Black Country pupils star in new Channel 4 documentary Sixteen: Class of 2021

The trials and tribulations of an unprecedented school year for pupils at a Black Country academy will be laid bare in a new television documentary.

Channel 4 has followed pupils at Link Academy in Netherton
Channel 4 has followed pupils at Link Academy in Netherton

"Sixteen: Class of 2021" will showcase the pupils of the Link Academy in Netherton as they experienced possibly the most challenging year in living memory, juggling lockdowns, testing and exam chaos.

The documentary, which premières at 9pm tonight on Channel 4, mixes footage of the pupils in class and at school with their lives at home, filmed through personal video diaries.

The first episode takes place in September 2020 at the start of the new school year, with the Year 11 pupils preparing for their final year against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephen Clarke, marketing manager for Dudley Acadamies Trust, said the school had been approached to take part by the production company Label1, which was looking for a multi-ethnic school which represented the region.

He said: "The Link is mostly working-class with lots of self-employed families and is also connected with the modern world through social media.

"I also pointed them towards the Link as I know they'd be able to facilitate the programme and stand up for themselves, so the cameras would not be able to do things against the interest of the learners."

Principal Emma Edwards-Morgan said it was a surprise to find the school had selected, but also said it was a positive way of showcasing the school and the region.

She said: "We've got something special at the Link in terms of the diverse mix of young people that they'd be interested in meeting.

"I think it's a really positive thing for the region as well as I personally feel the Midlands tends to get overlooked a lot of the time with things like this.

"We've got 205 Year 11 pupils and they were never going to get every character and every child, but I think they've captured the diverse mix of children we have and made a difference in their lives."

Among the pupils featured on the documentary will be cheeky footballer Callum, head girl Aaminah, best friends Sade and Kara and aspiring actress Grace, with the cameras capturing their family lives and how they feel about their studies.

Callum said: "Most of my year eleven school life’s been sat at home working on a laptop which is the most unusual thing and not something I thought I’d ever be doing."

Aaminah said: "They’re going to write exam questions on us in a few years and pinpoint how our life was."

Sade said: "This year’s been a mad year. My exams have been scrapped, I’ve been doing online lessons, and I’m trying to work out what to do with my life when they call us the Covid kids."

Kara said: "Most people barely live on fifteen grand a year and there’s fifty grand cars…A pair of Louboutin shoes are more expensive than people’s wages. That's just mad to me."

Grace said: "School’s all you’ve ever known, but as you get older, it's time to like think more for yourself and think about what you are going to do and your future."

"Sixteen: Class of 2021" is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursdays.

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