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Working off script

Welcome to the BIG TOM Franchise site if this is the first time connecting up. In this blog, the owner of the Franchise, Tom Ingram shares his thoughts on the damaging effect of recent regulatory scrutiny. 

One of the key responsibilities of a regulator is indeed, to regulate. To regulate is to “control by means of rules”. I can see the necessity for this, with something as important as the delivery of road safety training, one would expect there to be structure. But where I observe the industry is weak, is when this structure becomes overbearing. When I say overbearing, what I mean is that perfectly reasonable people, with good intentions find themselves having to do things that are out of context, illogical and actually rather stupid. 

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An example I would give was on a standards check, where I was marked down because I did not make my pupil of 62 years of age, turn around and check that the examiner had put his seat belt on. My pupil, a retired English teacher, had been with me training for a few months, he was attempting to overcome a deeply personal challenge of learning to drive that by his own admission was very unnatural to him. But no, never mind what challenges that kind of pupil brings to me, what the examiner was wanting to see evidence of, was my due diligence in questioning this poor chap’s attitude to safety for the occupants of his car. It would have been a behaviour that was out of context, entirely unnecessary with this pupil’s attitude to safety. The pupil would quite rightly have looked at me and been quite insulted. Now if my pupil were younger, needing to develop habits to increase safety or develop their attitude towards safety, then yes, that would then be appropriate. 

We are in the business of teaching pupils, aligned to the Driving Standard. Pupils are not machines. You cannot FORCE a pupil to behave in a way that you desire, just like you cannot force a PDI to behave in a particular way on a Part 3 test. Or perhaps you can, perhaps it is possible to coach people in a way to perform certain actions in certain situations much like a performer does on stage. It is possible to ask a PDI to “perform” on their Part 3 test, you could expect a pupil to “perform” on their driving test. But let us be clear on one distinction: these people are behaving with mechanised actions, well-rehearsed, to give an illusion. It is no more than that, an illusion. They are doing and saying things from a script because it has no more validity than it “is the right thing to do”, in order to pass the test. They have no intention of continuing to act in that way after the assessment.  

If your role is one of making people “perform” then you will have stopped reading this already. You rely on the continuation of this illusion; your earnings DEPEND on the illusion staying alive. You will undoubtedly feel justified in your actions, you cannot be challenged, because what you are doing is assisting people to pass tests, what more noble benefit can there possibly be in an industry concerned with learning? Surely, if you help people to pass either a part 2, part 3 test or standards check, surely you must be held in high esteem?  

You cannot force people to permanently behave in certain ways – the DVSA might now realise this fact having exerted pressure on ADI’s for the last 14 months to raise driving test pass rates with no increase in pass rates at all (in fact they have reduced not increased).

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It is an illusion to think that because you have told someone what to do, they will then do it. Most of us reading this blog will be parents, and will know this to be a point of fact. But so many in the industry seem to believe that the way you create achievement, and high standards in education is by coaching people to pass tests. The illusion begins with the training of PDI’s to pass qualifying tests and it, therefore, continues once those PDI’s experience “success” with the illusion and continue the approach with all their standards checks and pupils.

If you are considering coming into the industry as a new driving instructor, all I can encourage you to do is treat our work like an art. When you train people on a 1:1 basis you will need to create a working environment that is not based on an illusion, you need to demonstrate meaning to your tuition. The sophistication of our work is not in the automated “delivery” of driving techniques, it is in the ability to adapt to help all learners. Learners come to us shy, nervous, arrogant, inexperienced, with low self-esteem, unpractised in learning, with difficulties in understanding or communicating – the range is great and varied, and it is what makes our work an art. There is a skill in being able to recognise the need to work “off the script”; what our pupils often need is for us to have a mindset that is open to imagination, intuition, and reflection.   

The DVSA used to say “Safe driving for life” prior to the current campaign of monitoring pass rates, and when you train with BIG TOM to join our franchise, you will be taught techniques that foster permanence in the learning rather than a momentary ‘performance’ on a test.