Well, I think anyone who say’s an outright no to my opening title, should question themselves. In everything we do, we should be trying to improve. Our health, or relationships, businesses, knowledge, etc. And if that business is teaching pupils to drive, then surely, we should be looking to improve. What’s the latest Highway code saying? What are the latest teaching methods? And, like it or lump it, we are licenced by the DVSA, so like any licencing body, what do the DVSA want? If you were involved in financial services, you would have to follow their governing body. Medical, then again, the appropriate body, heck my mate is a ceiling fixer, he certainly would not try and claim any educational intelligence or qualifications but guess what? Every year he must do exams on health and safety, working at heights and first aid to name a few. He is also self-employed.
So, is there really a problem?
I would say yes. From my experience, instructors limp through the part three test, breath a sigh of relief when they pass, and do no more training or anything until they get the invitation for a Standards Check test. In fact its probably worse than that. Once they pass they forget all about the stuff they learned to pass the test. They stop setting goals, stop thinking about changing the lesson plan etc. In fact, they go backwards. They have passed but ignore the feedback given to them by the examiner on the day. This feedback is so important. Follow this feedback, keep doing everything else that was good and ‘hey presto’ you will improve. The examiner is telling you, how to improve your grade. What grade did you get when you passed? I bet you can all remember! But what was the feedback needed to improve? How many can prove me wrong in that I bet most can’t remember?
I think since I started, things have got better for CPD. I believe the figure quoted to me was less than 1% of driving instructors went on to do any additional qualifications. Today, there are more organisations out there providing ‘professional qualifications’. Providers who have educational and practical experience behind them. But beware, not all have the correct background. I am sure the number have now increased for those instructors doing some CPD, but I bet its less than 10% of instructors. (This is only a guess, anyone with any proper figures please enlighten me). Looking at the number of instructors I see who ask for training only after they have failed 2 Standards test, and normally the week before the third and final, I know there is a problem. These instructors generally have no idea of the competencies or coaching methods.
We also have the number of pupils who fail there driving test because, they can’t drive independently. I don’t mean the independent drive part. But on a driving test, the pupil is driving for the full time ‘independently’. Often, they can’t make decisions for themselves. Nerves are often blamed when nerves are not the problem. I know that in a few cases, some pupils have nerve issues, but I have maintained for a long time, in many cases nerves are just the excuse for the pupil and instructor to relinquish themselves of any responsibility. Yes, there is a problem!
Maybe the questions should have been, is the way the DVSA are trying to raise the standards the right way.
Standard? We have our 17 competencies. Steeped in educational value and background. We know that coaching works, or we should do. What is it firstly the DVSA are trying to achieve? A quote from the latest Dispatch says, ‘provide an opportunity for ADIs and trainee driving instructors to show their skills and how they can help pupils better prepare to drive safely and independently.’ *I don’t think there is any question about most driving instructors trying to teach pupils to drive. I think many feel they are trying to do this safely but are we truly teaching them to drive independently? I would suggest not. Simply by getting a pupil to test standard and hoping they pass on the day is certainly not. Certainly, telling pupils all the time what to do because its easier is certainly not. To get a pupil independent, calls for coaching. Creating thinking drivers not reactionary drivers.
How else could the DVSA raise the standards of teaching? They have little or no control over how much CPD an driving instructor does. The only thing they can control is the duration, type of test and the grade required to pass. Raising the pass mark will cause many driving instructors to worry. Many more will look at CPD and what they can do. This is how the standard will be raised. As more instructors do CPD, they get better skilled, the whole standard will improve. Of course, there are many who will not do anything. They will hide behind excuses and try to deflect with ‘what are the DVSA doing about waiting times, why are the examiners on strike, why is there no tea and coffee in my test centre, etc. Improve the standards, more pupils will pass, because more pupils will drive independently, test waiting times will come down. I can’t say it will bring tea and coffee to your test centre though!
So, the Standard is raised.
I hope most driving instructors are not happy with just passing with a 31. (I did say hope) I remember a SEADI (as they were called) saying, ‘what was expected, was an ADI to achieve a grade 4 then at the next test a grade 5 and then a grade 6’ and so it should be. Each check test, as it was then called, you would strive to improve your grade. Now, you try to improve your score, 31 to 38, 38 to 45, and 45 to 51. The previous figures are just examples of what you could set your personal goals for each Standard Check. You can then look at ‘how can I achieve xxx at my next test. You are not looking to leap from 31/33 to 51. OK, you might, but set your goals realistically. Who can help you with this goal. My own website contains lots of free stuff. I don’t charge for the videos or articles I write (this might change in the future, I don’t know). There will always be free stuff, it’s like my hobby. It is Saturday morning; I don’t work Saturday morning, but I am writing this for you. There are many providers out there, some free, some charge and that is right. Many trainers have spent a fortune on additional qualifications. You may have paid £2500 or so in your own training, but some have spent £1000’s. Mine is probably in the region of £20,000 plus with the Masters degree included.
look to improve at every step. For the past few weeks, I have been making short videos on how to improve your grade the 1% way. These are just short videos to explain how you can inch an extra point or so in each competency. I read the following in the DVSA Dispatch, ‘It’s reasonable to think that as driving instructors become more experienced, their skills and competencies will improve’* I think it is.
Is it really that hard?
There are 51 points up for grabs. There are 17 competencies. You need 33. That’s an average of slightly under 2 in all competencies. What is a 2 ‘to demonstrate in most elements’ according to the marking sheet. Still sounds hard well do you understand what ‘was the lesson plan adapted, when appropriate, to help the pupil work towards their learning goals’? No! not the version you heard of some group in Facebook, or someone at the test centre, the official version? Do you FULLY understand, ‘did the trainer ensure that the pupil fully understood how the responsibility for risk would be shared’? no! well of course you are worried. Get confident in these things and you will be more confident in your next test. Those were just two of the competencies, there are another 15. Don’t join the masses protesting, get on with improving your teaching. If this did mean a few more failed, and it might, it would mean that only the best survived, standards would be higher, less instructors, more money maybe, fancy that? Don’t miss the boat.
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.