Changes to part 2 and 3, whats all the fuss about

Image for changes to part 2 and 3Reading the social media forums, I see a lot of criticism about the DVSA changing the qualifying tests to become a driving instructor. Comments like ‘dumbing down’ and ‘it’s against the rules of the Highway Code’. Few seem to support the changes and seem to berate the DVSA for daring to change the test.
Some of this is the human nature to resist change and some is the usual ‘I hate the DVSA’ brigade but let’s look at this with some common sense. The changes stem from a few things. The recommendations from the MERIT report and the realisation that the GDE matrix comes from real pedagogy and coherent coaching methods. It comes from the changes to not only the restructured learner driving test but to also align with the new Standards Test.

Changes to part 2

What does the part 2 test, test? It tests the skill that you will demonstrate and teach to the learner so what would be best to test? Yes, the very same test that the learner will do. It is up to the individual to check that their skills such as manoeuvres are up to scratch. Any conscientious instructor should by self-assessment know their strengths and weaknesses and take corrective steps to improve where needed. The part 2 test will become an enhanced version of the learner test and quite rightly so. If a driving instructor wishes to do some form of advanced test then there are plenty to choose from. The Institute of Advanced motorists, ROSPA or the DVSA’s own Cardington if they fancy a real challenge. Personally, I recommend doing an advanced driving test as part of the training to become a driving instructor.

So, the new test will test the potential driving instructor on the very things the instructor will be teaching the learner. This seems like common sense to me and gives the driving instructor the realia of the actual driving test. It also allows the instructor to experience the nerves and procedures about the driving test. This is a great experience and one that gives empathy to the instructor to share with the learner.

Changes to part 3

For years instructors have complained about the Pre-Set-Tests (PST’s) not being realistic. The new test allows the driving instructor to take a real pupil or someone of their choosing instead of an examiner doing a role play. This is great news and the format will be the same as the standards test. This means that unlike in the past trainers will not be under the allusion that a ‘check test’ is different than the part 3 test.
The instructor will already know who they are taking for test and in an ideal situation, the part 3 test will be just an extension of a normal lesson. A lesson where the examiner just effectively hops in the back and observes. If the trainer using correct teaching methods and learning takes place, a pass will happen. The part 3 test will be a ‘real’ lesson with a real pupil.

In my opinion, this also means that the instructor will need to be ready to change the lesson ‘if’ the need arises. This is likely to be a common occurrence as with the Standards Test, a pupil will often revert to not being able to do something they strangely had not had problems with before. With the correct training, this should not be a problem for the instructor.

To summarise

The new part 2 and 3 test are nascent and just need some time. Change is needed and we need to embrace it or start taking anti-depressants to cope with life (Please don’t start taking anti-depressants-This is a joke)

How long is a driving lesson?

How to sell yourself on that first lesson

Picture representing 1 hour driving lesson
The first lesson is probably the most important lesson you will ever do for each pupil. They do not know you and you do not know them. It is here that your success and future lies. The pupil will be a mix of emotions; excited, nervous, dubious, cautious and many more. Ideally this will be a two hour lesson and in this time you really need to get them moving. If it is only a one hour lesson, do not spend ages on the controls of the car as these can be covered later, just give an abridged version. Do not rush your pupil though, they will be nervous and could back off if they feel rushed. Keep a calm manner and explain simply what you want them to do. A nice quote I heard from an instructor was how he says to his pupil, he will drive the car through them. You need this pupil to go home and to school/college and say how fantastic this lesson was. If your pupil has had some lessons already, then I used to find out what they really wanted to learn from me and then I would achieve this. Often it would be a manoeuvre and I would sort this out in half of the lesson and teach them something new in the other half. Either way I wanted them to know I was the right instructor for them and give them the best lesson I could. Never, I repeat, never belittle any previous training or instructor they have had before. I have just recently had two trainees; both have had lessons with the same two instructors, with each instructor telling them that each trainer feels they are right. Don’t become just another instructor, become their instructor.
Ok, so they have had the best lesson of their lives. Now is the time to give them honest advice about their test and future lessons. You need to believe in what it is you are telling your pupil and they will believe it too. Many times I have had pupils or even clients on part three who after a lesson have agreed they were not ready for the previous two tests they failed. This is also when you will talk to them about booking the test, how many hours you feel would be a realistic goal etc.

There are no secrets to this, simply let your pupil know you care about their progress and are giving honest advice.

1 hour lesson

On occasions you will get pupils who insist on a one hour lesson. You should avoid this at all cost, the reasons for which are outlined in the following section ‘why instructors lose pupils.’ Although the pupil will feel that they can only afford a one hour lesson, you will show them they cannot actually afford to learn this way. If however your pupil insists, do not refuse but you will need to be honest with them and let them know that this will take a lot longer and in most cases actually three times longer. I would suggest to my pupils who were struggling with money to take two hours every fortnight rather than one hour a week; this would at least cut down on some of the cost. I would tend to carry out these rare one hour lessons at the beginning or end of the day to maximise diary planning.

As mentioned earlier, you need to let your pupil know you have their best interest at heart and they will trust you. I have talked previously of the two hour lesson and its benefits; well this is how you sell it to your pupil.

A one hour lesson has just one ½ hour learning period in it. You have 15 minutes at the beginning of ‘How are you, how is mum?’ etc. followed by a ½ hour learning period. Then 15 minutes at the end spent debriefing, taking the money and booking the next lesson.

One hour lesson

A two hour lesson has the same 15 minutes at the beginning and at the end but three 30 minute learning periods. This has effectively three times the learning for only twice the cost.

Two hour lesson

How much do you want to pay?

I always used to ask my pupils ‘how much do you want to pay?’ The answer will always be along the lines of ‘as little as possible’. I would use an example of the DSA average at 50 lessons. Showing that 50 lessons at an average £20 would cost them £1000, I would point out that this was an average and they may need only half of them. They would still see that this would be £500. I would then use the example about two hour lessons, showing that this would effectively reduce the required lessons by a third (33%). This would mean only 18 two hour lessons were needed, costing £720. I would then suggest they used block booking so that further savings could be made…they of course are thinking that they will only need half that (as I had suggested earlier) so the reality of them affording them is getting easier. I would always write this down on some paper, so the student can see the logic for themselves and to give to their parents later, and tailor the example to fit with their needs. The example used shows a new pupil with no prior experience.

No Goal (book the pupils test)

Image for Driving School goals
My example above would follow on by asking them ‘when would you like to pass your test.’ Answers of ‘as soon as possible’ can be expected. Again use the example of the DSA average of 50 hours of tuition. This would mean the average pupil would take one year (50 weeks). Do you think you could keep all your pupils that long? I could not. Use the two hour lesson and you are only looking at about four months until the test. As your pupil will be trying to halve this (most seem to feel that they are better than the average) then they are thinking about two months, a time frame almost any pupil will be happy with. As before I will write this down, giving them an actual date in my diary for when I would expect them to sit their practical test in about 16 weeks.

Let’s take a step back. In schools and colleges etc. when you sign up for a course the exam dates are set in tablets of stone. You work towards these dates and take extra tuition or do extra study to meet these dates. So why does this not happen with driving tuition? In my experience you can book up your pupil’s test dates well in advance and work towards that goal. This follows with the theory test too, I book this for the pupil if they have not already done it, generally aiming for about 6 weeks’ time. You need to be a little guided by the pupil as some have learning difficulties and this time frame may not suit them, but on the whole 6 weeks is fine for most.

So who books the tests? Simple! You do. So many instructors leave the pupil to book their own test and then experience problems such as double bookings, pupils booking too soon or booking when you are away etc.

Professional or cowboy

Imagine having a builder come to your house and say, ‘you get the materials and let me know when you have them and I will come and build your extension any time to suit you…’ What are we thinking, professional or cowboy?

What about a plumber who comes and gives you a quote for a new radiator and say’s ‘you go to B&Q (other good retailers of bathroom fittings do exist) and get the radiator and I will fit it when you want…’ Again, what’s your opinion going to be, professional or cowboy?

Yet so many instructors say, ‘you go and book your test and let me know when it is and I will do it…’ and then complain that their pupil has been apparently ‘ripped off’ by some test booking agency that charges them extra to book the test for them! These agencies are only providing a service that most Driving Instructors won’t.

Booking a test is simple using your unique business I.D. and the dedicated number, which speed dials direct to an operator. Book the theory test the day after their first lesson for about six weeks’ time and when they pass book the practical test for about ten weeks after that, which will be about 16 weeks from their first lesson with you.

So what have we now got? A pupil who has had their first lesson and is excited at driving the car for the first time, they go home to Mum and Dad and tell them all about it and how the instructor has booked both their theory and practical test (in YOUR diary). Mum and Dad are happy as they would have been worried about how long it would take and how much it would cost. When they go to school they tell their friends who are amazed that their test is being booked and wonder why their instructor has not booked their test.
You pupil not only has a goal but a way to achieve this goal and all they have to do is turn up for their regular lessons. Your pupil will not leave you because you are providing what they want. It is the instructors who give no real timescale and just wander through lessons who lose their pupils.

This article has been written by Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI who runs 1st 4 Driving Ltd. A company that enable Driving Schools to expand and grow and offers a whole host of professional tools for Driving Schools and Driving Instructors. You can get more information on this at http://1st4driving.co.uk

Living in a fish bowl

If you are a driving instructor who smokes in your car, uses your phone during lessons, swears or uses racist language on social media. You will need to bypass this post as you won’t like it.

Those who are close to me know I have a particular hatred of how many driving instructors portray themselves. Yes, the lack of knowledge often seen used on social media and I would assume cascaded to their pupils is worrying but today I am looking at the professional image or rather lack of it seen so often in the social media forums and out on the road.

I was pondering an article from the MSA where John Lepine has copied in content about driving instructors using car parks in retail parks. It is clear John is trying to work with the store and the ADI and rightly so. The comments from the store were predictable, albeit unfortunate, but it is the comments from driving instructors that worry me more. The manager of the store say’s how staff have received abuse from instructors and I would love to believe these statements were not true but unfortunately after reading comments on social media, I suspect it is true. Look at articles where residents have complained about driving instructors practicing in their area. (I do appreciate this is becoming a problem for all but this post is not discussing the rights or wrongs of this) Many comments are that it is not against the law and where else are they going to practice? Many instructors expatiate the situation by arguing with residents and sometimes being abusive does not help.

Every day we see driving instructors smoking in cars, using their phones and all manner of things. I’ve seen driving instructors flashing people out of junctions, speeding past me (While on the phone). In our office, we regularly take calls from irate motorists and members of the public call to say they have seen this or that. Recently I sacked an instructor who not only thought it fine to smoke a vape in the car but had a small stove on the back seat to warm his drinks while driving. Teased a Muslim lady about bacon and then stopped the car to purchase a bacon sandwich and eat it during this lady’s lesson. As I said he was sacked…

I have seen a recent post from driving instructors complaining about safety cameras (they call them speed cameras) being purely income generators for the police, really? And all manner of misguided facts about speed enforcement. Is it little wonder the public rebel when to be honest some are training them to do this?

So, my point. Do instructors not think the public see all this? Are we not giving our fellow driving instructors a bad name? What does this do to your school? We must remember that we are running business and the old age of not sharing views on politics, race and religion stand. It is easy to offend people without realising. Of course, I already hear the cry’s ‘I don’t care who I offend’ or ‘rubbish, it’s my private Facebook and what I write my pupils do not see’. I employ staff and like many employers one of my favourite places to go before the interview is the social media websites to do some research on my potential employees. Don’t cry out that’s not right because many employer do this. If I am reading about how they have a hangover every Monday morning and they had to pull a sickie, then guess what? Do people think that in this day and age pupils aren’t doing this? Hey, it’s better than a DBS check and any review system…

It’s not all instructors of course, many are professional, keep their views to themselves and deal with customers as they would their closest family, with respect and dignity. I saw a post a couple of days ago from a driving instructor about day 1 on an intensive driving course with a new pupil that was as dull as dish water or something like that. Respectful? Dignified? And would you want your son or daughter with this instructor? No, I didn’t think so.

We live in a world where in effect as a business we are in a large fish bowl and everything we do or say is being noted. Professional businesses do not do the above. I am on forums for business, teaching, TEFL, Land Rovers, and photography and on none of these forums have I seen the sort of behaviour I see presented by Driving Instructors.

Rant over…