Choosing a driving instructor is not a straightforward task. If you are going to pay a driving instructor to teach you to drive, then you should choose with care. Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs), need to pass qualifying exams and be registered with the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in order to charge for lessons. An ADI must display a pink (part qualified) or green (fully qualified) certificate on the windscreen of their car. They cannot charge money for driving lessons without this.
Unfortunately, because of serious flaws in the DVSA testing process; a lot of people can easily qualify for the ADI register even though they are very poor at what they do. Once an instructor gets onto the register, even though they may be notoriously bad at what they do; the DVSA is either unwilling or powerless to do anything about it. An ADI may repeatedly bring a very poor standard for test, including dangerous candidates, but the DVSA rarely takes any serious action to remedy this.
The DVSA does operate a system of ‘standards checks’ on ADIs; once every few years an examiner will sit in the back of a lesson to assess the instructors ability and award them a grade, but these ‘lessons’ can easily be rehearsed in advance and are all too easy to get around by those who know how to play the game.
Find out what grade your potential instructor is. On the older system, grade 6 is the highest. Do not choose anyone with less than a grade 5. Grade 4 is too easy to obtain and anything below this is substandard. ADIs graded under the newer system will either get A, B or fail. To be on the safe side I would insist on someone with only the highest grade!
You may see advertising where instructors are claiming to have proof of high pass rates, this may be true, but then again this is something which can easily be manipulated. When an ADI brings a pupil for test, the examiner will make a note of the registration number on the certificate. The data is then used to produce statistics. A rogue instructor will simply remove their badge when they’re expecting a test failure and leave it in when they’re expecting a pass, in order to make it look as though they have a higher percentage of passes than they actually do.
Another point to be aware of, especially when choosing a driving instructor from larger schools; is the variation in ability from one instructor to the next. Many driving schools do not train the ADIs who work for them. Most schools operate on a franchise basis and will take on any instructor, regardless of ability. As a result, you may go to what you believe is the best driving school in the country and end up with the worst instructor in town. This does happen… I’ve worked with a few!
What’s it Worth?
When choosing your driving school don’t try to make any false economies. People often complain about the cost of driving lessons; but when you compare the cost of a one-hour session to the amount a plumber or mechanic would charge for an hour’s work, driving lessons are not that expensive! You should avoid cheap lessons and ‘special offers’, a good instructor should not need to sell themselves cheaply.
A personal recommendation may sound great when choosing a driving instructor; but novice drivers generally have no idea what a good instructor is, or whether they are being taught correctly. Too often people recommend their instructors because they are ‘nice’, or they have a laugh with them. You need more than this in order to make an informed choice! It is very difficult and I wish I could be more positive about this. But the only way I would trust a recommendation, is from a number of people who have already passed with an ADI. When you ask, make sure that the people offering recommendations have passed first or second time in order for this to be trusted as evidence of good training.
Don’t be Afraid to Change!
Once you do choose your instructor, I hope that you get on well with them and make good progress. If things don’t seem quite right, or if you are one of the unfortunate ones with an instructor who takes you for test too early and you perform poorly; then do NOT be afraid to change to another ADI. Far too many customers stay with the same instructor despite repeated test failures. They blame everything apart from the quality of training they receive. It is not easy for an inexperienced driver to realise when they are being fooled by a poor instructor. But in comparison; if you went to a shop which kept selling you goods which didn’t work properly, would you continue to spend your money there?