PRESSURE from parents has been partly blamed on why Warrington’s most successful pupils are going out of the town for college education.

Serious concerns were raised after a report on the town’s education performance came before the scrutiny committee in December.

It confirmed Warrington’s A-level performance is below the national average, except for the percentage of grades A* to E.

However, the document revealed the vast majority of pupils, who perform well at GCSE level, tend to study at colleges outside of Warrington.

As a result, Cllr Tom Jennings called on borough chiefs to prioritise opening up a dialogue between colleges, in and out of the town, to improve Warrington’s offer.

He also said it was ‘unacceptable’ that there seemed to be no plan among officers to rectify the issue of Warrington’s ‘best and brightest’ heading elsewhere for their college education.

The matter returned to the committee at the Town Hall on Wednesday.

In her report, Kate Guise, assistant head of service for planning and participation, confirmed 61.2 per cent of Warrington residents achieve a level three qualification by the age of 19, based on 2017 figures.

It is the fourth highest local authority result in the north west and compares to 57.6 per cent, regionally, and 57.5 per cent, nationally.

But the data shows only 29.6 per cent of the borough’s most disadvantaged youngsters achieve a level three qualification compared to 33.8 per cent, regionally, and 35.9 per cent, nationally.

The authority’s priority remains to ensure provision is in place to support the most disadvantaged, which includes high-quality A-level and vocational provision that is inclusive of the town’s ‘more modest GCSE attainment students’ – with Priestley College and Warrington and Vale Royal College hailed for supporting this agenda.

Ms Guise said: “In Warrington, we have always been very, very fortunate to have such a good relationship with colleges.

“I think we are very, very fortunate in Warrington to have so much good provision within a short distance.”

Cllr Jennings (LAB – Bewsey and Whitecross) stated he was thankful for the report but still raised concerns.

He said: “My previous comments at the last committee were certainly not trying to pick a fight with any officer or any school about their current work.

“I think, actually, there should be no issue with any member of this committee conveying constructive criticism and wanting to get answers.

“While it is a comprehensive report, I still don’t think it targets what my specific issue was, which was we still have our high achievers seeking to go elsewhere.

“How are we ultimately ascertaining why they are going elsewhere?”

Cllr Jennings asked whether part of the problem could be linked to a perception among parents that ‘Sir John Deane’s is better than our offer here’.

Ms Guise said the authority could carry out a consultation on the matter to obtain further information.

But she stated ‘parental pressure’ can be a factor, with some parents wanting their children to go to sites, including Sir John Deane’s, ‘because the acceptance level is higher’.

Steve Peddie, executive director of families and wellbeing, added: “There is a long legacy behind this – it is not like we are going to turn this around right away.”