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.