Today the DVSA has released a communication that begins with the following:
Driving test statistics: 1 April to 31 October 2022
On 9 November the Department for Transport (DfT) published the official driving test statistics for 1 April to 31 October 2022.
The latest driving test data reveals the pass rate for October has dropped to 47.9% in October. We have also seen an increase in how often driving examiners need to physically intervene to avoid a dangerous incident to every 1 in 8 tests.
Owner of BIG TOM Driving School Franchise offers his opinion of why this is happening:
The situation we find ourselves in stems from the announcement back in August 2021 of our regulator (the DVSA) stating that they are wanting to “raise training standards” by monitoring the pass rates of all driving instructors and also faults per test, types of fault and the number of physical interventions from driving examiners. The consequence of “triggering” the data measures was the prospect of a ‘Standards Check’ recall, whereby a process begins that can instigate an instructor being removed from the register and losing their livelihood. I raised my concerns at the time with an instructor association that I am a member of, and also raised them directly, in person, with the CEO of the DVSA at a driving instructor conference. I also went into writing with my concerns to Baroness Vere of Norbiton (House of Lords) and that subsequently involved an exchange of communication with Andrew Harvey (Parliamentary Office – DVSA).
The thrust of my concern was the adverse effect that the announcement was having within the driving instructor industry based on my attendance at half a dozen driving test centres in my region. I was not only concerned for the mental well-being of my peers but also expressed concern at how this data monitoring negatively affects pupils and their parents – I provided written feedback from one of my pupil’s parents regarding the dismay at the situation. It appeared very clear to me, that although my personal performance statistics were not in the catchment to trigger a recall, the mere fact of being monitored to this extent was being perceived as a ‘threat’ and crucially the justification for such an action (what one might describe as ‘evidence’) was entirely missing. To this day, despite all of the above attempts, at no point has the DVSA shown any data that links the instigation of this ‘data triggering’ regulatory action as:
I repeatedly asked whether there had been an increase in private car presentations to driving tests as my concern was that so worried were driving instructors of presenting a pupil who failed the test, that many were simply not taking pupils to the test. I and peers I engaged with were all of the opinions that there was a dramatic increase in private cars being used for driving tests. One question that I publicly asked the CEO of the DVSA at the instructor conference was how she was able to justify the increased risk to her examiners by having more driving tests being conducted in vehicles that were not fitted with dual controls. She repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the ratio between driving instructor cars versus private cars on driving tests – a FoI request of mine has since discovered that ratio to be 3:1 (school car:private car).
Since the time that the data monitoring was introduced (August 2021) there has not been any increase in the national driving test pass rate, in fact, as the DVSA has shared today, it is falling. The last 3 years figures are: 20/21 49.8%, 21/22 48.9% and Apr 22-Jun 22 48.7% and of course, this figure provided today for October as 47.9%. In addition, the DVSA are now expressing concern that the number of times examiners are physically intervening on driving tests has now increased to 1 in 8 tests.
But if the DVSA had concerns regarding the level of training standards by driving instructors, then one would presume that their system of categorising driving instructors into Grade A or Grade B by way of their Standards Check assessment would be the first place to prioritise efforts. These Standards Checks used to be conducted by the DVSA periodically (typically 4 years apart) and the assessment (45 minute observation of a typical driving lesson) would then grade a ‘high overall standard’ instructor as Grade A and a ‘sufficient competence’ instructor as Grade B. An ‘unsatisfactory performance’ on a Standards Check would instigate a pathway to possible removal from the register. However, from August 2021, the DVSA prioritise recalling an instructor for a Standards Check if they trigger the data measures as previously described above. One might assume that there is data that demonstrates that driving instructors who are Grade B will significantly outnumber those who are Grade A. However, another FoI request from myself, is actually quite illuminating. When you read the following data, please bear in mind that when the DVSA announced their monitoring system to driving instructors back in August 2021, they ALSO stated that they had been monitoring all instructors for the previous 12 months without their knowledge. So, driving instructors were not just being informed of a new performance measure, they were also being told that it was being back-dated to include the previous 12 months data.
From August 2021 up to July 2022 the amount of Grade A instructors who had been recalled for a Standards Check was 0.7% of their total. For Grade B instructors the figure was 0.9%. For August 2022 and September 2022 (this 12 month data is now POST the DVSA announcement of the performance measure), those percentages go nearly three-fold to 1.92% for Grade A, and 2.5% for Grade B. For both Grade A and Grade B instructors, there were more recalls in August than for the entire previous 12 month period. So the data appears to be very clear: not only are national driving test pass rates decreasing, and physical interventions from examiners increasing, but also driving instructor recalls are multiplying three-fold PRECISELY since the performance measuring process was announced. The data performance measures introduced by the regulator appear to be adversely affecting all parties in UK driving training: pupils, pupils’ parents, driving instructors and driving examiners. I am not aware of one shred of evidence/research that shows how such an initiative raises training standards historically, anywhere, or indeed, in our case in the UK.
The above comments are solely those of the owner of BIG TOM Driving School Franchise, Tom Ingram.