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

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