High marks for this emotionally pulverising documentary about a gang of teenagers starting their GCSEs mid-pandemic

Just about any documentary set in a school, among the scramble of children bulging this way and that and the tensile network of teachers arching protectively over them, is emotionally exhausting. If you have the slightest bit of imagination, empathy or compassion – the slightest bit of sentience, really – you cannot fail to sit back at the end of every one, exhale deeply and exclaim: “I don’t know how they do it.”

Add Covid and a focus on the GCSE years to that little lot – as Sixteen: Class of 2021 (Channel 4) does – and you can expect to be pulverised. This is the first of a series of four films in which we follow the year 11s of the Link Academy in Dudley, in the West Midlands, as they return to school in September 2020, after the first lockdown. The previous year group had their exams scrapped, and grades given on the basis of mock results. As such, we learn that the year 11 mocks have been brought forward, in an attempt to mitigate disaster in the event of another lockdown.

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