee Thakrar (Ms Sands)

  • Samantha Spiro (Maureen)

They will be joined a host of new additions to the cast, including Doctor Who's Thaddea Graham, Schitt's Creek star Dan Levy and Queen & Slim's Jodie Turner-Smith.

Line of Duty actor Andi Osho, Last Night in Soho's Lisa McGrillis and Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby are among the other newcomers to the Sex Education universe.

The show, which has been praised for its diverse and inclusive cast, has also added trans actors Anthony Lexa and Felix Mufti, and deaf star Alexandra James.

Sex Education season 4 is streaming on Netflix now