I don’t think a week goes by in our driving school where some well-intentioned parent calls up about their son or daughters driving lessons. In the car, the pressures are the same.
‘My dad says, he only had 10 driving lessons and he passed first time’.
‘My parents think I should have passed by now’.
‘My parent just wants me to have a go at the test’.
These are just some of the common things you will have heard or will hear. Generally, when they call the office, it is because it has escalated to mum or dad trying to complain or force the instructor to take them to test or reduce lessons. Here, the relationship and trust has broken down between instructor and parent. The hardest ones now are the ‘we have a driving test booked next week and your driving instructor is refusing to take them’. But there is another type of complaint we see that is harder. This is when a different instructor takes on a pupil. The pupil feels they are being taught differently from the first instructor. This is then taken to mum and dad who call to ask what is going on. Harder if the first instructor is from the same driving school.
Why do pupils change driving instructors?
There are many reasons why pupils change driving instructors, normally because they feel they are not making progress or have some form of compliant about the instructor. It can be because they have moved or gone to university of course or the driving instructor has given up for some reason. Some years back I did some research and found the reasons given to the driving instructor were different to the real reasons. They would tell the instructor, they were having a break in lessons or could not afford it now, where they told my secret customer survey, the instructor was rude or smelly or some other personal trait. Most of all was cited a lack of progress. In reality it was a lack of what they thought should be progress, but these are just the reasons given. Many of the reasons pupils leave driving instructors should just not happen. For this article, I am not looking at the reasons why, or how to stop this article, the 5 main reasons pupils leave driving instructors.
What to do when these pupils land in your seat?
Well, my first point is always, do not run down the previous driving instructor, no matter what! This sets you up for problems later. They will start the ‘my last instructor said this or that, but you’re telling me something different’. You may argue that you are right, and they are wrong and indeed this may be the case but the trust starts to go. In all circumstances to do with the actual driving lesson, you need to get the pupil to take responsibility. Let me give some examples.
Always signal when moving off.
You hopefully understand the need for signalling when it benefits and not to just signal out of habit. But you might see this or a similar fault that needs correcting. Remember I said don’t run down the previous instructor. When the pupil struggles with the new method (albeit correct) they will start to blame you or the previous instructor. Create some circumstances where that habitual signal could be misleading, a driver fault. Suggest to them that they are more advanced now and are ready to take on more responsibility and begin to teach them signalling that’s necessary, not confusing, and well timed. Give them the responsibility. You won’t conflict with the previous instructor but will just enhance the learning.
Never using the parking brake.
This is one you find sometimes where a previous instructor has implied that they do not need it. Here, when the fault occurs, and it is only a fault if the vehicle rolls or moves. You can suggest that is there anything else they could do to help them. You could say that some people are natural born drivers and can do it in their sleep but why make it hard work. If THEY feel the parking brake will help them, then use it. Again, giving them the responsibility.
Of course, there is little you can do about the past instructor personal problems other than to add, I’ve not heard that before, when in fact you probably have.
Why not just blame the last instructor?
Well, it might make you feel like you are better in the pupils’ eyes but often it does not. They might think you a hero at first but when the nagging doubts and the pressure increases, they don’t see it a professional. You are starting the conflict route. They go back to work, or school or home and repeat what you said. This will get back to the previous instructor and can cause bad feeling or worse. Often what the pupils tell you is not the truth or is simply their version of the truth. An interesting learning curve for all my new staff has been their first complaint about an instructor. OMG do you know what our instructor has been doing? they say. Have you spoken to the instructor yet? When they do, oh I see. The truth often lies somewhere in the middle. The pupil won’t tell you they left because they were allowed to get into debt with the past instructor, rather something else. That instructor could even work for the same driving school and be a friend. Avoid the conflict, life is too short. Stay professional and think how to get the pupil to take on the responsibility.
The examiners have a great system, I think. Often, they must sit in the back of another examiner. Here they look at how the other examiner marks and if afterwards they thought they would have marked differently, they discuss over a coffee (Tea is optional). IF they can’t come to an agreement, it is discussed with a senior examiner. Every examiner must do this, no matter who they are. Its how the standard is met. Now wouldn’t this be a great idea for driving instructors!
Driving School Dave
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.