A BLACKBURN college principal said the town is losing its brightest youngsters because of marketing campaigns.

New St Mary’s College principal Frank Dixon has said he wishes to work with other sixth form providers in Blackburn with Darwen to stem a ‘drain’ of A-level students.

Mr Dixon has said it is common for many young people in the town to travel for an hour and a half daily to other colleges outside town because of advertising campaigns.

He said A-level study on offer in the town is highly rated by Ofsted, but young people are swayed by mail drops and radio campaigns.

After being promoted to the head role from his deputy leadership position he said one of his top priorities will be to keep local talent in the area. He added: “It really is not unusual for some of the big North West colleges to directly target students' home addresses with advertising.

“Pupils as young as 13 are getting CDs and postcards urging them to range outside town for their A-level study choices.

“There are also colleges spending vast amounts advertising on the radio and in cinemas.

“It’s damaging, because in Blackburn with Darwen we want to keep our best and brightest here.

“There’s no reason to spend so much time travelling because there are so many good A-level, vocational and apprenticeship providers right here in town.

“The only difference is that principals like myself want to spend our budget on actual teaching, not on marketing and adverts.

“Both ourselves and St Wilfred’s gained good Ofsted ratings and only a few in the entire country did better this year. When good education is on offer right here, it makes no sense to be losing students to other areas. We may never get this talent back once they leave the area.”

Blackburn with Darwen NUT representative Simon Jones said: “This is a worry for many educators in the area because more and more, they are being forced to become businesses.

“It is not at all surprising that sixth form colleges which focus on teaching are losing out to the marketing approach.

“This type of industry-style competition is really destructive. When it is older students who drive and travel further afield, the competitiveness can be damaging to an entire area.

“Spending vast sums on advertising and marketing has no place in the educational system.”