Britain’s Worst Instructors Set To Be Exposed?

by Adam Phillips - 1 Min Read

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), there is a very real possibility that the rankings of Britain’s 40,000 instructors could soon be published to help drive up what it believes are failing tuition standards.

The most recent figures show that pass rates are falling with some learners only passing after nearly 40 attempts – and the DVSA is determined to do something about it, claiming that part of the problem is due to poor quality instructors.

Currently, instructors are checked on a regular basis by the agency with 30% receiving top marks but with the vast majority (69%) managing a ‘merely satisfactory’ rating. Nearly 700 instructors were also struck off last year for failing to make the minimum standard mark at all.

The DVSA’s issue? That only 3% of instructors actually let their pupils know what their rating is because they are not obligated to.

Be-league-red Instructors?
To help students find the best instructors in their area – and it believes help drive up tuition standards – the DVSA has said that it will release an Ofsted-like league table that will feature all 40,000 of Britain’s instructors if they don’t start revealing their ratings soon.

The agency’s chief executive, Gareth Llewellyn, told The Times: “We are encouraging driving instructors to publish their rating. If they don’t do that, then at some point we will compel them to do that. We will put out information into the public domain so that parents can choose a good driving instructor.”

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28 Comments

  1. Wyn Owen

    Why would a person as well educated and as well informed as Gareth Llewelyn think that parents will be able to choose a “good instructor” by just looking at our grades?!

    It makes me doubt that a fellow Welshman could think along those lines and that maybe he has been mis-quoted.

    Anybody who knows what the grade means will also know its limitations.

    An example is that the grade has no correlation with the personality of the instructor nor does it convey how reliable they might be. We also know that some instructors teach one way but act entirely different on Standards Check.

    On a similar note, some instructors will get rid of learners if they are too difficult to teach so as to improve their results and so even without a grading system in place and going just with word of mouth recommendations, the information can be misleading to say the least.

    If anyone could come up with a fair and reliable way to grade the OVERALL qualities of an ADI then bring it on. I’ve yet to see anything remotely resembling such a system.

    • Tim Gudgion

      Well said Wyn. I was graded B but I have a Pass rate which is consistently 80% or thereabouts. My grading, based of course on just a one hour observation, takes no account of how I assess learners, how I develop a working relationship with them, how I always treat them with respect and understanding, how I always arrive well before each lesson is due to start, how I provide all customers with a 20 page book of handouts etc. etc. When my grading takes account of all that I will gladly publish it.

      Currently I am charging £30 per hour with no silly 10 for £99 offers or anything like that but I have a waiting list of 2.5 months. I have to turn down 10 to 15 enquiries each week because nearly all my business is generated by word of mouth. My customers know I’m good and that’s the only grading I or they need.

    • Peter

      I completely agree. I don’t do well on tests myself; my standards check only got me a 34, but my average pass rate over six years is 66% and in 2017 so far 73%. How does that correlate to the poor performance I gave on my standards check, which incidentally was very early on after the introduction of the new standards check!

      • Keith Butler

        Likewise Peter I’ve been teaching for 29 years in that time I’ve been grade 5 three times and grade6 twice . On my SC I got a paltry 42 B all due to the se thinking our lesson plan was too easy for pupil. He wanted to do uphill starts as he lived in York. ( no hills) and had only one hour driving before sc after a four break , what’s that about ?

  2. David Johnson

    If we have to publish our grade then with pupils who are more difficult to teach, instructors will simply pass them on to others and only teach pupils that are easier to train. I currently have three pupils who have have leaning problems (passed on by other instructors) but slowly we are making progress. Examiners know the Standard Check is not a true reflection of an instructor’s ability.

  3. Emma

    How would you feel if you paid hundreds of pounds to a top-graded instructor, then they refused to let you take a driving test because you were really nervous and might not pass? The standards check grading doesn’t take this into account.

    It’s a snapshot based on a single observed lesson which a lot of instructors rehearse to improve their chances of a favourable result. It doesn’t weed out the instructors who shout, swear or are constantly on their phones during lessons (they don’t on the test).

  4. Julie cloudsdale

    You’ve said exactly what I’m thinking, Wyn. I know instructors who teach the same thing every check test. One even has a ‘pupil’ with whom he rehearses every step, including ‘errors’ which he goes on to correct.

  5. Mick Bull

    I am an independent Instructor. I do not advertise. All of my pupils were recommended. I, on a regular basis, pick up pupils that other instructors have basically dumped, i.e., told them they are nowhere near ready for test or will need loads more hours. Most of the time, I have assessed, put in for test, and they have passed easily…

    My first time pass rate is probably only 40/50% at a guess, as I do not keep a record as I think it does not mean much.
    Great pupils mess up on test, average pupils pass first time! If a pupil stays with me until they pass means I have a 100% pass rate, although first time is probably 40/50%, as already stated. When pupils go on test, the result is out of our hands..

    The check test does not correlate to the way I teach as each pupil is an individual and needs teaching/coaching in different ways. Publishing first time pass rates could kill some very good, honest instructors’ businesses and confuse potential pupils.

    Perhaps the examiners could make a comment after each instructor after each test based on conversations whilst out on test with pupils. Not perfect, but possibly closer to the facts on how good/poor an Instructor is!

    • Nige Owen

      100% agree with you Mick. I always remember my trainer telling me he had a lower pass rate than other instructors, but that of course was not the point. He didn’t teach routes ‘by rote’, he didn’t constantly talk about ‘what you’ll need to do in test’ but he did turn out good, safe drivers who eventually passed their test.

      I followed his lead. Now my pass rate is probably lower than others, but guess what? I’m still as busy with a long waiting list from recommendations.

      I may turn greyer at a less than stellar first time pass rate but I never lose sleep at turning out a poor driver onto the roads. If, however, my pass rate is published (I have no personal objection btw) then how many potential clients will walk away assuming I’m a crap instructor?

      At a time of ever lengthening test waiting times and adi numbers dropping, surely there is a better way of promoting better training. This seems lazy, borderline slanderous and a total cop out of responsibility by the DVSA.

  6. Kathy windett

    This worries me. I work really hard with all my students and give them all the information and practice and skills that they need. I also work with students of all nationalities and a lot of whom English is not their first language. So I do struggle to get first times passes but this does not make me a poor instructor who teaches badly.

    I performed on my standards check as I do when I’m in car teaching normally, yet because my pass rate is low, I will be considered as poor. Really?!!

    I cannot foresee how a student will respond on test. For example, I had a student 56 years of age who in car with me drives lovely. But the minute she went out on a test, she went to pieces with her nerves. After five goes, we had a positive result – that’s because of her perseverance but for me that looks like I’m a poor instructor. Question is do I want to do this job anymore although I know I give everything?

    • Nige Owen

      Fully sympathise and empathise Kathy. This plan stinks. Lowest common denominator stuff from a struggling govt department looking to shift responsibilities and blame.

  7. Jane

    Poor quality instructors?? How about poor quality qualifying exams and no requirement on the part of DVSA to have all driving instructor trainers on a compulsory register? My grade is on my website but I’ve never been asked what it means by any pupil or any parent.

    As we pay our licence fee to DVSA, I believe they should exist to support ADIs and not threaten or attack them. Very sad to read this article, especially as SDIA has a very good relationship with our local DVSA team.

  8. Judith

    I think it is relative to the quality of the check test, to the ability of the instructor and their nerves on the day. No one likes a check test. But if you know your stuff and teach well, your grade should be reasonable.

    I think pupils should know what grade you are. I have been both a driving examiner and ADI and have seen poor quality driving from certain instructors and it was an occasional pupil from the school who could drive at a reasonable standard. I have also had check tests myself. I know my own standard of teaching could vastly improve. I work in a different role now and do very little teaching.

    I am loath to hand in my badge due to current instability with the job I do. If I was to do full time tuition again, I would take further training to get back up to speed. I think you need to be on the ball as an instructor. You are teaching driving skills, how to be courteous on the roads, how to be safe on the roads. A vehicle can do a huge amount of harm to others. It is a skill for life and not to be taken lightly. I agree with the proposal whole heartedly.

  9. David

    I must agree with all that has been said and to add that I have pupils that are very good drivers but put an examiner with a clipboard next to them and they go to pieces. The way dvsa is going I don’t think is the right way.

  10. Brian

    How utterly dictatorial of the DVSA to comment that they will publish all ADI grades if the % doesn’t increase. I would suggest 97% of us don’t want to be forced down this route. As a side issue what about my data protection? Surely the DVSA are subject to the same rules as any other organisation: “you cannot use information without permission”. I DON’T give the DVSA permission to publish my grade.

    • Allan

      Absolutely agree with this 100%. I won’t give permission for my grade to be released either, not that i’ve anything to hide. I’ve been instructing for 8 years and not once have i been asked for my grade and i am always busy but i have never advertised.

    • Peter

      I agree and if the DVSA really want to improve things, perhaps they should think about requiring all tests to be booked by a registered ADI, who would need to confirm that the pupil has completed a minimum number of hours formal training. Completely remove the ability for self/friend/parent training – in my experience very few pupils have parents that know all the correct and current procedures, for example use of indicators when moving off. or passing parked vehicles.

  11. Richard huckstep

    Bring it on I say! I didn’t get a top grade in my last standards test, apparently missed it by 2 marks! But of my last 10 pupils to pass,8 passed first time. I fail to see, regardless of demographics etc how some instructors need to present pupils for test up to and beyond 40 times, if they are not ready, don’t enter them. My belief is there are a lot of unproffessional, poor instructors out there who end up being contacted by disgruntled pupils who have been told that they will not be entered for test by their instructor. The said pupil then goes in search of an instructor who will take them. I have a policy that the only pupils I take to test are ones I have taught.

  12. Naomi Hall

    Agree agree agree with everything that has been said……enough DVSA you are in danger of losing good ADI’s who care but don’t do well in exams……just like some of our pupils!!!!!

  13. Guy Taylor

    So typical Dvsa… all the gear and I idea. I have a high first time pass rate but have never passed any test or exam with a top grade….I know my strengths and weaknesses and I know I’m a quality, polite and reliable ADI.

    Dvsa need to make the industry more attractive because we have been leaving in droves for years!!! I have a pupils booked in through to August 2017 as do most of my colleagues…. 17 years doing the job and not one complaint against me…

    Get real civil service office staff….

  14. Mark

    How about giving the grades and pass marks of each examiner.
    I would imagine their data protection will be honoured
    Personally not to worried if shown. But I demand the same in return

  15. antony

    I agree with everyone but I was more thinking on how I can take legal action against the DVSA. The audacity of these people. We don’t work for you DVSA. We work alongside you. Show some respect. If you feel there are individuals not upholding standards then have a word with those individuals but to think you have the right to publish personal information of individuals who pay for the right to practise and have trained to your standard and are considered as approved and professional. Feisty set of people. There are few examiners they should be spending time on improving their attitudes so that candidates are not so nervous on test attendance …. But I admit the calibre of examiners are improving. The DVSA need to spend more time talking to instructors not at them like Donald Trump…

  16. Matthew

    I don’t mind publishing my grade at all, I’m on a 4/4 waiting for a standards check letter. The problem with targeting ADIs with low test grades is the fact that one ADI could make a pupil do 100 hours and get a 90% pass rate another ADI could make a pupil do 50 hours and get a 80% pass rate (assume both pupils have the same learning abilities)
    The best thing the DVSA can do is give pupils a feedback sheet about their instructions, personality I think that’s the best way for DVSA to help people to avoid the bad ones.
    My pass rate is around 80% I believe a massive reason for this is because I tell my pupils ‘treat the test as a driving assessment and not a TEST and examiners share the same roads as us, they only want to make sure you’re safe’ just before their test.

  17. John Brown

    My own concerns are that he seems to believe the Standards Check has any validity.
    It cannot until there is a facility for discussion before the grading rather than relying
    on the pontification of the examiner, however well intentioned they are.

    I teach in a client centred way and know and understand my SN clients.
    If I address their needs, rather than slavishly sticking to the Core Competiencies I would fail.

    In my last CT I got marked down for 4 situations of meeting the needs of the client rather than adhering to the mark sheet.
    When I pointed it out to the examiner, he said ‘oh he did not know’ as he had never met anyone like my student.

    Well why not ask before judging something you do not understand. It was written down.
    The only reason my students succeed is because I teach differently to the DVSA.
    I do not fault find. I develop their knowledge and hone their skills.
    The DVSA do not have a monopoly as to how to teach or how a student learns, otherwise I would not have needed / been compelled to write my books to put a different point as to why so many fail to learn.
    Much of it lies at the door of the DVSA system.

    My Llewellyn needs to get his own house in order before looking outside at us.

  18. Chris Bensted

    I totally support the parents choosing a ‘good instructor’ and being given the tools to do this. HOWEVER, the DVSA through its own admission have said they don’t know what a ‘good’ instructor is.

    All ‘good’ instructors should be focussed on ‘driving skills for life’ not a test focussed approach. Yet apparently the ability to pass a test is the sign of a ‘good’ instructor. Many people, instructors and candidates, struggle with test stress – not to mention the ‘X-factor’ (X standing for Examiner). If they want to improve test pass rates then they should start in their own backyard first.
    Crash rates show that the Standards (set by the DVSA) are not good enough for the real world. ‘Good’ instructors will be trying to address these issues (featured in levels 3,4&5 of the GDE matrix amongst others) where as the DVSA still focus solely on levels 1&2. So if you want to find the merit of a ‘good’ instructor then track the success of their clients.

    For some passing is the biggest challenge and achieving this 9th time is a HUGE achievement. Should the ADI that supported this person through thick and thin, who pulled out ever stop to help them grow and learn, committed 100+ hours a year to CPD (unrecognised by the DVSA as part of a ‘good’ Examiner) be ‘marked down’ or be labelled ‘bad’ just because they care enough to stick with a pupil that doesn’t find it easy.
    THESE are the good instructors, these are the ones that should be highlighted and praised (Praise – When you point out the good. Something we get ‘failed’ for if missing on a Standards check but the DVSA don’t do themselves).

    I am a Grade A. It means nothing to me. I spend my week helping individuals grow, be safe, find themselves and learn life skills – this means everything.
    Don’t try to judge me on DVSA MINIMUM standards. Judge me on the results, efforts and actions that I deliver EVERY day.
    #goodadi #notteachingtotest

  19. Ian Gordon

    What about also publishing the pass rates of examiners? There are certain examiners you know you won’t get a pass with no matter how good your student.
    And if it is the “fault” of the Instructor why has the percentage rate of what should vary remained consistently below 50% for ever?
    And why when there is so much controversy about satnavs have the DVSA decided to introduce them on test?

  20. Richard Martin

    I’d rather they publish my pass rate than my SC result (B) as it better reflects my work although that will still be skewed by my Deaf and SN pupils. To be honest I don’t know anyone I teach that looked me up on the DVSA website and I haven’t got one so they are either word of mouth or via the Disability Driving Instructors site. So crack on with your bullying tactics!

  21. Darren Filby

    During my time within this industry I have been thoroughly appalled at the tricks some ADI’s pull to give themselves a high pass rate.

    – dumping clients
    – teaching test routes only
    – booking tests at certain times because the routes avoid fast or busy parts of the test area, and then teaching that limited part of the test area.

    …the list goes on.

    The DVSA clearly haven’t got a clue what they are unleashing if they go down the route of publishing pass rates.

    The industry will tip from being client centred to objective centred – the objective being to maximise your pass rate by whatever means and methods are necessary.

    Is that seriously what the suits want?

    The underlying objective, of course, is to raise the standards within the industry, and that is a good thing, but the DVSA have missed the target by miles on this one.

    Everyone has their own thoughts on the Standards Check. The DVSA missed a trick there too.

    A Grade A is what it says, but how can consumers differentiate between a Grade B who has just missed out on an A and a Grade B who is one mark above a fail?

    They can’t.

    Scrapping the equivalent Grade 5 was a massive mistake.

    Gone off topic a bit, but ADI’s are measured on a single one hour lesson every 4 or 5 years. Is that an adequate measure of someone’s worth? Really?

    As someone who made the transition from banking – an industry constantly under the microscope – in that same 5 year period I would have had something like 250 hours of performance appraisals. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, 6 monthly and annually.

    Ok, that would probably be overkill for our industry, but what it did was keep people constantly on their toes. Standards were kept high.

    There are many reasons people fail tests. We are dealing with people, often young people, not machines.

    Machines can be programmed to replicate perfectly. Machines dont have nerves, learning difficulties, family problems or the pressure of school exams to deal with.

    But real people do, and those life events sometimes mean there are candidates who should pass, but don’t.

    It doesn’t mean they have been taught badly. It doesnt mean they are sub standard. It simply means things didnt go their way on the day, sometimes for a variety of reasons. Stuff happens. That’s life. That is the very nature of the business we are in.

    The day we start teaching laptops and i-pads to drive, that will be the day the DVSA’s idea will have any merit.

    How about this for an idea?

    Place a greater emphasis on the instructors teaching, their input, the way they run their business etc and less emphasis on pass and fail rates.

    How could this be achieved?

    Several quick ideas could be to have mystery shoppers. People who call an ADI and who rate that ADI on a number of criteria – helpfulness, quality of answerphone message, quality of information given and so on. You can tell a lot about a person and a business from a phone call.

    Or how about a one off lesson. A mystery shopper books a lesson to brush up on roundabouts and they grade the lesson on various criteria.

    That would be more representative of a person, their attitude and their business rather than someone who has a high pass rate because they bin learners they don’t think will pass.

    Mystery shoppers are used throughout all manner of industries and they work well.

    Quality can be measured in various real life ways and it cant be beyond the wit of man, or the DVSA, to think of something meaningful and sensible to present to the buying public.

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