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The toxic effect of data targets

We look at the crippling effect of the introduction of data targets and how the fear it creates caused adverse effects on driving test pass rates. 


In August 2021 the DVSA informed driving instructors that they had been monitoring the pass rates of every registered instructor for the previous 12 months. They told instructors that with immediate effect, if the pass rate of the pupils that they present for driving tests was not of a certain standard (55% pass rate) they would be recalled for a formal assessment of their instruction ability which could lead to having their green badge removed (lose their job). 


What is interesting to note is what subsequent effect that announcement had on driving test pass rates. Up to August 2021, the driving test pass rate was about 50%. If we take June, July and August 2021 figures from the DVSA for average pass rates in private cars it was 50.7% and for driving school cars it was 49.9% 


But after the announcement in August 2021, the pass rate for both driving school car presentations and private car presentations both declined. By February 2022 the private car pass rate had gone down to 43.7% and the driving school pass rate down to 46.9% 


The regulator selects the driving instructors that need to be recalled by monitoring their 12 month figures on a rolling month by month basis. So for the same period as above (Aug ‘21 – Feb ‘22) the number of instructors being recalled was minimal, often single figures, some of those months there were zero instructors recalled. Until time rolls on to August 2022, because by then, the 12 month window being measured was ENTIRELY since the DVSA announcement of the data monitoring. The number of driving instructors being recalled in August 2022 shot up to 109 for Grade A instructors (1.18% of Grade A instructors recalled) and up to 341 for Grade B instructors (1.49% of Grade B instructors recalled).  


It therefore appears that since the DVSA announced that they are monitoring the driving test pass rates of driving instructors, there has been a devastating adverse effect on pass rates and therefore recalls for driving instructors. It would appear to be committing something of an ‘own goal’ given the fact that the reason for this new data triggering according to the regulator was to “raise training standards”. 


The number of tests being taken in that period did not alter, the monthly quantity of tests undertaken in private cars and driving school cars remained constant. So if you try to analyse what might be the causes for declining driving test pass rates over that period, the quantity of tests conducted was unchanged, the proportion of tests taken in private cars vs driving school cars was unchanged, the only feature that changed was the introduction of the data monitoring. It is a classic example that proves not all metrics are good metrics.