Christmas 2021
24th December 2021
Mile for mile more driving on a BIG TOM intensive course
30th December 2021

Feeling conflicted?

The problem is relatively simple but is one of the leading causes of increased fear and anxiety among driving instructors, and it was introduced in a year of lockdowns.


What no test slots?

Driving tests are in short supply, the demand far exceeds the capacity across the UK. But while customers still expect to get to test early in the ‘hope’ of a pass, the DVSA are raising the expectations of their registered driving instructors by holding them to account for their driving test pass rates. Instructors are conflicted between paying customers who quite naturally want to go to test even if perhaps they are not 100% ready, and the regulator who is saying anything less than a 55% pass rate for each instructor is unacceptable. For the first time ever, an instructor’s job is at risk depending on the performance of their pupils on test.


Threats to emotional wellbeing for instructors

For any readers considering coming into the industry, the driving test national pass rate is historically in the order of just under 50%. Never before has our regulator ever made the test pass rate a condition of being registered, but they have now, and understandably this is a threat to the emotional wellbeing of instructors. Despite an extremely consistent national pass rate in the order of 50% over many years, now, driving instructors need to outperform that average.


Pass rates vs safety levels

For the record, at no time has any attempt been made by the regulator to justify this higher test pass level on the grounds of road safety. The regulator has not for instance made a connection between the longer-term safety levels of pupils who pass on the first attempt with those who pass on the third attempt. For that matter, no evidence has been offered for the longer-term safety improvements for a pupil who passes with 4 driving errors committed compared to one who passes with 6 errors. The force behind this new measure for every driving instructor that started from August 2021 (and was immediately backdated to include the previous 12 months data without any warning to instructors) appears to be an attempt to reduce driving test presentations for candidates who are less likely to pass than others. If the number of driving tests can be reduced in this manner it relieves the pressure on the public service that the regulator is duty-bound to provide across the UK.


Tests in private cars


Interestingly, despite the above, no such conditions or accountability is placed on pupils who go to test under their own steam using a private car. As a result, there has been a noticeable increase in presentations at driving test centres across the UK, where pupils are ignoring the advice of their instructor and still going to test using their own vehicle. The DVSA has stated that traditionally, the driving test pass rate for private presentations is something of the order of 6% lower than those presented by driving instructors (46% vs 52%). It is not clear at the time of writing how pupils who ignore their instructor’s advice and still go to test in private cars (with a traditionally lower pass rate) in any way helps the crisis with driving test slot capacity. The regulator action of creating a two-tier test pass system has been broadly justified by using the term of “raising standards”, a highly ambiguous term that no attempt has been made to expand on the meaning.


New pass/fail criteria

Currently, a candidate can pass a driving test committing up to 15 driving errors, which begs the question that if this is all about raising standards, why don’t the DVSA reduce that number FOR EVERYONE to say 5. That is to say, if there is, in fact, a direct correlation between the number of faults committed on a driving test and road safety, then the DVSA could limit the number of errors accepted to no more than say 5 driving errors on a test, and that would apply to anyone who presents for a test.


What are learner drivers saying?

My Mum and Dad want me to go to test now.
Most people I know pass on their 1st or 2nd attempt so the sooner I can get my 1st attempt in the quicker I will get my licence.
It’s a 50/50 chance of passing, eventually, my luck will come in.
My Dad said he passed after eight lessons.
My parents say to me that it doesn’t matter if I pass, I can always have another go.
I actually feel ready to take the test, even though my instructor thinks it’s not a good idea.
I perform best with trial and error, I can always have another attempt until I do pass.


Customer views before lockdowns

Even before Covid lockdowns struck us all, the conflict of customer expectations versus quality of training existed in some instructor/pupil relationships. Instructors, on the one hand, desperately don’t want to lose a pupil near the end of the training programme, having put in so much work and effort developing their driving skills. On the other hand, it is an almost unbearable pressure to present someone who is keener to go to a test than the instructor is. Dissatisfied customers don’t book for any more sessions; they may even leave poor reviews on social media if they feel disappointed or in some way taken advantage of by not being allowed to go to the test.


Threats to wellbeing

But times have changed, and now instructors face a “Standards Check” if their pass rate is too low, they are facing potential removal off the register. The stakes are high. Instructors now recognise that even these pupils whom they thought would pass but “inexplicably” fail can now lead to a career loss. The fear factor is ramped up, and the weak and vulnerable inevitably feel exposed.


Is it possible to resolve this conflict?

The BIG TOM franchise outperformed these data triggers for the previous 12 months when they were introduced. And subsequent to that, at the time of writing, it is 71%.*
It is experience and skill that helps to accurately assess the ability of a pupil. Good instructors gain a reputation for being trustworthy, giving honest, transparent feedback to pupils and funders of training. With the BIG TOM franchise, some systems demonstrate this experience gained over many years. The allocation of the correct training programme for a pupil’s needs is essential, as are clear communications. Ultimately, it comes down to creating trusting customer relationships.


The benefit of our systems and learning techniques

Even when a driving instructor is aware of the above needs, it is not a given that they can then switch them on. This is where the BIG TOM franchise is so beneficial. Our systems in place and running for years have integrity and consistency. For sure, there will be pupils who are unwilling to accept driving instructors’ advice. It will soon be clear to the public that driving instructors aim for a higher driving test pass rate than has been needed historically. Over recent decades, road safety trends for the UK are not in decline; it is not clear what effect a two-tier driving test pass rate will have on road safety other than for people to talk of “raising standards”.


Peace of mind

Our franchise offers instructors who are under threat the systems to deal with this issue and live a comfortable, stress-free working life, free from unnecessary anxiety. We openly welcome new applications (regardless of instructor grade) to our franchise, as training is provided to work within our systems.  Call us to view our Franchise Information Memorandum 07498 337 629


*As per the DVSA method of calculation – it includes every single driving test attempt regardless of pupil duplications.