Category Archive: Meet the ADI

Meet the Instructor: David White

Comments Off on Meet the Instructor: David White

David White became a driving instructor because of a broken heart and has gone on to help nurture a successful driving school much loved by its students.

Operating in and around Scarborough in North Yorkshire, David White runs the family business Scarborough Driver Training, which specialises in lessons for older drivers and those with disabilities. Here David talks about growing his family-run driving school, why learners need to do more than simply listen, and how Theory Test Pro helps his students from all walks of life.

Tell me about your background and why you made the move into instructing?

Fifteen years ago, I was working at Ladbrokes in Swindon and living with my girlfriend. We split up and it meant I had to move back to my parents who were based in Scarborough but unfortunately, I couldn’t take my job with me!

My parents have been involved in driver training and testing since the 1970s, and my dad had his own driving school business at the time. He ended up training me and I joined the family business once qualified.

How have you both continued to grow the business over the past 15 years?

Initially, it was thanks to shrewd car buying by my dad, John! Back in 2003, he bought one of the new Minis that had just come out. As soon as people saw it, they would phone up and say they wanted to have a go in one! Because of this, he quickly built up a large customer base and when I joined, I bought a Mini too and the people kept on coming!

Fast forward to today and I’m running the business with my dad who handles admin and the occasional lesson. We also have another ADI, Mike, working with us plus I am training up two PDIs.

What kind of ADI are you?

Back in my twenties when I started out, I was on the same wavelength as my young students. It meant I could be relaxed and chat to them at their level. These days, I’m more open to different points of view, which is essential to my client-centred learning approach that puts the client’s needs front and centre, instead of me just telling them what to do.

If you know someone who passed their test awhile back, go ahead and ask them why they do a particular thing behind wheel. Nine times out of ten, they will answer because their driving instructor told them to do it like that. People just did what they were told to pass the test back then.

With client-centred learning (CCL), it’s about understanding the reason for, say, looking over your shoulder before changing lanes. CCL is not about just telling people what to do – but helping them understand why they should do it from their point of view.”
– ADI David White on why modern learning is about more than simply ‘remembering’.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

It’s when a student passes and they’ve got that huge smile on their face! I also love meeting new people every day and helping them become better, safer drivers. Finally, I teach a lot of people who either have a physical disability or a mental health issue.

For instance, they may have serious anxiety problems about driving and they are petrified to even get in a car. I help them overcome their fears and learn to drive and pass their test. That’s really fulfilling.

What’s your least favourite part?

Being self employed! Having to do accounts and taxes, and not being paid when you have to take time out. For instance, when my son was born, he was pretty ill and we had to travel to hospital a lot in the beginning.

It meant that I couldn’t work and there wasn’t always money coming in. I do sometimes wish that all instructors were employed by the government so it could take care of the admin for us plus offer holiday and sick pay!

What advice would you give to students to get the very best from their lessons?

Ask questions! At the beginning, students tend to just listen, listen, listen. Yes, they will communicate with you when you ask them to but generally, they only begin to ask questions as they get nearer the test. In fact, they bombard you with them!

Remember, learners, we instructors love to answer questions – so ask them from the very beginning of your learning journey, not at the very end! There’s no such thing as a stupid question either so don’t be afraid to ask anything.

You have appeared on television – how did that happen?

I’m a member of the Driving Instructors Association and it put out an email asking if any of us worked with older learners and I said I did. I ended up appearing on the BBC’s The One Show; the funny thing was me and a student spent 4-5 hours being filmed but they only ended up using 30 seconds of the footage!

The student – a woman with only one leg who used an automatic – has become a bit of celebrity though with people recognising her on the street. She’s also done interviews in the local newspaper and on radio, which is really great.

In the meantime, I am now consulting on a new ITV show, which will follow students as they come to the end of their learning journey and are about to do the test. The producers have even managed to get permission to film the driving test itself so it will be fascinating to see how the show turns out.

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

It’s really useful to see how much students are actually studying because you can monitor their activity through the app. It’s always funny when you ask a young student if they have been practising and they say: “Yes!”. Then you check their progress on the app and they clearly haven’t been! It means you can give them a gentle nudge about committing to learning.

It’s been really successful with students who struggle with the theory test as well. For instance, there was one lad with disabilities who had failed his theory test multiple times. It was actually because of him that I signed up to Theory Test Pro. I was immediately able to see where he was going wrong and he passed the theory test on his next try.

Got a Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.

Meet the Instructor: Trisha Hagen

1 Comment

Veteran healthcare worker Trisha Hagen has taken her unique set of people skills and applied them to teaching the next generation of safe drivers.

Covering the Fife and Kinross areas, Trisha’s Flying Colours Motoring School in Scotland has been successfully operating for over a year. Here the 55-year-old instructor Trisha tells us why she made the move from working in healthcare to instructing – and what learners must do to give themselves the best possible chance of passing the practical and theory tests.

Tell me about your background.
Before I became an instructor, I worked in healthcare for 15 years. I was a support worker for people with autism and dementia. I loved the job but felt that I needed a change and a fresh challenge – so here I am!

I was inspired to become an instructor by my son. He is difficult to teach at the best of times because of his learning disabilities. He really has to be shown what to do multiple times and it took a number of years for me to teach him to drive. I realised though that I really enjoyed the teaching process and its challenges.

So when I was looking for a career change, I kept noticing an online ad from a major national driving school that often popped up – so I applied. I have now been teaching for four years.

How did you find the process of becoming an instructor?
It was simple for me. I am quite academic and excel in most areas. What I soon realised though was the school wasn’t teaching you how to actually teach people! They were only teaching you how to pass your exams.

So when I did pass, I was simply left to get on with it. I found it very daunting at first as no one ever took me out in a car and said: “Right, in lesson one, this is what you should do with your learners. In lesson two, you should do this”, and so on. I only knew how to find errors, analyze them and remedy them.

How have you built up your business?
I worked with the national driving franchise for a year and then moved to a local one. It was an important move because I wanted to learn about the local area and its specific wants and needs.

I built up my skills and then decided it was time to go it alone in December 2017. It’s been going really well and I aim to build on my success in 2019!

What kind of ADI are you?
I am a very person-centred instructor. A lot of ADIs will get in the car and say: “Okay, we’re going to do X, Y and Z today”. I try not to do that and always get the client to be more involved in the process. I say: “What would you like to do today? What areas do you want to concentrate on?”.

So they may say that they did roundabouts the previous week but they still aren’t confident about navigating them – so we will go and do more roundabouts. This approach is almost like a partnership but with me guiding the client so they get the very best from each lesson. I also allow them to make mistakes in a controlled environment as one of the quickest ways to pick something up is by learning from your mistakes!

You treat each person very much as an individual as each has different needs. For instance, my attention span is great whereas as my son’s is very short. My work in healthcare also taught me to be patient and to always listen.”
– Trisha on how her past career has informed her instructing style.

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?
I really love it when I have a pupil who has a particular problem and we work together to overcome it. For example, I’ve got a client who came to me after a 35-hour intensive course but still had serious anxiety issues about roundabouts.

We worked on the issue together and just before Christmas, they cracked it! The penny dropped and they overcame their fear. That is real job satisfaction – breaking down barriers and getting clients over any hurdle.

The least favourite part of my job is the paperwork. I do wish I could afford an admin assistant! Doing the books, tax returns and records is a bit of a drag.

What advice would you give to students to ensure they get the best out of their lessons?
I always advise my clients to start off very slowly. Don’t expect to just get in the car and within five minutes, be able to drive! A lot of folk get frustrated because they make mistakes over and over. But remember to try and not get frustrated – in a two-hour lesson, you have to take on so much information that it takes time to digest.

It’s all about staying relaxed, staying calm and staying focused. Don’t worry about what’s happening at home or at work. Just focus on the moment as 95% of driving is about concentration. That’s the key to being a safe driver.

Finally, as a user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
What I like is the way that I can go on to the website and see what clients are doing – what their strengths and weaknesses are – and I can take that into the next lesson.

I can say to them that I see they are struggling with X, Y and Z, and we can go through it there and then. It means I am more informed as an instructor about their progress. I also like the wee button to the side which says: “Ask Trisha”. My clients love to use that!

As a system, Theory Test Pro is also very easy to use and always has fresh content. I’ve looked at other theory test apps that my clients use and I find a lot of them are simply not updated properly.

Got a Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.

Meet the Instructor: Les Hopkinson


Operating in the Newcastle upon Tyne area, Les qualified to become an instructor in October 2017 – and hasn’t looked back since.

Through his RED-franchised driving school, Les has carved out a burgeoning career for himself over the past year, winning over his students with an inclusive, friendly teaching style. Here Les talks about why letting students learn at their own pace is so vital to their development as safe drivers.

Tell me about your background before you became an ADI.

I worked in the tenpin bowling industry for 16 years. Following the birth of my second child though, I realised the job was getting too physically and mentally tiring because of the unsociable working hours, so I made the decision to become an ADI. The reason for choosing this profession is that I love driving and I see some pretty terrible driving out on the roads. This is my way of passing on my high standard of driving to future motorists.

What kind of ADI are you?

I’m very laid back. New students come to me, saying they’ve had bad experiences with instructors who shout at them for getting things wrong – that’s not my style! When I was a manager in the bowling centre, I was always the ‘Good Cop’ of the management team and the staff respected me for it. I have taken this approach with driving instruction too because there’s no point shouting at someone if they do something wrong or make a mistake – you won’t get the best out of them.

What is your teaching style?

I believe that people should try to work things out for themselves. I give my students a chance to talk me through how they would do something before I jump in and tell them. I love the use of visual aids too. I’ve recently made the move from old-fashioned pen and paper and now use interactive apps on an iPad as part of my lessons.

My favourite part of the job is the one-to-one training. I used to feel less comfortable when training a whole team of people in my previous job. This way I get to know the pupil really well and we can have fun while they learn. The part I hate the most is other drivers out on the road and the lack of respect they have for learners. I think they often forget that they were learners once!”

– Les Hopkinson on the highs and lows of being a driving instructor.

How difficult was it to qualify as an instructor?

I found the training very difficult. I was trained for the old-style part 3 test and missed out on things like Client Centred Learning, adapting the teaching to suit different needs and abilities, and just the general running of your business. I have had to learn those things through my own job experience, research and speaking to other instructors in my local area.

What are some of the challenges you face starting out as an ADI?

Sometimes motivation is the hardest part of this job for me. I hate having gaps in the day without lessons. I would much prefer to work continually throughout the day. I lose motivation to go out to work if I have a lesson at 10am and then another one at 6pm with a gap in between, or if I don’t have a lesson all day until 6pm.

Also, there’s a lot of uncertainty whether you’re going to make money at certain times of the year such as Christmas or if we have bad weather like the Beast from the East earlier this year. This can have a massive impact on your business. I suppose this is to be expected when you’re self-employed.


“The RED driving school has been great throughout my training. I struggled with the training but with the help of my trainer, I was able to secure extra training hours for free.”


What are your ambitions for the future?
I think in a couple of year’s time, I may go independent to save some money on franchise and prepaid pupil fees. However, I do like that RED looks after the pupil generation. I have also thought about training to become an instructor trainer but that’s something for the future.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I’m probably with the majority of ADIs when I say the way we are retested through standards checks needs to change. The standards check is such a stressful time for most instructors with the prospect of potentially losing your job through the need to tick a few boxes.

I strongly believe that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency should take into account how well our businesses are run, our reputation with them and our local test centres, and our test pass rate – but I also believe that Continued Professional Development should be compulsory to a certain amount of hours and a certain level.

Finally, as a user of Theory Test Pro, how does the system help your students?

Theory Test Pro is excellent for instructors wanting to track their pupils’ progress. Statistics suggest that pupils don’t prepare enough for their theory test and this way, their instructor can help and encourage them to be better prepared. It can help form part of their driving lessons if the instructor knows where their students’ weak areas are.

Got A Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.

Meet the Instructor: Amanda Aldridge

Comments Off on Meet the Instructor: Amanda Aldridge

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.

Got A Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.

Meet the Instructor: Ellis Wood

Comments Off on Meet the Instructor: Ellis Wood

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!

Got A Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.

Meet the Instructor: Nick Salzen

Comments Off on Meet the Instructor: Nick Salzen

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.

Got A Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.

Meet the Instructor: Rob Cooling

Comments Off on Meet the Instructor: Rob Cooling

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.

Got A Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.

Meet the Instructor: Jessica Hanson

Comments Off on Meet the Instructor: Jessica Hanson

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.

Got A Great Instructor?

Now get a great theory test teacher! Sign up to Theory Test Pro for free here.


Photography: Chris Ades

Meet the Instructor: Doreen Morrison

Comments Off on Meet the Instructor: Doreen Morrison

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.

Passing Made Simple

Use Theory Test Pro to make sure your students are 100% ready for their big day – sign up for free here.

Meet the ADI: Phil Jones

Comments Off on Meet the ADI: Phil Jones

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.

Passing Made Simple

Use Theory Test Pro to make sure your students are 100% ready for their big day – sign up for free here.

Interested? Get started completely free.

Try it Now