Category Archive: Meet the ADI

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, who is currently a PDI training to be an ADI. 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

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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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Meet the ADI: Rob Gwilliams

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Former factory line trainer turned ADI Rob Gwilliams reveals why his move into instructing was the best career decision he ever made – and how it could help the future career of his motorsports-obsessed daughter.

Owner of the Shrewsbury-based Rob Gwilliams Driving School, Rob has been a successful ADI since 2004 and is using the training skills he learned on the factory floor to make students safer drivers – and to help under 17s make their driving dreams come true.

What did you do before becoming an ADI?
I worked for a large engine manufacturing company for eight-and-a-half years. Because of my knowledge of the factory and how it worked, I was one of the main trainers on our line and enjoyed the teaching aspects. Because I loved driving, I decided that I could put the two together! Unfortunately, the cost of training was too expensive at the time so I was forced to put my plans on hold. But when a voluntary redundancy programme was announced, I realised that the funding I needed was suddenly there! So I took the plunge.

What kind of ADI are you?
I am a very laid back and mellow kind of instructor. I like to make my lessons fun but keep them very informative too, focusing on real learning while prioritising safety. To help connect with each and every student, I have also been using Client Centre Learning (CCL) techniques to get the students learning in a way that suits them.

The CCL approach sees you adapting your teaching style to suit the learner’s aptitude – after all, everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds so it’s important to adapt your teaching style to help them achieve test success. My pupils also get a book to help them learn, write their logs in and do their homework in. In my experience, if they actually do fill in the books, they tend to learn better, although it’s not always easy to get all of my students to do it!

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
My favourite is when students pass their tests – I love to see their happiness and pride when they do! I also love meeting new students and figuring out the best way to teach them. The worse part is when a student fails their test or when a student cancels without giving me enough notice; the latter really does make me feel like I’ve been messed about.

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
I think the whole job itself has been one big learning experience; you are always learning and growing. I don’t think that anyone in this job is perfect as the challenges facing the profession are continually changing plus every student is different.

There are two things I want to change about the industry – first, for tests to be more consistent; for instance, one student can do one thing and fail but the following week, they do the same thing and pass because it’s a different examiner. Second, test waiting times are a major issue that must to be rectified as soon as possible. It is unfair to make pupils wait so long when they are test-ready.

– ADI Rob Gwilliams on the current state of the industry

You have set up an Under 17 Driving Academy to not only help youngsters get into driving but to help your daughter too. Can you go into more detail?
My 15-year-old daughter Caitlin wants to get into motorsports but can’t if she is unable to drive! So she started looking into enrolling at an under 17 driving school but there weren’t any in the local area, so we decided that it was gap that needed to be filled!

I got together with two other ADIs and formed the Shrewsbury Under 17 Driving Academy. Caitlin now has 13 hours of driving under her belt and has become a lot more confident – she really wants to get on the roads now! In the meantime, she has also bought herself a go-kart that she’ll get out on to the track in shortly and meanwhile, has done plenty of racing in corporate karts.

Why do you think it is important for under 17s to get behind the wheel?
It helps them learn the controls plus it drives home the importance of safe driving. It’s also great to give them an experience in a safe and legal environment that they can’t officially get yet.

Finally, how do you find Theory Test Pro helps your students?
It’s an excellent source of training where I can keep a track on their progress and advise them if they need help in particular areas. It’s also a very easy system to use and covers a wide range of questions.

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As well as creating an under 17 driving school because of his daughter Caitlin’s motorsport ambitions, Rob has also  sponsored her first pro go-kart, officially making him a nominee for a ‘World’s Best Dad’ award!

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Meet the ADIs: Andy and Lewis Wright

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The father-and-son instructing team reveal how they created and grew the award-winning driving school, WrightStart.

Created by the father and son team, Andy and Lewis Wright in 2013, WrightStart has been a huge success story, culminating in winning a place in the Small Business Saturday 100, the annual event that celebrates the very best in British small business.

Theory Test Pro talks to the father-son team about their business and how being related has helped boost their company’s fortunes.

How long have you both been ADIs?
Lewis: I qualified in September 2012 and Andy shortly after in March 2013. We formed WrightStart in 2013 so we’ve been officially working together for nearly four years now and going from strength to strength!

What was the inspiration behind becoming ADIs?
Lewis: I always wanted to become a driving instructor ever since my first driving lesson. I knew from an early age I wanted to be a teacher of some kind and when I found out I was a natural at driving, I knew it was the right career choice for me. So I enrolled onto an ADI training course as soon as I was eligible at 21. My father Andy then saw that it was a good move and decided to have a career change.

Andy: I had previously been working as a computer engineer, a job that I enjoyed but I knew that there was more to life than putting in a lot of work hours for little credit. Several people had suggested to me over the years that I would make a good driving instructor because my previous job had entailed teaching and training. Having seen what was involved as Lewis went through the process, I decided to take the plunge and have a complete career change.

What is the appeal of the job for you both?
Lewis: I thoroughly enjoy sharing skills and knowledge with other people and seeing their learning progress plus it’s great to be your own boss and not be stuck in an office environment.

Andy: I knew the benefits and pitfalls of running my own company as my brother had run his own business for over 30 years and it seemed the right time to make that big commitment before I reached the age of 50.

How would you describe your teaching style? Do you differ from one another?
Lewis: I would say that we are very similar in teaching styles as we were both trained by the same instructor. We also regularly discuss techniques and ideas and use the same lesson plans although I prefer my way of teaching the parallel park to Andy’s. Also, having similar teaching styles works really well if one of us is off sick or working away as we use the same cars and can cater for the others pupils in our diary when necessary.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
Lewis: I love teaching anything I thrive at and showing others how to do it. I would probably say the worst part of the job is the constant car cleaning although I normally pass the buck on that one.

Andy: I find the best part of the job is the end result; a confident pupil who has a good understanding and application of the skills of driving, all culminating in a test pass with as few minors as possible. My least favourite part is probably having to say “sorry we can’t fit you in”. I always like to accommodate where possible but even I need a break sometimes!

When and why did you decide to go into business together?
Lewis: Two brains are better than one and we obviously have the benefit of both youth and experience, which works incredibly well as we can bounce ideas off of each other. I knew from a young age I wanted to run my own business and to have the opportunity to do that with the support of my father was excellent!

There are many benefits to working together as a duo; we can share amazing ideas and spread the risk when introducing new services which solo instructors can struggle with. I do have to say though that when we are at family events, we sometimes struggle to switch off!”
– Son Lewis Wright on working with his father, Andy.

How do you run the business together? How do you allocate responsibilities?
Lewis: Over the last few years as we have started to grow in size, we have found more and more jobs need doing so dividing up responsibilities has been essential.

Andy: Generally, Lewis works on business growth and development along with looking after our sister company WrightStart Experiences, which is a junior driving school for under 17s. I manage all pupils and bookings plus vehicles and networking with our affiliate companies.

What is the current state of your business and your plans for the future?
Lewis: Business is currently booming, we have a constant stream of pupil referrals and long may this continue. In fact we need two instructors at present to join our growing team. There are some big plans for the future – we are launching something in the New Year which could change the face of the driving industry but for now we’re keeping our cards close to our chest.

Why do you feel you have been so successful?
Lewis: Success is hard to achieve and has taken a lot of time and effort; we are still working hard to get where we really want to be. I feel the reason behind WrightStart’s success so far is consistency, professionalism and our market-leading website that our pupils can utilise alongside lessons.

Andy: Being a father and son team definitely offers a quirky edge that works in our favour too!

Tell us more about the Small Business Saturday Award you won this year.
Lewis: Small Business Saturday is an exceptional example of collaboration and co-operation with small businesses teaming up in communities around the UK. It is all about working together and promoting local suppliers and companies instead of using large national chains and brands. It is so refreshing to buy from local people and know that it is making a difference to a real person and their families.

What do you believe were the main reasons for winning a place in the Small Business Saturday’s Small Biz 100?
Andy: As a driving school, we strive to work as a business that partners with other local people to promote driving products to our customers. We look after all our customers even after they have passed their tests by providing help and guidance on their driving needs and putting them in touch with trusted professionals. This is a key part to Small Business Saturday.

What advice would you give to ADIs who want to expand their business and broaden their horizons?
Lewis: I would definitely encourage instructors to treat their job as a real and proper business; it has to be profitable and creating a thorough business plan is essential to achieving this. Stick to what your good at, move with the times and ensure you know exactly what your target market wants. In other words, do your research.

As a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Andy: We have been with Theory Test Pro for a number of years now and cannot fault the system and the support behind the scenes. It is a fantastic tool which is fully integrated within our website and is actively used among our pupils. The software is definitely a key part of helping our students learn.

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Meet the ADI: Alison Nolan

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From training call centre employees to instructing pupils how to drive, ADI Alison Nolan has proven she has a natural gift for teaching.

Founder of Alison’s Driving School in Sittingbourne, Kent, the former call centre operator-turned-ADI has been instructing since 2008, first as part of a franchise before striking out on her own and becoming a successful independent instructor.

What was the inspiration for becoming an ADI?
In 2007, I was working in a call centre where as well as taking customer calls, I taught new staff members how to use our in-house computer system. After a while I realised how much I liked teaching and helping people, so when I saw an advert in the paper to train to be a driving instructor, I decided to do some research.

Initially, I decided that the cost to train was too much and left it another 14 months before I thought about it again. This time, my husband and I decided that I should do the training. It took me a year to train as I was also working full-time at the call centre. I finally passed my part 3 exam in August 2008 and started a franchise with a large driving school at the beginning of September 2008.

Was there anything you learnt from your previous career that informs how you teach as an ADI?
I do believe that helping people to learn at the call centre helped me to realise my potential to become an instructor and as I love to drive, I decided to put the two things together and teach people how to drive!

What were the benefits of being part of a major franchise and why did you go solo?
Initially, working for a major franchise was the best way forward for me, as they supplied me with the vehicle and all the advertising, and they also had a pupil introduction scheme which allowed me to get started as soon as possible. I continued with the franchise for two years before deciding to go independent as the franchise costs had become quite high. I realised that leasing my own vehicle would virtually halve my costs therefore allowing me to earn more in the long run.

What were the main issues you faced going solo and how did you overcome them?
It was quite tough going independent initially as I had to find my own pupils. After a while I started to get recommendations and the work slowly built up but I needed to do more. I printed some special offer vouchers and did a leaflet drop in my local area. This got me two pupils straight away and then a few more booked lessons as birthday or Christmas presents. My work now comes mostly from recommendations with a few people calling as they’ve seen my car and some have found my website on Google. I get quite a lot of work from people wanting a female instructor.

My business has gone from strength to strength over the last few years as I am now a well established name in instructor circles within my local area. I would like to continue the business and perhaps start teaching automatic lessons as well.

How would you describe your teaching style?
My teaching has developed a lot over the years. I try to make the lessons fun while also getting across the importance of safety; I focus very much on the issue of safety throughout the entire learning process while teaching key issues in stages. I find this works best as it allows the pupil to think about one thing at a time until they are able to put the whole process together. Although we have a set curriculum, I tend to teach things according to what I feel will benefit the pupil the most on each lesson. If they don’t get it straight away, I explain things in a different way, which works 99% of the time.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
My favourite part is when the examiner tells my pupil they have passed their test! The look of joy on their faces is awesome and I feel that we have reached our goal together. It’s amazing to see them on the road in their own cars after they have passed too. The worst part is the amount of traffic on the road and the attitude of a small minority of other drivers who seem to have forgotten that they were once learners themselves!

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
Over the years, I have learnt that everyone has a different learning style and I need to adapt my teaching to fit in with each individual learner. If they find something challenging, I try to explain and demonstrate it in a different way. I also ask them how they feel about what they’re doing and what are they thinking about at each stage of the lesson; giving them this opportunity to tell me what they think really helps them to work out the best way to deal with any problem.

Finally, as a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Giving my pupils access to Theory Test Pro helps us to work together in our own time and if they get the answers wrong, the site is very good at offering an explanation of the correct answer. Pupils also have the opportunity to practice everything they need to pass – including the Hazard Perception – in whichever way that works best for them. By topic, by quick test or by full mock test, everything is in one place for them.

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Meet the ADI: Kathy Higgins

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Since 1999, ADI and owner of Insight 2 Drive, Kathy Higgins, has built up an award-winning business that has several areas of expertise from teaching learners and instructors to fleet driver training.

Kathy currently spends her time between managing her Liverpool-based company that employs multiple ADIs, running Speed Awareness/driver behavioural courses and continuing to train driving instructors.

What was your inspiration for becoming ADI?
Back in the 90s, I was a sales rep travelling the length and breadth of the country and was fed up with it. To add insult to injury, I remember returning to the office one day in my battered old Ford only to find that the boss had got a brand new car. I remember thinking that here I am, out in the field all day and he’s got himself a new car just to get to and from the office in.

At that moment, I realised I needed to be my own boss and have my own business. So I thought about what I was good at and realised it was driving – I had already taken and passed an IAM Advanced Motoring Course at this point. So I decided to become a driving instructor – it was the perfect fit.

How would you describe your teaching style?
I am down to earth, quite relaxed and try and simplify things as much I can. This is especially true when it comes to training ADIs – you find there are ADI trainers out there who through no fault of their own, overcomplicate the training because of how they themselves have been taught. They can make the process sound really complicated when it it isn’t – all you have to do as a trainer is see the faults, identify them, say something about it, find out why the faults occurred and how you are going to fix it. That’s it – it’s not rocket science so keep it simple, keep it direct.

What essential skills must an ADI have?
The first is adaptability; an instructor must be able to adapt their training style to the specific pupil. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has taken on pupils from driving schools who have given up on them and told the learner that they aren’t good enough to ever pass. In actual fact, it’s not the student who isn’t good enough – it’s the instructor who hasn’t adapted their style so they can teach the pupil effectively.

The other essential skill is basic business acumen. It’s critical that trainee instructors understand that they will be running their own business and the buck will stop with them. So they must plan their cashflows properly, ensuring that if they, say, charge £240 for 10 lessons, they don’t spend all that money at once and then come up short later down the line.

So I teach them about cash management and cash flow; for instance, I’ve always had a savings account for my business, into which I put a quarter of what I earn on a rolling basis and just leave it there. Come the tax bill at the end of the year, it means I always have the money to pay it. And then because I have saved a quarter, I always have money left over that I can then reinvest in the business, buy essential equipment with or even give myself a pay rise with!

What do you say to ADIs who offer cut-price lessons in order to get more trade?
If things are going badly, the knee jerk reaction is often to start cutting prices, to be the cheapest – but there is very little chance of coming back from that if you make such a shortsighted move and you end up working for next to nothing. We maintained our prices – with a rare loss leader or two – all the way through the credit crunch and okay, we might have had less learners on our books but we weren’t running round like fools working for a pittance.

If you offer cutthroat prices, you’ll also attract the wrong type of customer, the one who is going to run out of money sooner rather than later. They’re the type who just want cheap lessons and then the next thing is that they can’t afford it or they let you down. It’s just not worth it.

I always tell my ADI students the story of Barbara and Tom; Tom is very successful instructor and works 40 hours a week. He’s got a waiting list of learners wanting to learn with him, and he is constantly busy. Tom charges £10 an hour so he grosses £400 a week.

“On the other hand, Barbara is not very successful; she only gets about 20 hours a week of work. She doesn’t have much of a waiting list either because Barbaras’ biggest problem is that she charges £20 an hour; that’s twice as expensive as Tom. Barbara grosses £400 a week too.

“I ask my students – which instructor would you rather be? The answer of course is Barbara but some instructors don’t understand that it’s okay to lose half your customers but still earn good money because you’ve been charging proper prices. It’s about working smarter, not harder.”
– Kathy Higgins, ADI trainer and founder of Insight 2 Drive

As a presenter and trainer of Speed Awareness courses, what do you think of the standard of driving now compared to ten years ago?
I believe driving has gone bad. The reason is simple – people aren’t getting caught when they break the rules of the road anymore because we have less police officers on patrol than before. This is compounded by the fact there is now precious little respect for the police or the law itself. People know that they won’t get caught and the more times they get away with breaking it, the more it tells them that they won’t get caught – so they keep doing it. It’s a vicious circle.

You achieved a great deal in your career to date. What motivates you to keep pushing yourself?
I have a need to learn new things and be inventive. If I’m honest, I suspect it goes back to my school days where I wasn’t deemed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer! And if you didn’t get top marks at my school, you were left to your own devices because the support simply wasn’t there and the staff didn’t care. I was left feeling that I had to constantly prove myself – to show myself and others that I was bright enough to do whatever I turned my mind to; ultimately, that I have something to offer.

Finally, what do you think of Theory Test Pro?
I ensure that all my ADI trainees use it and the feedback from them has been fantastic. We’ve also noticed that pupils who use Theory Test Pro properly always pass first time. As for those who fail their theory test? You only need to go and look at their Theory Test Pro account and see that they’ve only used it once or twice. Bottom line is that the software prepares you fully for your test whether you’re a learner driver or a prospective instructor.

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Meet the ADI: Gary Tasker

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Full-time high school teacher and part-time ADI Gary Tasker reveals how he embraces the best of both professions to ensure that his learners are ready for the road.

After falling in love with teaching in 1994, Gary hasn’t looked back and is currently an Art and Design/Photography teacher for students aged between 14-18. Last year, he decided to train as an ADI and now works as a part-time instructor at the GMT Driving School.

What was the appeal of becoming a part-time ADI?
I had reached a pivotal juncture in my career and was wondering if it was worth studying a Masters  in Education to top up my degree. As the Masters degree cost £16k and would offer little benefit in the classroom, I turned my attention to driving instruction as a personal challenge instead.

Critically, I loved the idea of instructing’s ever-changing curriculum. As an art teacher, things tend not to evolve too much; the roads though are ever-changing. Yes, driving lessons are of course underpinned by a series of rules but it is the application of these rules that intrigued me the most – and still does.

How do you fit your part-time ADI work in around your full-time teaching career?
I’d imagined that I would be teaching 2-3 lessons per week but I was wrong! I need to turn people away weekly now, which I hate doing but a personal life would be difficult if I said “yes” to everyone. I make life easy on myself by putting the right students in the right locations at the right time. Getting my diary right at the start of the week is crucial in minimising wasted time and I work after school and at weekends before 1pm. When I need to mark or plan, etc. for school, I do it at night.

How does your school teaching inform your ADI instructing style?
This is the most interesting part of my journey so far. Class teaching turns you into a reflective practitioner. You can’t be a school teacher now without the constant pressure to be better and get better results; the national league table sees to that. So how do you assess how good a school teacher is? You look at their output – the achievement of their pupils in exams and the progress made against targets.

My car classroom is the same; I love the individual challenges my students come with and it’s a puzzle to try and decode their particular issues. I have never said “Oh well, I can’t fix that”. It’s not in my vocabulary. It does lead to pressure but as long as it is me putting the pressure on myself, I’m fine with that.

What can the worlds of schooling and ADIing learn from one another?
There is one amazing feature of ADI training that would improve class teachers no end; core comps. Teachers tell school students what is not quite right or how to improve – it’s what Ofsted is looking for. But with ADIing, you question why something is incorrect but this kind of analysis is rarely explored within the classroom; it’s hard to when you’re teaching 25-30 kids at once. Finding out though why a fault has occurred is actually a very powerful educational tool.

Also, driving instructing is one of the purest forms of education and without the constant change of governments getting in the way, you can get things done in the way you know will work rather than being told what to do by a think tank that has zero experience. In education, goalposts shift often and it drives great teachers out of our profession.

As a driving instructor, yes, we get a check test as we should – and I can’t wait for my first one as it seems to be the only opportunity for external critique – but there are no league tables, no pass rate pressures or limitations on personal life. It’s just pure one-on-one training with a student who desperately wants to be there and is overwhelmed by the life skill training you are providing. Everyone remembers their driving instructor. That’s what it’s all about.

One thing I would love to see in the ADI world is more sharing of good practice like we do in schools. I would love to sit in with an experienced ADI or have one sit in with me; when I first qualified, I felt blind and unsupported. As a Newly Qualified Teacher in a school though, you are constantly monitored and given the feedback necessary to progress and become better.”
– Gary Tasker on what the ADI world can learn from the world of education.

Would you recommend your part-time approach to other professionals?
I love teaching, I love the idea of the relationship. If you feel the same, no matter what you do, go for it. The biggest consideration is how you are with other people, especially young people with tough pasts. Their communication and understanding ability will be far below yours – so ask yourself if you can empathise with them and find common ground. If so, then do it. If not, be cautious.

What’s your favourite part of being an ADI?
I love the satisfaction of telling students that they have made enough progress to go for a test. It’s like a mini celebration. My least favourite part is the test itself. It’s like waiting in a 1950s hospital for your firstborn when a student is out on test – I hate it. And when they do pass, you know you have just lost a student and you will rarely see them again. It’s always hard to lose students.

What’s been your biggest ADI learning experience?
Differentiating the curriculum. The training breaks subjects into two; a basic learner and an advanced learner. This level of differentiation is not enough to deal with the range of students you get. I now break every topic into three rather than two – it’s an approach that works 99% of the time.

What advice would you give someone starting out on a career in driving instruction?
Be careful of pink badge contracts. My brother fell foul of a year contract when his pink badge was only valid for six months. There is a lot of good advice out there about trainee contracts, so get it. Otherwise, I just went through the process, used good trainers and subscribed to driving-instructor.tv. I passed everything first time on a shoestring budget because I worked very hard and sought good advice.

Finally, how does Theory Test Pro help your pupils?
The biggest problem with students learning the theory is they take endless mock tests until they memorise the answers. The best part about TTP is that it gives you the reasons behind the answers, which leads to actual learning and an understanding of the topic.

DRIVING

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Meet the ADI: Neal Jones

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Former RAF transport specialist Neal Jones reveals how his military background has influenced his ADI teaching style and why he puts discipline at the heart of all his lessons.

From tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to providing ground-based support for Britain’s Typhoon fighter force and VIP driving Prince William, Neal Jones, an ADI working with The Driving Academy, is using what he learned in the RAF to help students become better, safer drivers.

Why did you make the move from the RAF to instructing?
I have two young children but because of my military commitments, I ended up being a weekend dad. I needed to bring myself back to reality so asked myself what’s the most important thing in my life? And for me, family comes first. So I needed a career which was adaptable, could fit round my family life but also let me get what I wanted out of it – and my wife said: “Why don’t you become a driving instructor?”.

I wasn’t sure at first because I’d heard how hard it is to become one. I don’t think people really appreciate how challenging the process is, the rigorous testing you have to go through – especially the pupils who have no idea about the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes!

How has your RAF background informed how you instruct?
I focus on discipline which a lot of people say you shouldn’t do but I think it’s really important. At the end of the day, being disciplined will save your life and possibly the lives of those around you, just like in the RAF. Being disciplined with your mirror use, being observant at all times, is essential.

I also focus on leadership and mentoring. When you’re in the military, you’re always dependent on the guy sat next to you and it’s the same with instructing; the pupils depend on me to guide them in the right direction with their learning. I should say though that I’m not like some corporal shouting at his pupils! I actually like to have a laugh and make students feel very relaxed from the beginning.

What about the use of specific military skills?
We use reverse psychology in the military a lot. So, say, we were interrogating local people in Afghanistan, we would try and get them to think about the current situation from a wider angle and to see it from our point of view so they would open up. It’s a technique I use when teaching pupils about road safety too.

For instance, I have a pupil at the moment who is really bad at observations. The other week, she pulled away without checking her blind spot and I said: “You should think about the motorcyclist who has just crashed into us”. She said: “But there wasn’t one”. I told her to pull over and then showed her a video of a car pulling out on a motorcyclist, causing a crash, and told the pupil: “In effect, that’s what you’ve just done”. And she was like: “I’ve never looked at it like that before”. It really drove the message home for her.

My VIP driving experience also informs my teaching as well – for instance, being able to scan the road ahead to predict what might be coming up boosts road awareness. Also when I was a VIP driver, I would inadvertently ‘eco-drive’ because you’re trying to make the drive as smooth as possible for the VIP in the back! And again, this is something that I teach my pupils.

How important is technology to your instructing process?
Very important. I use internet clips on my iPad to directly address driving issues that pupils have; to show them the possible consequences of their actions when behind the wheel and how it can go horribly wrong so they ‘get it’. It’s an approach that works because this generation of learners is the YouTube generation.

They’re so used to consuming videos on their phones and tablets that it’s an approach that really resonates with them. It’s like they don’t believe you otherwise but by showing them the issue from a different angle through, say, a video clip, it helps them understand and helps make that penny drop.

A car is a killing machine – for all your life, you’ve been looked after by your parents, by your school, but now you’re asking the government to be allowed to drive on the road and then to eventually drive by yourself. That is a big responsibility and a huge privilege.”

– ADI Neal Jones on the responsibilities of being a driver.

Don’t you risk scaring learners?
You do have to be careful. You need to be blunt without terrifying them. I know people can be like, “no, let’s do it softly, softy” but kids are different nowadays and that’s the problem. They all have phones and are on social media. They can be wrapped up in themselves.

I’ve seen things in this world that are not nice at all and they need to know that the world is not all it seems and in turn, help them get rid of that mentality that says it’s not going to be them who causes a crash. Learners need to know that they are not invincible, that bad things can happen to them on the road if they are not aware at all times.

What is your favourite part of the job?
Like any ADI, you get a buzz when a pupil passes but there’s more to it than that. It’s seeing a pupil leave a lesson with a smile on their face, knowing that they have achieved something, learnt something important. Even when they’ve had a bad lesson and they are down in the dumps, I always try to find the positives so they walk away with a smile, not a frown.

Ultimately, it’s not all about that test pass but the actual training itself. I remember when I started at the RAF, I was nothing. By the end of my basic training, I was a Royal Air Force airman. And that’s the same for the driver – at the beginning, they can’t drive and at the end, they can drive safely and have the privilege to join every other road user out there. It’s that development process which is the magic part of the job for me.

And the least favourite part of your job?
The very long days! I walk in some nights at 10 and by the time I’m done with admin, booking tests, sorting out money and more, it’s 12.30 at night – but you do what it takes to get the job done. Plus I loath diary management!

What do you think of Theory Test Pro?
It helps students massively and I always make a point of showing them your statistic about pass rates doubling if you use Theory Test Pro. I say to pupils: “Get rid of your other apps; just use this – it’s all you need”. I really love it.

I have a routine for it as well – when I get into bed last thing at night, I pull out my iPhone, put it on charge, go into Theory Test Pro and have a good look for 10 minutes, checking on student results before turning off the light. It even helped me with the theory elements of my Part 3!

What advice would you give to someone training to be an ADI?
Do your research. One of the biggest things I did was talk to people. I went on forums, I watched videos online and I spoke to ADIs. Actually, I was quite cheeky when I was researching and actually rang an ADI in my local area and asked him what life is like as an instructor and what tips he could give me.

At first, he was a bit shocked that I had the cheek to call him but he ended up giving me some brilliant advice: “Stick to your theory – if you learn theory like the back of your hand, then you’ve got that knowledge with you at all times. And if you teach the way you would drive when doing your Part 2, you can’t go wrong – if you spot something the pupil is doing that you wouldn’t have done in your Part 2, you need to pull them up on it.”

Describe driving instructing in one sentence.
I’d say it’s one of the most satisfying careers in the world, not just in terms of earning – because it can be a good earner if you work at it – but in terms of enjoyment and freedom.

Just one of the many vehicles that Neal was qualified to drive in the RAF.

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Meet the ADI: Simon Cook

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Following 32 years of service with the West Midlands Police, 20 of those spent in the traffic division, Simon Cook turned his attention to driving instructing 10 years ago on a mission to make the UK’s young better and safer drivers.

The founder of System Driving and a Grade 6 ADI, Simon currently teaches both novices and instructors, and has written an ebook on better driving plus appeared as one of the unflappable ADIs in the ITV 1 series, The Undriveables:

What’s your approach to instructing learners?

To make sure that every driver who goes through my training comes out a safer driver by teaching my pupils to think and act like patrol car drivers. These men and women are without doubt the best drivers on our roads today because of their exceptionally high standard of training based on Roadcraft.

For those who aren’t aware of it, what is Roadcraft?

It’s the police system of car control that has been used to train all the emergency services for the past 75 years. And it works – if you think about all the emergency work undertaken by the authorities every day and then consider the minute number of accidents they are involved in, that’s because Roadcraft delivers the best results day in, day out.

At its core, the system is about observation, identifying what is going on around you at all times beyond what’s just in front of you. So in practical terms, when I am training someone to drive, it means we spend some time parked up at the side of the road. While there, I ask the pupil what is going on around them.

They’ll come back with something like: “Well, there’s a blue car parked up in front of us”. I’ll ask them though to look further and further afield, calling out everything that is going on around them and identifying potential hazards sometimes up to 200 metres away. It helps them realise that they must stay observant and aware at all times to ensure they consistently drive safely.

How else has your background as a traffic officer helped inform your driving instructing?

My background is why I wanted to become an instructor in the first place. You need to realise that as a traffic officer, I and my colleagues would invariably arrive at accident scenes before the ambulance did. We were the guys who used to drag the bodies out of the car and on occasion, I used to pull bodies out of crashed cars in the hope that the driver would still be alive – but there were times when they weren’t.

That experience has stayed with me, and I don’t want my pupils to end up with the emergency services pulling their lifeless bodies from the wreckage of a car. And as an ADI, I am in the best possible position to help them learn to drive safely. I have absolutely no interest in simply teaching someone how to pass the practical driving test; that’s just the beginning of the pupil’s driving career, and should never be seen as the be-and-end-all.

What issues do you have about young potential drivers and how they are taught?

It’s all to do with concentration and how long they can hold their focus in a lesson. We do a lot of work on concentration spans and building up a person’s resilience. I train some people who go out like lights after 60 minutes; stuff they were doing perfectly well 5-10 minutes ago suddenly becomes an issue. Why? It’s down to the duration of the lesson – these kids just run out of stamina after an hour. In computer speak, it’s like they’ve run out RAM!

It’s why I teach in one-hour sessions wherever I can – students can work hard for an hour, keep full concentration and then be sent away buzzing with ideas and information for them to absorb in their own time.

To me, driving instructing is about giving someone the ability to enjoy a fantastic, exhilarating pastime that they can carry out professionally and safely if they follow the guidance they have been given by their ADI.”

– Simon Cook on what driving instruction means to him.

What is your favourite part of the job?

I love those first few moments when somebody moves off in a car for the first time. You really don’t know how they are going to react – and nor do they! It’s completely unscripted. Some squeal and whoop; some don’t breath and turn a strange colour; some can’t use the steering wheel and forget they have feet. Seriously though, I love it because you are giving someone a brand new experience in a controlled, safe environment and that is hugely satisfying.

And of course, there’s the other end of the training cycle too where you enjoy the shared success of a pass that you know will help transform that young person’s life. Finally, it’s hugely rewarding working with people who have their own challenges to overcome, and not just the driving test. For instance, I taught a lovely man in his early 30s who has autism. It took 18 months of training but he passed his test first time. The thing is if I had told him on the very first day of training that he was going to pass, he would have probably thought it was easier to raise the Titanic.

What’s the worst part of the job?

I don’t enjoy training people who don’t want to be in the car; a lot of youngsters feel obligated to learn to drive at the age of 17 or 18 because some high achieving families see their offspring learning as something that must be ticked off life’s shopping list as soon as possible. This negative attitude puts the youngster under pressure to get behind the wheel and crack on.

It ends up being a chore for the teenager, yet another pressure – and they have enough of those as it is. Ultimately, learning to drive should be satisfying, exhilarating and rewarding. For any youngsters who feels they are under pressure to learn, I would recommend they wait until they are ready and willing to go for it.

Turning to ADIs, what are your thoughts about the current state of the industry?

The truth is that we must as an industry seek to improve. A genuine push for continual professional development should be mandatory with ADIs forced to develop their skillsets. Currently, there is no requirement or incentive for anybody in the industry to better themselves in terms of their knowledge and expertise, well, other than Standards Check but that is too infrequent and something that is simply feared by some, instead of being seen as important.

Instead, we need an OFSTED-like approach where we are checked regularly to ensure that we’re growing and improving as ADIs. I think it should be a mandatory requirement that all ADIs have 15-20 hours a year of compulsory training. This training should focus on advancing their expertise, keeping them abreast of current legislation and any changes to it or the test process, and critically, being more involved in the industry itself.

Finally, why do you use Theory Test Pro?
Because I love it. My students never stop raving about it either because it’s so faithful to the actual tests. It’s also updated, accessible and simply works – plus I love its management and reporting features.

For me as a business user, it’s useful too – I can offer the parent who calls up a service then and there, turning on Theory Test Pro and showing them its benefits immediately. For some parents, that ability is extremely impressive and can be a real deal clincher.

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