The toxic effect of data targets
22nd November 2022
Interventions in driving training
24th November 2022

Where does a PDI seek help?

Here is a case that demonstrates perfectly the problem trainee driving instructors encounter on a daily basis. Although this is highlighting a particular person, the identity of the person is not the point and will remain anonymous. What is revealing with the following is the effect that such “trainers” in the industry can have on the weak and vulnerable. So to clarify, I urge any reader to try to get beyond WHO this involves, it is more to do with WHAT is occurring. 


The trainer is prolific on social media, he has several hundred connections and followers. He has been in the driving training industry for over a decade as a driving instructor, but it is not clear how long he has been a trainer. In fact, there are no details in his bio of any teaching or coaching qualifications, whether he is ORDIT registered; there is very little information available about him other than the fact that he has been in the industry for a while. He does not appear to use any reputable customer review platform such as TrustPilot and he offers no attempt at transparently showing value by measuring his success rate such as pass rates for part 3. 


As is the way with driving instructors who use social media regularly, this person goes around “liking” many posts linked to pupils passing driving tests. He spreads the “feel good” factor within the industry with a balance of sharing posts from peers as well as creating his own posts that pronounce the vast numbers of PDI’s that use him as a trainer – according to him, hundreds. This is a common strategy whereby the desire is to have a “following”, a clan who will, without giving much thought, pretty much like or share anything that this person uploads onto their feed because as humans our natural inclination is to reciprocate – it is just what we all do. It is a form of self-serving whereby cliques feather each other’s nests. 


Who this person is, is completely irrelevant. But what he is doing is not healthy for our industry at all, and this is the reason why. He utilises social media to target prey, in our case it is PDI’s (trainee driving instructors). The strategy is to emit a signal of ‘authority’ as being an expert in the industry by having peers liking his content. And as he is a trainer for PDI’s it is essential that the fruits of his work is announced regularly for all to see – even if that is a PDI passing a part 1 theory test, any good news is shared in an effort to declare his worth in the industry. This also includes posts for customers who have simply received training from him, without there even being a declared successful outcome; the strategy is to demonstrate that he is busy, and if he is busy and in demand, the implication is that he must be providing value. But is he? 


A few months ago, when the DVSA data triggering campaign had been in full flow for 12 months, this trainer announced that he had passed a Standards Check recall with a Grade A. This is in tune with his strategy of spreading good news, showing his authority in the industry as being capable of achieving a Grade A. But of course, to have been called up for a Standards Check he would have triggered the DVSA data measures. And by triggering the data measures, it naturally follows that the manner in which he operates as an ADI (not a trainer), was below the standard expected of the regulator. His followers then contributed to the illusion of his worth by liking and commenting with celebrations – for the avoidance of any doubt, this is registered driving instructors and fellow “trainers” celebrating the fact that a trainer of PDI’s had been recalled for a Standards Check, and passed it. Quite extraordinary when you think about it. It would be akin to a headmaster of a school that has just been assessed as “requires improvement” by OFSTED publicly creating a portrayal of expertise as a guru in the education industry.  


In essence what we have here is a trainer who clearly knows how to game the assessment process to achieve high marks, indeed the highest marks, but underperforms in his day-to-day driving training standards. The behaviours he preaches to his trainee driving instructor customers he does not follow in his own work with pupils. One of the problems with the DVSA assessment criteria is this ability for instructors to game the assessment following specific advice from trainers. This is precisely why it has now been established via a FoI request with the DVSA that the difference in the proportion of Standards Check recalls between Grade A and B instructors is marginal. It is so easy to game the assessment process that it devalues the status of Grade A – much like the devaluation of degrees over several years. 


The problem is, PDI’s are unlikely to know any of this; which is why they are vulnerable. The amount of ‘noise’ that trainers like the one above generate on social media is so loud that it masks the fact of there being no integrity. One could argue that it serves his purpose, but that does not mean it is good for the PDI’s or the industry. Liz Truss was remarkably effective at climbing the political hierarchy in lightning speed to serve her purpose, only to reach the summit of PM and was ‘found out’ to be lacking just weeks later – she was an illusion with no integrity and the country paid a high price. Trainers like the one above, yes this person is real, are churning out PDI’s who will be susceptible to Standards Check recalls after they qualify, and when they receive that recall, guess who they return to when they want to ensure they receive the highest grade at the Standards Check? 


Arguably we (in our industry) are all complicit in this illusion as not only do we not call it out when we see it, but many even contribute to social media by making it appear to be authentic. There is a debate to be had as to whether it would be in everybody’s best interests to expose the outliers.