CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Lockdown's tragic legacy for our troubled teens

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Lockdown’s tragic legacy for our two million troubled teens

Helping Our Teens


The Lovers


This is the real price of Covid. Schoolchildren, who were the least likely to suffer serious health problems from coronavirus, are the ones most affected by the legacy of lockdowns.

It’s no surprise. Many predicted it, including strenuous voices in the Daily Mail. But the unfairness of it is nothing less than wicked. Children are expected to shrug off the disruptions and carry on as if they hadn’t missed all those months in the classroom.

The consequences can be tragic, and are seen with horrid clarity in Helping Our Teens (BBC2), a school documentary filmed at Beacon Hill Academy at Dudley in the West Midlands. ‘We are now facing the ripple effect of Covid,’ says head teacher Sukhjot Dhami. ‘It’s the aftermath. It’s the shock waves.’

Nationwide, nearly two million pupils regularly fail to turn up at least once a fortnight, with an estimated 100,000 missing at least half their lessons. Many of those who do attend have serious problems with behaviour or mental health. 

This documentary focused on just two, which meant their school lives were depicted in sometimes repetitive detail.

The consequences can be tragic, and are seen with horrid clarity in Helping Our Teens (BBC2). Pictured is Mr Quiney

The school documentary is filmed at Beacon Hill Academy at Dudley in the West Midlands

When we saw Year 10 pupil Jaylilah swear at a teacher and storm out, there was no mistaking this girl needed help. By the time we’d seen it five or six times, it became more difficult to retain sympathy with her – and simply extraordinary to realise how much abuse teachers are now expected to soak up meekly, the way staff at luxury hotels used to be harangued by over-entitled guests.

Sneaky promo of the night

Love And Death: Behind The Scenes (ITV), a short listed in the schedules, turned out to be a trailer for a U.S. true-crime series starring Elizabeth Olsen and airing online via ITVX. Never mind the ad breaks, even the programmes are adverts now. 

Jaylilah was a bright child who seemed genuinely unable to understand why she couldn’t tell adults to eff off whenever they annoyed her. ‘That’s just me being me,’ she explained.

Previous generations of teachers might have dismissed her as impossible and abandoned her. She was fortunate to be treated with limitless patience by staff who recognised that her whole future depended on whether they could find ways to tame her.

More distressing was the sight of Taylor, a Year 11 girl who was overwhelmed by waves of depression and anxiety. Maria Gentles, a behaviour expert working with the school, used exercises that amounted to positive thinking. But the real breakthrough came when Taylor started boxing classes, and found a way to release all that pent-up worry.

Tauter editing would have enabled this episode, the first of two, to follow other children’s stories. Taylor and Jaylilah are far from the only pupils suffering the desperate after-effects of school shutdowns. What this programme did make abundantly clear is that, for many teachers, education has been reduced to a sideline. The chief job for many is coping with distressed children.

Roisin Gallagher stars as a Belfast supermarket worker called Janet

Johnny Flynn (pictured) is Seamus, a vain political interviewer on Sunday morning telly

One time-honoured therapy for depression and anxiety is a good romcom. We’re spoiled at the moment, with Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck on BBC3 and now The Lovers (Sky Atlantic).

Johnny Flynn is Seamus, a vain political interviewer on Sunday morning telly, with Roisin Gallagher as a Belfast supermarket worker called Janet – at the end of her tether after her cheating husband left her.

The 40-minute opener barely gives us enough to judge, but there’s an undeniable chemistry between the stars. Janet and Seamus take one look at each other and can barely speak for wondering what it would be like to snog the faces off each other.

Fans of Mad Men will recognise the twist in the final scene, when Seamus returns home to his flat. And if you’ve never seen Mad Men, all seven series are streaming for free on the UKTV Play catch-up channel later this month – if you’re looking for something to binge, I’d argue it’s the best show ever made.

Source: Read Full Article