Exams drove our girl to tragedy

Lisa Wilks, who a coroner ruled took her own life after being under pressure at school
Lisa Wilks, who a coroner ruled took her own life after being under pressure at school
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The heartbroken family of a “bubbly” teenage girl believe she took her own life because of the pressure of A-Level exams.

Lisa Wilks, 17, was found hanged from a tree in the garden at the family home in Norcross just before she was due to sit 15 exams in five different subjects, an inquest into her death was told.

Blackpool coroner Alan Wilson said there was a “lack of evidence” to substantiate the claim exam pressures were a contributing factor.

But Lisa’s family told The Gazette they believe the difficulties the Blackpool Sixth Form College student faced due to her studies contributed to her death.

Speaking after the hearing at Blackpool Town Hall, yesterday, Lisa’s mother Christine, 55, said: “I think it was all to do with the pressure she felt herself under at college.”

Her father Derek, 46, said: “She didn’t have much else in life to worry about.”

Paying tribute to her daughter, Mrs Wilks, from Warren Drive, described her as “very bubbly, amazing and very patient with things”, while her husband added: “She’d listen to any people’s problems but never shared her own.”

The inquest heard Lisa had enrolled on six A-level courses – chemistry, biology, maths statistics, psychology, religious education and general studies – last autumn at the college after completing

GCSEs at St Aidan’s C of E Technology College, Preesall.

She had wanted to study chemistry but had been one mark off the required grade in her GCSE exam for entry.

However after negotiation was allowed to take the subject and religious education on a six-week trial period, after which she chose to take the former full-time.

Regular churchgoer Lisa was described in the inquest as a “clever” pupil who harboured ambitions of a career in genetic research or training to become a biology teacher.

After hearing evidence from Mrs Wilks, Mr Wilson said: “It hasn’t gone particularly smoothly in terms of sixth form life.

“She wanted to do chemistry and there was some dispute as to her being able to do it. It got to the point where she was feeling as though she felt pressured into doing quite a number of A-Levels.”

Mrs Wilks responded: “Lisa was very clever at a lot of things and very good at religious education.

“They expected her to carry on with RE which she was going to be good at, but when it became clear she could do chemistry properly she was put into the very top class with very clever people.

“She felt she’d done all she could do and was getting to the point where she was sick of chemistry. A B grade would have been good enough for most, but not for Lisa.”

In the weeks leading up to her death, Lisa had also mentioned to Mrs Wilks that she wanted to hang herself.

Mrs Wilks told the inquest: “I think it was because she was unhappy at college. I said ‘hanging is for criminals, you’re not a criminal and we’d miss you terribly’.

“Later we had a discussion saying she didn’t have to be at college, she didn’t have to do that. I don’t think we really believed her then.

“It was a case of, ‘I wish I was dead because I don’t have to do that’ rather than she was actually going to do it.”

Lisa was found hanged by Mr Wilks on the morning of May 9, after he had noticed she hadn’t got up to go to college that morning.

Recording a verdict that she had taken her own life, Mr Wilson said: “It is a very sad set of circumstances involving a young lady of 17.

“Clearly there has been reference to her feeling pressure about her exams but there is a lack of evidence to suggest that the issue in relation to exams was probably a causative feature in these circumstances.”

Lisa, a keen animal lover and talented origami artist, took part in a volunteering programme run by the National Citizenship Service last summer, which Mr Wilks described as “the highlight of her life”.

The service has introduced an award in her memory to be presented to the participant in the Blackpool scheme who shows the most endeavour each year.

Around 300 people attended her funeral, while friends also held a vigil on Cleveleys beach. As well as her parents and grandparents, she is also survived by sisters Helen, 21, and Sarah, 19.

Mrs Wilks thanked members of All Saints church, in Anchorsholme, for the support since Lisa’s death.

She said: “They are a tremendously faithful and caring lot of people there.

“We’re totally devastated and there’s a sense of guilt as everybody would feel, but ultimately we feel that she is with the Lord now.”

Felicity Greeves, principal of Blackpool Sixth Form College, said: “The entire Blackpool Sixth Form College community was deeply shocked and saddened by Lisa’s death. She was a bright and ambitious student who was doing well academically in college and was a valued member of the choir.

“She immediately showed herself to be a gifted, hard-working and conscientious student and impressed all of her tutors with her commitment to her studies.

“We have an excellent record of providing pastoral support to students and have been recognised by Ofsted for the caring nature of our approach.

“We always ask students to let us know if they need support and are always on the look-out for signs that support is needed. Tragically, in Lisa’s case there was no indication that she was having any difficulties either within college or outside.

“We have liaised closely with Lisa’s family in the past months since her death. Our thoughts remain with them.”