Category Archive: Meet the ADI

Meet the Instructor: Amanda Aldridge

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Former coach driver turned driving instructor Amanda Aldridge reveals what she thinks about the current driving test – and why some examiners must be more respectful to learners.

Operating across the Leicester and Loughborough areas, Amanda is part of the Acclaim driving franchise, winning over students with her positive and empathetic approach to teaching. Here she explains to Theory Test Pro what she loves – and loathes – about the industry.

What did you do before becoming an instructor?

Many years ago, I was a fitness instructor and taught a lot of classes. It was during this time that I started to really enjoy teaching. I decided though I wanted a change and went into coach and bus driving in 2004 because I have always loved being on the open road.

What was the appeal of becoming a driving instructor?

I’d wanted to do it years ago but I never had the money to do it. For me, it brought together my love of driving and teaching. This was underlined to me when my friend was applying to be an ambulance driver. She couldn’t get through the 7.5-tonne test so I took her out, teaching her in my coach and showing her how to operate large vehicles.

She was actually the one who said I’d make a brilliant instructor – and the idea really took shape in my mind from then on! In 2016, I finally managed to save up the money I needed to put myself through an instructor course and I haven’t looked back since!

What kind of ADI are you?

I’m positive! I have had students come from other ADIs, saying that when they made mistakes during a lesson, the instructor has told them off. I don’t do that – depending on the mistake. If it is dangerous, we will of course pull over and have a talk about it – but if it is a small mistake, I allow the learner to make it because just like in life, you always learn from them. Whatever the case, I will never tell them off.

What is the favourite part for your job?

I like it when a student recommends me to someone else; that they think I’m great so their friend should learn with me! That’s really nice! I also love sitting in on the test and I do encourage my students to take me on their test if they feel comfortable with having me there.

It means whether it’s a pass or a fail, I can offer the student advice about moving forward. So let’s say they pass, I will still take a look at my student’s marking sheet so I can identify where they made a mistake. We then normally book a couple of extra lessons to go through the weak areas highlighted by the test. It helps make them better, safer drivers.

If the student has failed, then we will go through what went wrong. I try to make it more positive by turning the fail into a learning experience; that it’s something that can be built on. I want to make sure the student doesn’t give up – and instead keeps growing as a driver.

Finally, being an instructor who keeps her own hours means I can work around my family life. Yes, there are the times I’ll do an extra couple of hours here and there when people are coming up to their test but most of the time, I stay within my allocated hours so I am able to strike a good work-life balance.

What’s the worst part of your job?

It’s the driving examiners. There are many, many really nice ones but I’ve came across a handful who are really disrespectful and not very professional to students – even when I am sitting in on the test. I honestly don’t know how they can be in the job they are in.

One left a student in tears because of their attitude, another examiner was clearly bored during the test – and another I had to make an official complaint about; during the test, they had asked a student to turn left at a roundabout but she was in the wrong lane to do so. The examiner asked her again but in a harsh tone of voice and with a bad attitude.

My student thought she had no choice and crossed over two lanes to do as she was told. I was horribly shocked.

The rest of the test was ruined because my student was making more mistakes because she was upset, and the examiner was getting more and more peeved with her. The agency spoke to the examiner after I complained but said that everything had been fine – so the complaint ended up being a waste of time.

The problem is that when an examiner behaves badly in a test, it can really knock a learner’s confidence. This student had failed her test years ago and it had taken me a long time to build her confidence back up – but the examiner trashed it all within the first 15 minutes of the test. I think the best way to ensure things like this don’t happen is to have a dashcam that points into the car so if someone does complain, there will be a record of any incident.”
– ADI Amanda Aldridge on dealing with examiners who don’t make the grade.

What are your thoughts on the current driving test?

That is such a tough question! I see so many bad habits out on our roads and I see too many drivers who aren’t aware of the modern Highway Code and how roads are constantly changing. Part of me feels that everyone should have to take a re-test every 10 years.

The problem is that if you failed the re-test, you would no longer be able to drive to, say, work – and that has a knock-on effect; job loss, mortgage repayments missed, the impact on loved ones, and more besides.

So perhaps we need to find a solution that is more practical. For instance, the Speed Awareness and Careless Driving courses that are offered to drivers who break the law could be adapted and be an invaluable way of helping all drivers to identify any weaknesses in their driving. At least then they could go away and work on them.

Such assessments would refresh and update drivers about modern driving standards and remind us all of our responsibility to be safe and aware drivers.

Finally, how do you find Theory Test Pro?

Me and my students absolutely love it! It’s the one package that I recommend all the time and it was the one I used myself when I was training to become a driving instructor.

It has some great features such as the explanations if you don’t understand a particular question. It’s a really great piece of software.

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Meet the Instructor: Ellis Wood

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Deciding to become a driving instructor was a no-brainer for former web developer Ellis Wood – but qualifying to become one proved to be the real challenge.

Operating across Hartlepool and the Teesside area, Wood has been an ADI since 2016 after establishing his successful driving school Driving with Ellis. Here Wood talks about why he became an instructor, the satisfaction of teaching people a skill that will last a lifetime and what he sees as a serious problem with trainers, some of whom he believes are unfit to teach.

Tell me about your background before you became an ADI.

I started in electronics as an assembly worker and then became a 7.5 tonne lorry driver before finally settling down as a web developer, creating websites for some big brands such as NEC, Marlboro Yamaha Racing Team and Northern Power Grid. I felt I couldn’t keep up with the ever-changing IT market though so decided to try and achieve my lifelong dream of becoming an ADI in 2016.

Why did you make the move into instructing?

I have always wanted to be an ADI and help people achieve a lifelong skill that will improve their lives in so many ways. You never forget your driving instructor do you? Plus web development wasn’t giving me a sense of worth – or to the people I helped as a developer.

What kind of ADI are you?

I think only my pupils can answer that one! From the feedback I receive though, I am told that I am patient and caring plus I don’t bully people into doing things the ‘right’ way. Instead, I try to encourage my pupils to work things out for themselves – that way, they won’t forget it.

What is your teaching style?

My pupils say I am so laid back, I might fall over. I also let my pupils make mistakes so they can learn from them. Unfortunately, that does mean my car spends a bit of time in the garage for repairs! If it is a safety critical issue though, obviously I won’t let students make those mistakes for themselves.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?

They actually happen at the same time – test day! It’s such an awesome feeling when someone passes especially if they have had some mountains to climb during their lessons. For instance, I had one guy who just could not steer to save his life. We spent about four weeks just turning left and right on a trading estate and eventually worked out why – and he just got it. He went on to pass first time!

As for least favourite, I hate test day as I am more nervous than my pupils. If I am asked to sit in, I sit with my fingers crossed all the way and when they make a serious mistake, a little piece of me dies inside.

You had a tough time learning to become an instructor. What were some of the problems you experienced?

This industry seems to have a fair few trainers who just want your money. I saw an advert for bespoke training with a pass guarantee and awesome after-training packages for advertising and marketing my services. It was expensive but I thought to myself: “You get what you pay for”. So I signed up but after a while, it was clear how the trainer ‘operated’ and I got most of my money back because I paid with my credit card.

How were you ripped off?

The guy basically charged me £3,000 and sent me 4-5 books worth about £150. Then they sold my training to another company who supplied me with a trainer that I had to travel to and who had never trained anyone before me. Don’t get me wrong – he was a great guy and a great ADI who I now consider a friend and he gave me some top class training but I didn’t choose the company to train me. I stayed with them but failed my first attempt. I then booked my second attempt and went to a different trainer.

I got most of the way through but was then approached by a company who were to become legendary in the business for their conduct. They convinced me to cancel my second attempt and become a PDI with them.

They supplied me with a car and a couple of pupils – literally two pupils – and then started to charge me £199 a week for the franchise. Clearly I could not pay but was tied to them for months. Eventually I returned their car and they tried to chase me for £5,000 worth of franchise fees I couldn’t pay. Luckily I had a paper trail showing the salesman had said I could walk away without penalty at any time.

I ended up back at the subcontractor from the previous company who took over my PDI badge and finished my training. I had to pay an extra £300 for the privilege but I passed my next Part Three so it was happy days!

How would you rectify the issue of bad trainers?

I strongly believe that all trainers should be ORDIT-registered at the least, and all training suppliers should have annual inspections or random checks where the DVSA speaks to current and former pupils chosen by the agency. Records should be precisely kept and supplied on request.

Finally, as a user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?

My pupils always love the fact they get something as important as Theory Test Pro for free. They love the software and I’ve had great results from pupils using it. Sure, I still get pupils using alternative software and fewer still who ‘wing it’, but there is a definite benefit not only for me but for my pupils who spend a lot of money with me and don’t have to fork out any more money on extras.

Those that struggle with theory training ring me up and I occasionally call round to go through what they are doing and more often than not, I walk away telling them they are doing a great job without me. I can also use the software to identify areas where they are struggling and we try to incorporate that into our lessons.

For example, a pupil recently said they could never remember how reflective studs are placed. So we drove to our nearest dual carriageway, the A19, and saw them in reality, which really helped her remember. Hopefully she will pass her theory tomorrow but I bet that question won’t come up though!

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Meet the Instructor: Nick Salzen

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Nick Salzen walked away from a job in the banking sector and trained to become a driving instructor instead – and has since gone on to establish a successful driving school based in Kent.

Former banking professional Nick Salzen decided that he’d had enough of managing money and would rather help learner drivers by making them safer, better motorists. Nick has now been running his business, 17 Plus Driving School, for over 12 years and here he reveals the secrets to his ongoing success.

Tell me about your background and why you decided to become an ADI.
I left school at 18 and worked in the banking sector over the next 25 years in various banks and investment houses in London. After being made redundant four times, I decided I was sick of it all, plus the stress of working in London and the commute were becoming unbearable.

The reason I moved into instructing was because I had an interest in cars from a very early age. I used to sit in the front seat of my dad’s car, watching him drive, learning what he did and how he did it. I learned all about road awareness and how to deal with any given situation.

So I took that and combined it with my love of teaching – when I was in banking, I discovered I was happiest when I was teaching other staff. So combining the two – driving and teaching – into one career made perfect sense to me.

How did you get your start in instructing?
On qualifying, I joined a local driving school and it went well; trouble was there wasn’t quite enough work despite the recommendations I was getting from students. Sadly, it was the same again when I joined a larger franchise, so I decided to bite the bullet, go independent in 2006 and haven’t looked back since.

The great thing was that my students followed me because they were loyal; it’s all about you at the end of the day – you’re the asset, not the company – so if you’re doing a good job then you’re going to get recommendations, which is what happened to me.

What advice would you give to an instructor just starting out?
It’s very difficult to build up a business from scratch so it’s best to start with a franchise and drum up your client base from there. Once you’re getting enough recommendations on a regular basis, you should then consider going independent, say, after 18-24 months.

What is the favourite and least favourite part of your job?
I love watching how students develop their driving skills. It’s great when, after spending a long time with someone, all of a sudden things just click into place and they’re doing beautifully. Another highlight is of course when they pass – sharing that joy with them and knowing you have made a real difference to someone’s life is unbeatable.

My least favourite part of the job is dealing with other drivers and their impatience, especially those who drive too close. They ride right up behind you and try to intimidate the learner into going faster – but they’re not going to go over the speed limit! It’s dangerous because such intimidating behaviour can freak students out and there’s a risk they could panic.

My other dislike is people using mobile phones while they’re driving especially when they are behind me; there is a huge increase in the possibility of a crash because the driver is distracted.
– ADI Nick on impatient drivers who are sadly becoming increasingly common on Britain’s roads.

What kind of instructor are you and what is your teaching style?
I would say I am hardworking, dedicated to the job and offer top quality customer service. My teaching style is a mix of traditional instructing and client-centred learning; the latter approach is all about getting students more involved in the learning process by asking them for their thoughts and interpretations – as opposed to me just telling them what to do!

For example, if they’ve done a parallel park and it’s not gone brilliantly, rather than telling them how they got it wrong, I ask them to rate the parking attempt on a scale of one to 10 – where ‘one’ is really rubbish and ’10’ is really brilliant.

More often than not, they’ll say about ‘four’ so you might ask them: “Okay, so what would make it a six?”, and then you get them to tell you. So it might that they could have looked around a bit more. Then you ask them how they could have got a score of eight, and so on.

It means you’re getting them to self-reflect more and dig that bit deeper. And more often than not, they come back with the right answers without you actually having to tell them what they’re doing wrong – because most of them are aware of what they’ve done wrong when they stop and actually think about it!

What bad habits should learners make sure they don’t bring to a driving lesson?
Don’t turn up  convinced you’re ready to take the test. Please let me be the judge of that! It’s my job after all! When students are insistent or overconfident, I usually take them on a challenging route involving steep hills and tight roads. They usually make a hash of it so at the end, when I ask if they still think they are test ready, they realise for themselves that they’re not.

Finally, if there was one thing you could change about the industry, what would it be?
I would change the new test! They dropped the ‘turning in the road’ and replaced with ‘pulling up on the right hand side of the road’. I can’t see the point because it’s not something that people would normally do. Learning how to turn in the road is a far more useful skill and it should be reinstated. Put it this way, I am still teaching the manoeuvre – and always will.

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Meet the Instructor: Rob Cooling

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Driving instructor Rob Cooling reveals the challenges – and the joys – of teaching pupils with special/specific needs.

Working in the Nottingham area, ex-graphic designer and web developer Rob Cooling has been an instructor since 2006, developing his business, the Apple Driving School. Over the past few years, he has found himself increasingly working with students who have special/specific needs and helping them achieve test success. We asked Rob why he made the move – and how more instructors can and should get involved.

Why did you want to become an instructor?
Bizarrely I never enjoyed driving very much so it’s hard to pin down what led me to begin training in 2003 beyond a desire to be self employed. I struggled a lot with the training process which I remain deeply unimpressed by.

Finally, in 2006 after three attempts at Part 1, three at Part 2 and six at Part 3, I qualified. I was so disillusioned by this point, I had a backup job in gardening lined up. Within the first year as an ADI though, I quickly discovered I loved to teach driving.

What kind of ADI are you?
Super calm and jolly, but don’t we all say that? I don’t much like the industry obsession with minimising the timescale it takes to learn and refine such a complex and dangerous life skill and I read little meaning into a first time pass. I run a driving course which is extensive in the level of detail it covers; it simply cannot be completed in less than 40 hours but all my pupils know that from the start.

I work to the pace of the pupil but I won’t shortcut on the skill base that has to be covered or the amount of repetition needed to establish a high standard. Since 2011 I’ve tended to only work with pupils with special or specific needs, elderly drivers, those with anxiety and other unique people.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
My favourite part is taking on a pupil with more serious cognitive difficulties in terms of driving and, after much hard work and doubt, finally discovering they’re going to succeed – that they’re going to pass.

It’s a wonderful feeling when you see the foundations of their skill sets developing; the real evidence of progress eventually materialises and the realisation dawns that this can be done even if there is a challenging journey ahead.

My least favourite part of the job is realising a special needs pupil is going to have difficulties passing the theory test. For many of these pupils, the theory test is a bigger hurdle than the driving test itself due to issues with the test’s presentation and accommodations, although this seems to be improving. For many pupils, I do in-car or home support to monitor and manage their progress. Theory Test Pro helps a lot with this process.”

What inspired you to teach pupils with special/specific needs?
The original spark would be my own dislike of driving, my struggles with practical exams and the depressing pressure I felt to pass quickly or pass first time, which I was guilty of pushing onto my pupils in my early days of teaching. I know I’m not alone because I’ve taught so many pupils that are trying to escape such pressure.

This naturally opened up into working with pupils with special/specific needs and I found it increasingly fascinating. I’ve been gaining practical experience and studying flat out since 2011 but I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of how much more I have to learn. I enjoy that it has forced me to be ridiculously creative and think outside the box.

What are some of the needs you have dealt with over the years?
Alpha mannosidosis, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, foetal alcohol syndrome, autism, Asperger’s, pathological demand avoidance, (C)PTSD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, AD(H)D, diagnosed anxiety, and more. I enjoy the cognitive disabilities element as it forces me to work with and be open to the pupil’s way of interpreting the world.

You don’t need to know that much about the condition; you just need to let the pupil lead you in how to teach them; figure the pupil out and let them tell you when you are getting it wrong. It’s too easy to stereotype any condition which has such a broad diversity and so many traits within it. It’s rewarding to study the condition but to treat the individual as an individual.

It is also important to learn about the relevant licence declarations and test accommodations, and whether to brief the test centre on particular pupil characteristics. Also consider giving honest home-based or written progress reports to whoever is funding the course.

Can you give me examples of how you have helped students with special/specific needs?
I have a pupil with a rare genetic condition resulting in severe reaction lag. This is a more extreme ongoing case but the reaction lag has been mostly resolved through intense use of computer games to stimulate the necessary skills. This has also been alongside the experimental use of a steering ball, height boosting cushions and a bitesize learning programme.

For another pupil, we used home-based dramatisation and the role playing of theory test answers to make the revision physical, visual and memorable – twenty three theory tests and one driving test later, she achieved success. It’s easy to give up too soon and you really do have to get creative.

For some, the end goal isn’t always going to be the tests; it’s more the attempt that matters – to have tried and have someone support them in discovering how far they can take it while gaining experiences and life skills that will help them regardless.”

Why do you think ADIs give up on students with special/specific needs?
I think a lot of ADIs out there are the right people to help pupils with learning difficulties relating to driving. But they become worried by how long it can take, and the barely perceptible progress can lead to doubts about their own abilities – I know I still do. It takes a change of mindset, removing the end goal of the driving test initially and taking away all pressures of passing in the average amount of time.

Create a relaxed and open learning environment, free of the pressures of tests and timescales, but be honest because it could be a long and expensive journey. Then start looking for evidence of development, work with what you’ve got and roll with the crazier ideas. Let the pupil know you will support them through the process but be honest if the day comes to stop or pass it on.

Also be open and honest about the timescales and the costs; more often than not, the pupil is just overjoyed they have someone who will support them and be flexible to their needs. When dealing with pupils experiencing this level of difficulty, generally get them in an automatic and remove all unnecessary hurdles. 

Finally, as a user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
I’ve been using Theory Test Pro since it first started and I’m very happy, I really like being able to monitor pupil progress and send them encouraging messages. One of my pupils who is unable to read black on white could not use some other apps but could use Theory Test Pro as he can read black on yellow. We often use Theory Test Pro to practice in-car as well as at home.

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Meet the Instructor: Jessica Hanson

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Former retail manager Jessica explains the triumphs and troubles she has experienced as a young driving instructor.

Working in Hastings, East Sussex, 24-year-old Jessica started her training aged 22 and has been been an ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) for two years. Despite having to negotiate many hurdles because her age, Jessica opened her own school – Driven To Success – in October 2017 and has not looked back since.

Tell me what inspired you to become an instructor?
I was a retail manager from 18, which lead on to being a national trainer for various big name brands. This job involved a lot of driving so I was a confident driver.

When I turned 21, I decided to teach my partner to drive as I’d had enough of always being the designated driver. It went really well and he passed first time. So with my training background, I decided to take the leap and train to become an instructor.

How did you train?
I started my training with a big name driving school and found the service really poor! I then went with a smaller local school who helped me pass my Part 3 first time. I was with them for about 18 months before jumping ship.

What motivated you to create your own driving school?
I was getting so many recommendations and was having to pass them onto other instructors in the school. I soon realised there was no need to be paying the weekly fee, and I didn’t like the fact that other instructors using the same name could give my name a bad reputation if they were unreliable. The biggest push though was getting a new car; it was my big chance to re-brand.

How have you built up your business?
It’s all word of mouth at the moment; I haven’t needed to advertise yet. I also get a lot of people stopping me in my car to take a card which gets me a lot of business – so always have a smart-looking business card to hand if you’re an ADI!

Do you have any advice for instructors who wish to strike out on their own?
Speak to your franchiser. When I was at the smaller school, I was quite chatty with the guy who ran it. He was all for me making the independent move and gave me the confidence to go it alone; after all, it’s what he did originally too. Also speak to other instructors as they may know why people who struck out on their own didn’t succeed so you’ll know what not to do.

What kind of instructor are you?
I am a friend and a member of my pupil’s team all the way. There’s no hierarchy in my car so we share the same end goal; any problems are worked out together. I also find using this approach means they’re never afraid to ask questions or admit that something is difficult.

What is your teaching style?
I like to give a brief explanation with a picture, detail the general protocol, talk through it and let the student do it independently whatever the subject. I never like sitting there and talking for too long, and only ever demonstrate if they really want me to. My lessons are all about driving, making mistakes – and learning from them.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
I love meeting people that I wouldn’t normally in day-to-day life; sometimes you just click with someone and they can even become a friend. My least favourite part is definitely my insurance price, which is ridiculous! I pay £2,200-plus a year for my learner car, despite my private car being only £350 a year. All because there are only two insurers who will quote me because I’m under 25!

Also, I’m not keen on the lack of free time; I’m always texting someone about lessons or fiddling with my diary planning so there’s no off time at the moment.

Have you ever experienced any issues with instructors or examiners because of your age?
Yes, and some of the worst experiences have been with a particular examiner. I remember on one occasion at the end of a test, I was listening to the debrief – unfortunately, my student hadn’t passed because of a lack of a mirror check coming off a roundabout.

This examiner always belittles me so rather than explaining the issue to the student, he instead asked me if I knew what MSM (Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre) is or if I knew how to teach certain things. Of course I do – I passed the same tests as everyone else! The embarrassing part is that he undermines me in front of my students, making me feel very inferior.

Newer instructors may come into the test centre and assume I’m also on a PDI licence. They tell me what I should be doing like I must be clueless. Luckily, the majority of instructors are very friendly and care about my opinion. For the odd few who aren’t, it must be hard being so small minded – I feel sorry for them.”
– Jessica on what she thinks of peers who judge her on her age.

What one essential skill should all driving instructors have?
I actually think organisation! The amount of learners I get coming from other instructors due to them not showing up, not booking them in for weeks or just not being contactable is astonishing! I get a lot of my business this way and by always being prompt and prepared when talking to any new enquiry.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
I wish the test centre environment and the nature of most examiners (definitely not all) wasn’t so intimidating for learners. I’m not sure how this could be changed but a warmer and more welcoming atmosphere in the test centre would really help.

Finally, as a user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
I love knowing that sending my pupils to Theory Test Pro for their studying will be all they need. There are too many dodgy ideas about how to study for the theory and how to beat the hazard perception test. Rubbish phone apps don’t help either as they don’t get them fully prepared! I feel like I’m leaving my students in safe hands – I’m happy knowing that they’ll get a first-class service.

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Photography: Chris Ades

Meet the Instructor: Doreen Morrison

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Former NHS worker Doreen Morrison reveals how she made the move into driving instructing over 13 years ago, and why she believes in being fair but firm with her students – and qualified drivers as well.

Working in the Lancashire area, 68-year-old Doreen Morrison came to driving instruction later in her working life than most, but it hasn’t stopped her from carving out a successful career as an ADI through her driving school, Doreen’s School of Motoring and offering expert advice on what needs to be done to drive up Britain’s driving standards.

What did you do before becoming an instructor?
I worked in the NHS where I realised they were introducing more and more managers but less and less frontline workers like nurses, doctors and porters. It created a situation where there were more bosses telling less people to do more work. I didn’t like this approach so so started looking for a new job and saw an advert for driving instructing.

Why did you make the move into instructing specifically?
My favourite past time is motorcycling so I immediately thought about the amount of times idiots had nearly knocked me off my bike. My inspiration to sign up for the ADI training was if I can put more safe drivers out on our roads, then that could only be a good thing.

You have been a sole trader since day one – why?
When I first started training, I did it through a company who also did franchising. The idea was that once I qualified, I would then work as a franchisee for the company. So when I qualified, I said: “Right, I am ready and I have already handed in my notice”. But they then said, “oh we don’t have any cars available for you for three months”. So not a great start! Then I figured why pay somebody else to help generate business when I could do it all myself? So I became an independent instructor instead.

How did you set about drumming up business?
I came across a course about using Facebook to make money. I soon discovered that the advantage of the social media platform was that you could put your adverts in front of 17-25 year olds that live within a certain post code area and who are interested in driving.

I did some targeted ads over four weeks and it took off; I have not had to do any other advertising since then! So from doing about 8-9 lessons a week, I was suddenly up to 30 which is the right amount. Social media really is the way to build up your driving school quickly.

What have been the other benefits working as an independent instructor?
The main benefit is actually for the pupils! Most of them don’t come to me after seeing an advert but because I have been recommended to them by former students. Thing is if a recommendation is made but it was done through a franchise, the potential student would contact the company but not necessarily end up with me as their instructor!

What kind of ADI are you?
I have been described as ‘scary’, though I would say firm but fair! It think it’s because I tell students how it is; I’m not one to give them false hope. They need to realise that making the grade requires a lot of hard work and real commitment.

It is also important to push people out of their comfort zone too or else they never learn anything. For instance, I had one pupil who was happy in the ‘nursery estate’, where everyone begins learning to drive with me as there’s no roadside parking and it’s all 20mph.

I told the student that I was planning to take her out of the estate after five lessons but she said no. So I told her, “you’re not going to get anywhere so just give it a go. If you don’t like it after half a mile, we’ll swap seats and I’ll drive you back.” She agreed and she’s not looked back since! Ultimately, I want to push people to get the very best out of them.

What’s the favourite and least favourite part of your job?
The best part is the satisfaction I get when the pupil passes their test – they are buzzing and I can feel that buzz. My least favourite part are awkward students where I think I am never going to get anywhere with them. Thing is I do – and I get them through the test so that ends up being a buzz as well!

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
Learning to think outside of the box when it comes to teaching those awkward students. A classic example was one pupil who had problems listening and focusing. For instance, we were at a roundabout and I told the pupil to take the second exit, all while pointing to it. They then suddenly took the first exit instead, and then did the same thing at the next roundabout.

It was very frustrating but there are ways round such issues; you just have to teach in a different way. With that particular student, I changed tack by telling them I wanted them to drive into the roundabout and I would tell them when to exit. This approach worked because it forced them to listen.

Bottom line is that you are always learning as an ADI. Yes, there’s a big learning curve in the first 3-4 years but it should never end. I think you have to keep learning all the time to be the best you can be as an instructor.

The new test element – pulling up on the right and reverse parking – isn’t great. I would rather we pushed people not to do it because I don’t think it is safe and it is against everything that the Highway Code teaches us. The reality though is that people still do it – drive down any road and you’ll see many cars parked up on the wrong side of it. It means as much as I don’t agree with the introduction, I do agree that it needs to be taught.”

– Doreen on the introduction of the new manoeuvre in the revised driving test.

If you could change one thing about the industry or driver education, what would it be and why?
The standard of driving on our roads is a disgrace so I believe all drivers should have their driving assessed 2-3 years after passing their test and then every 10 years thereafter. If they aren’t at a high enough standard, they should be reassessed after 18 months – enough time for them to take some remedial lessons to bring them up to standard. To be clear, I don’t believe drivers who fail their assessment should have their driving licenses revoked but they should have ongoing guidance until they are fit to drive safely.

Finally, as a longterm user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
I always recommend my students download the app because I get a lot of positive feedback from those who do. They say it has really helped them with the Highway Code by making learning a boon for them, not a pain.

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Meet the ADI: Phil Jones

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Former army man and Heavy Goods Vehicles driver turned driving instructor, Phil Jones, reveals the secrets behind the success of his driving school.

After becoming disillusioned with the franchise he was working for, Jones has gone on to create the Go Learn 2 Drive driving school based in North Wales. Here we discuss his attitude to instructing, hiring ADIs (or not in this case) – and why business must come first if you hope to survive and thrive in a competitive marketplace.

Tell us about your previous careers before becoming an ADI?

When I was at school, the only thing I ever wanted was to be was a soldier so I joined up aged 16 in 1978. I served eight years in the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and had an exciting life. I decided though that I either needed to get out while I was still young enough to adapt to civilian life or stay in for 22 years.

I decided to leave and became a self employed motorcycle courier with the aim of funding Heavy Goods Vehicles lessons. I passed my class 1 and started a career of driving all over Europe and the UK. I did this for about 15 years but eventually thought it was about time to settle down and be at home at night instead of sleeping in a lorry for weeks at a time.

What attracted you to instructing?

I saw various articles about becoming a driving instructor and decided to give it go because I needed a change in direction and a new challenge. I passed my part 3 in May 2006 and started a franchise with a local school. However, after a couple of years, I realised that 90% of my pupils were self-generating plus the school I was with didn’t want to move with the times. So I thought “this is no good for me” and decided to go solo.

How have your experiences in HGV driving and the army informed your approach and teaching style?

My time in the army and my vast experience of driving have given me the confidence to pass my knowledge on to others. Also, the ability to think on my feet and make quick, important decisions is crucial – plus the ability to take responsibility for your actions is also important. A lot of my pupils say I’m firm but fair and like the fact that I say it as it is. I don’t believe in sugar coating!

The one thing I would change about the industry is for a national or local minimum hourly rate of, say, £26 to be set; this would put an end to all these cheap deals that are stopping instructors from earning a decent wage.”

– ADI Phil Jones on the solution to the industry’s cut price lessons issue.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?

Like most driving Instructors, the best part of the job is getting a pass; it’s priceless especially with a pupil who has special needs and has struggled. The worst part has got to be the book keeping and tax returns; thankfully, the advent of IT has made this side of things much easier.

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience?

My biggest learning experience has been going on a small business course. It doesn’t matter how good an instructor you are, if you can’t run a business, you will fail. It’s important to realise that you are a businessman first who just happens to teach people how to drive.

What was it like striking out on your own for the first time?

When I first started Go Learn 2 Drive, I had a few reservations but decided to do both manual and automatic. I very quickly had too much work for me to cope with on my own so I took another instructor on – a woman – giving me more flexibility plus attracting even more pupils. I also had a fantastic website and was able to concentrate on doing all my marketing online.

I am now expanding and am training my own instructors. I find this is a better approach than taking on an already qualified ADI as I can mould them into what I want for my business; ADIs are too set in their ways and don’t seem to like change.

What advice would you give to an ADI wanting to set up a driving school?

I would say anybody thinking about setting up on their own needs a business plan plus you need to set yourself a target and have a USP for the school. Also charge as much as you can and don’t let any pupil get away without paying; personally, we work on a pre-paid basis so if someone cancels with short notice, it doesn’t matter as I’ve already been paid!

Finally, how do you find Theory Test Pro helps your students?

It’s a great tool to have as I find pupils seem to pass the theory test a lot quicker when using it. It’s also great for part 1 training as well.

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Meet the ADIs: Stewart Latcham & Family

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After the driving school he worked for closed down, ADI Stewart Latcham started his own family-run business, KSL Driving School, with wife Karen Latcham, which has been operating in the Stafford and Telford areas since 2009.

So successful has the school been that the couple have gone on to create franchises with their son, Tom Latcham aged 22, when he qualified in September 2016 plus close family friend Dan McCabe and Graham Turney, their son-in-law. Here we talk to Stewart about why keeping it in the family has been vital to the driving school and its franchises’ reputations.

Why did you decide to work together?
Having a family-run business means the pupils get an excellent experience as we can do mock practical tests with each other’s pupils. We have built up a sound reputation in Telford, Stafford and surrounding areas and no longer need to advertise with pupils typically contacting us because of recommendations from previous pupils.

Dan has said that the support from the family is reason he is with the company plus he, Tom and Graham wanted to have genuine career and professional status. Also, they will eventually take over and run the business together.

The benefits of a family working together means close communication with each other, close relationships, standing in for each other and having the benefit of sitting in on each other’s lessons to offer peer support.”
– Stewart Latcham, owner of the KSL Driving School

What is the appeal of the job to you?
The ability to expand someone’s knowledge and awareness – not only of what they can achieve but how their actions influence others. The satisfaction of taking on a pupil who has no idea about driving and then training them to understand all aspects so they can pass their driving test and become a safe driver is very rewarding. It gives a real sense of job satisfaction.

It’s also great to be self employed and in control of your own diary and time management without the bureaucracy of being an employee.

How would you describe your teaching style?
We all have a relaxed, informal style of teaching, making sure that the pupil enjoys their lessons and feel as though they are getting the most out of them. Once a pupil’s potential has been identified, we feel a great sense of responsibility to bring it out of them. We encourage a relaxed atmosphere in the car as well and never become annoyed when pupils take longer than expected to achieve their potential.

A good rapport is built up between the instructor and pupil to ensure their confidence increases, enabling them to pass their driving test and become a safe driver. If a pupil is struggling with a teaching method then the approach is changed to meet their needs. We also give them the option to change instructors if their reduced learning is due to the instructor’s personality.

My favourite part is seeing a nervous pupil that lacks confidence pass their driving test. Least favourite part is becoming frustrated with pupils who are not committed to their lessons.”
– Stewart Latcham

“My favourite part is building up a pupil relationship over the duration of their lessons and becoming very proud of their achievement when they pass. Least favourite part is the frustration when students don’t listen to advice.”
– Karen Latcham

“My favourite part of the job is the satisfaction when a pupil passes their test. Like my dad, my least favourite part is becoming frustrated when pupils are not committed to their lessons.”
– Tom Latcham

“My favourite part has to be the satisfaction of my pupils coming out of the test centre with that pass certificate. My least favourite part would be when you can see the potential of a pupil and put the work in but get nothing in return or they just don’t have the commitment needed.”
– Dan McCabe

“My favourite part of the job is having the freedom to work set hours that fit around family life.”
– Graham Turney


From left to right: Stewart Latcham, Karen Latcham, Tom Latcham, Dan McCabe & Graham Turney.


How do you run the business together? How do you allocate responsibilities?
We are all proactive members of the KSL team, making joint decisions to ensure the business runs smoothly. Having spent many years in sales, I make the sales decisions and am always coming up with new sales and promotional materials to enhance company prospects.

Karen has spent many years in management and teaching roles so she takes the lead on ensuring all our instructors have the support they need. She also organises our monthly team meetings to discuss moving the company forward while developing our teaching materials.

Being young ADIs, Tom and Dan are both aware of what young pupils need and they communicate on the same level as the pupil. They have received excellent pupil feedback and have excellent first-time pass rates. Tom is also bringing KSL into the digital age by having a social media presence and improving the website design.

Also, because Tom is qualified in photography, he uses this skill to photograph our instructors and cars, etc. so the pupils are aware of what their instructors look like when they meet us for the first time. Finally, Graham has run his own business for many years so has knowledge of sales and marketing too.

What is the current state of your business and your plans for the future?
We’d like to have more instructors working for us as we have to turn away pupils daily due to lack of instructor capacity! Turning business away does not sit well with the KSL strategy of offering a valuable service.

We will also be delivering instructor Part 3 training and this is something that all our instructors are keen to do. Running some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) events for our instructors is also something that we will be doing next year.

Finally, as a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Our pupils benefit from both the desktop version and the app, the latter allowing them to access TTP wherever they are. We can track their progress and test their knowledge periodically. The hazard perception section is also larger than most other programs and is invaluable.

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Meet the ADI: Robert Anscombe

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A veteran instructor based in Yorkshire, Robert Anscombe reveals how to stand out in a competitive marketplace and what the DVSA needs to do to make life easier for his students.

Owner of Rob’s School of Motoring in Whitby, Robert has carved out a successful career as an ADI over the past ten years, putting his success down to reputation building plus a shrewd use of internet marketing.

What did you do before becoming an ADI?
I worked in a lot of office-based jobs, including a hotel on Scarborough seafront and a bank in Whitby. Since leaving full-time education though, I only managed to stick at a job for one-to-two years at most as I got bored and always wanted a change.

Why did you make the move into instructing?
In my previous jobs, there was a focus on selling and even though I was good at it, I knew deep down that it wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career. To be honest, I never even thought of becoming a driving instructor; I just knew I wanted to do something different.

So when I was looking in the jobs section of a newspaper, I saw this advert simply stating “Become a Driving Instructor”. And when I thought about it, I realised that I have always loved driving and really liked the idea of being my own boss. Of course, I didn’t have any experience of teaching so I knew it would be a challenge – but one I was up for.

What kind of ADI are you?
I’d like to think that I am a very easy going person who gets on very well with all my students. Even though we have a laugh and a joke on my lessons, I am also very aware of how expensive driving lessons are so I also like to make sure my students are getting value for money.

I would class myself as a bit of a perfectionist and like to get my students to a high standard. Often after one of my students passes, they will say to me that it was a lot easier on the test than they thought it would be – this always makes me smile but also pleases me because I know then that I’ve done my job properly!

What is your teaching style?
Some of my students might disagree but I don’t think I have a ‘teaching style’. Instead, I would like to think I can quickly assess the type of student sat next to me and adapt my teaching method according to the individual’s needs.

An example of this would be if one of my students is struggling with a particular manoeuvre, I will try and use explanations, diagrams, reference points, etc. But there then could be another student tackling the same topic but who is more or less doing it on their own so there’s no need for that extra guidance. Ultimately, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to teaching isn’t the right way to go.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
I love many aspects of it including the fact I am my own boss, which is great when you have a young family. It means I can watch things like the kids’ nativity play without worrying about asking anyone for time off.

I also enjoy the fact that you meet so many different people and even though you are always teaching people to drive, you never get bored as there are always different situations to overcome. But best of all, I love the look on my students’ faces when they find out they have passed – I still remember my first pass 10 years ago and that sense of satisfaction never gets old.

The worst part of the job is when a student fails; I know I shouldn’t but I personally feel like I haven’t done my job properly. Trying to make conversation with someone on the drive back from a fail is still a horrible experience.”

– ADI Robert Anscombe

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
We all know that some students can take to driving really quickly and you only have to tell some people something once and they ‘get it’. Then we have the students who are just ‘average’ and I mean that in the nicest way possible, i.e. that they take the average amount of lessons.

But my biggest learning experience is dealing with students who really struggle with driving and you need a lot of patience and commitment to help them. It was something though that I was worried about because outside of instructing, I am not a very patient person – I like things done there and then – but with instructing, I like to think I am extremely patient and being able to get such students through their test gives you a massive sense of achievement.

Whitby has a very competitive ADI scene – how have you managed to stand out from the crowd?
Whitby does have a lot of instructors considering the size of the town plus we also get a lot of ADIs coming in from outside Whitby to teach as well. You also have to consider that in Whitby there are a lot of extremely good driving instructors so it does make it difficult.

I don’t think what I am doing is any great secret – I just try and be as professional as I can and teach people to the best of my ability and hopefully my reputation helps me stand out. It must be working as I have had a waiting list of three months for a long time now and I don’t do any paid advertising.

Instead, I use Facebook and Twitter a lot which is great as it’s free and used by young people which is a massive age group in our profession. When people pass, I post photos of my students saying that they have passed and usually within hours of doing this, I’ll have 2-3 enquiries for lessons.

What advice would you give to an ADI who finds themselves in a crowded area?
Use all the free advertising you can, i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also consider paid advertising if you are new to the job – it might seem expensive especially if you don’t have many students but usually just one student signing up will be enough to cover the cost of that paid advert.

I would also suggest new ADIs consider how they advertise – will your target audience see where you are advertising? Do many students flick through the Yellow Pages? Possibly not – so consider a more internet-based approach.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
The waiting times for driving tests. In 2016, some students were waiting up to five months for a test and I think such a delay puts a lot of pressure on pupils because they know if they fail, they’ll have a long wait before another test date comes up.

Thankfully, a lot more effort has been made by the DVSA in Whitby this year to try and reduce the times as they have recruited more examiners in the area. Overall though, they must offer more test dates and bring on board more examiners nationwide.

As a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Theory Test Pro helps my students massively – there is nothing else on the market which offers so much free material to pupils. My students also like the way the software records everything they do and tells them what percentage of the questions they have answered. Also having the free app is a massive bonus. I certainly wouldn’t be without Theory Test Pro as it also helps me stand out in Whitby’s highly competitive market.


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Meet the ADI: Ehtesham Patel

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Former council worker turned driving instructor Ehtesham Patel reveals why constantly improving and pushing yourself is essential to becoming a successful ADI.

Owner of the Leicester-based Your Driving Academy, Ehtesham has been teaching learners since 2008 and puts his success down to adapting his teaching method to suit his students’ individual needs – and ensuring his team of ADIs always get the support they need.

What did you do before becoming an ADI?
My previous experience was in customer service roles – for instance, while qualifying to become a driving instructor, I was working for Leicester City Council delivering a frontline service to local residents. Whatever the job, I was continually developing my communication skills on the telephone and face-to-face, which has proven to be invaluable as a driving instructor and driving school owner.

Why did you make the move into instructing?
To be honest, I actually thought about a career in instructing while I was learning to drive! I can remember being in the middle of a driving lesson – I can even remember exactly where I was at the time – and thinking: “I’d love to become a driving instructor”. I love driving and being out and about, and the idea of teaching people essential life skills was really exciting to me – and still is.

How did you develop your career?
I started out as a franchisee for a local driving school where I learned a lot – for instance, how all driving schools were generally run at the time. To be honest though, I didn’t have the greatest experience; I wasn’t supplied with enough work and found myself struggling to make any profit with little or no support.

Once my contract ended, I decided enough was enough and started up my own driving school – with my first child on the way, it was a huge and scary step. I committed myself entirely to the task and as the business grew, I started working with my first ADI and we haven’t looked back since! The school now has 10 driving instructors including myself.

Growing the driving school hasn’t come without its own challenges though – being a good driving instructor isn’t enough. Some of the challenges include cashflow problems, time management (there’s never enough hours in the day!) and learning how to properly run a business.

Ehtesham Patel - Your Driving Academy 2

What has been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
Changing my mindset and repeatedly stepping outside of my comfort zone by trying out different teaching styles and methods. Also, the day-to-day running of a business is a challenge, and writing and creating my new Learners Toolkit was something I’d never done before either but it turned out really well.

What is your teaching style?
I’ve changed my teaching style several times over the years and I continue to do so. The philosophy that lies at the heart of all my teaching though is to tailor the training to the individual and their learning needs. Most importantly, I have focused on simplifying the learning process; the way I introduce topics, break things up into bite-sized information, correct faults, even down to the wording and phrases I use. I go to great lengths to ensure driving lessons are fun and enjoyable and that my students meet their goals in each and every one.

Critically, I realised very early on that I had a lot to learn and I have committed myself fully to continually boosting this learning. I still push myself constantly so I develop in every area as a business owner and as a driving instructor.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
Being an ADI can be lonely and finding the right help and support didn’t come easy to me especially in the early days as an ADI. As for the favourite part, I love making a positive impact on other people’s lives; empowering them with life skills and making learning to drive simple and fun. The best part though is aiding learners gain their independence by helping them pass the driving test. It is hugely satisfying!

What practical advice would you give to new ADIs to ensure they don’t become isolated or are left feeling unsupported?
I’d recommend newly qualified ADIs start with a franchise to kickstart their new career and have their diaries filled within a few days or weeks. Ideally, find a franchise that offers not only plenty of work but is very supportive in your formative stages. I make myself available to my team 24/7 – even when I’m on vacation.

We also offer in-car support to all our instructors but if your franchisor doesn’t offer this service, I’d definitely recommend finding a local trainer to help. They can confirm you’re doing the right stuff and advise on what steps you can take to further develop and improve your training and working practices.

I promised myself that any ADI who I worked with would never go through the same struggle as I did during my own formative years; that I would always support them and be there for them”
– Ehtesham Patel, owner of Your Driving Academy in Leicester

How should a new ADI get the best possible start for themselves and their business?
If it’s the first time you’ve been self-employed, seek advice from an accountant. You’re going to need to take some time out to get up to speed with running a business (even as a franchisee), i.e. what records you need to keep, important dates, managing your money, etc.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question (that’s what we tell our learners right?). As first point of contact, you should approach your driving school for any advice and support. You’ll get to meet other ADIs at your local driving test centres and over time, you’ll develop good relationships with other local instructors as well. Remember that driving examiners are very approachable and I would encourage you to speak with them. Ask them questions regarding training, standards check and driving tests.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would give an ADI about growing their careers?
Commit to learning, improving and developing yourself as an ADI whether it be through BTEC coaching courses, training days, conferences, etc. This commitment to learning and developing helps unlock potential you never knew existed. Take personal responsibility.

Finally, as a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
I believe Theory Test Pro is a huge help. It doesn’t cost students a penny, keeps track of their progress, is accessible anywhere at anytime and is available on practically any device – it prepares pupils so they can take their theory test with confidence. It’s also a huge help for us too because it adds value to our service and generates new pupil enquiries. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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