Monday, 23 January 2012


I think it is safe to say that driver training has changed more in the last six years than in the previous fifty and this has created some uncertainty and concern amongst driving instructors.

Recently, I have been invited to some of my local driving instructor associations to talk about these changes and how they may affect the way we teach in the future and what implications they may have on our businesses.

This article is an attempt to explain what is going in a clear jargon free way (where jargon is used I have tried to give an explanation). I should stress that I am not an expert so where appropriate I have added links for further reading and research.

The current changes all started back in 2006 with the publication of the new Road Safety Act which gave powers to the Secretary of State for Transport to change the way driving instructors qualify, are registered and quality assured and also to regulate advertising and conduct, paid instruction, instructor training and registration of business.


Following this the DSA set up the Modernising Driver Training Project to work closely with our industry  to develop a package of measures including:
  • Strengthening the initial qualification arrangements for potential driving instructors.
  • Introduce a mandatory code of conduct.
  • Develop a public information scheme to enable consumers to make informed choices when choosing a driving instructor
  • Promote ongoing development of skills (Continuous Professional  Development CPD)
  • Produce a more targeted quality assurance regime (check testing)

Two years later in May 2008 DSA published their consultation paper Learning To Drive which proposed :
  • A broader focus for the driving test
  • More efficient learning
  • Better information on instructors
  • New learning options

Following the consultation a programme of measures was announced based on education and incentivisation to improve the way that people learn to drive and are tested.  These included:
  • A new pre-driver qualification in safe road use, aimed primarily at those aged 14-16, which would give a partial credit towards the current theory test for learner car drivers – introduced May 2010.
  • The introduction of case studies into the theory test to better assess if learners have understood the theory of safe and responsible driving and riding – introduced September 2009.
  • Trial and develop a learning to drive syllabus – commenced September 2010
  • Encourage supervising drivers to accompany the candidate on the car driving test – introduced April 2010.
  • Introduce an assessment of competence whilst the test candidate is driving independently into all practical tests – introduced October 2010.
It is worth looking at each of these proposals in turn:

This is basically a foundation course in safe road use and is a voluntary qualification delivered in schools and colleges. The national awarding body (the organisation that controls the content and delivery of the course) is the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The main objective of the course is to develop constructive attitudes and positive, considerate behaviour. The reward for successful completion of the course is a partial credit towards the theory test.

The course is divided into two main areas:
  • Developing positive road user attitude
  • Understanding how to use the road
As it is classroom based the delivery methods include discussion groups, role play and watching video clips etc.

At the end of the course the students take a theory test exemption assessment (currently 20 questions based on the DSA theory test) and if successful is allowed to take an abridged version of the theory test.

My own feeling is that, as this course does not have any (off road) in-car element, this is a big limitation.

These were introduced into the theory test in September 2009. A specific scenario is given and then a series of questions is asked with the aim of assessing whether learners have understood the driving theory.  I have tried to test this out at various local driving instructor association meetings and the general feeling was, that as the answers are still multi-choice, there is not enough differentiation between the case study and the rest of the test to accurately assess understanding.


The two main changes that were introduced during 2010 were accompanying learners on test and the independent driving element. I think it is generally accepted by ADI’s that these two initiatives have improved the driving test.

This on-line database was introduced during 2008/9 and allows driving instructors to:
  • View and amend their personal details
  • View customer certificate details e.g. pass plus
  • Order pass plus starter and refill packs
  • Apply for a PDI or ADI licence
  • Register commitment to CPD and the voluntary code of conduct
The DSA frequently urges all driving instructors to keep these details up to date, but one of the main comments I receive from driving instructors is they find the logging in process complicated and often experience problems.

One good reason for ensuring that, as a driving instructor, you are on the integrated register is that learners now have the facility to search for their local driving instructor by using the online database on

Learners can search by postcode and can view the driving instructors name and contact number, how far away he is and whether the ADI is signed up to CPD and the voluntary code of conduct.

The national driving standard is one of the most important documents to be published by DSA

The Standards were developed from an evidence-based Competence Framework, which sets out the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to become a safe and responsible driver.  (The term ‘competence framework’ basically means a set of statements of what a person needs to be able to do and what they need to know and understand in order to be competent at a task.  These statements can relate to both technical skills, e.g. manoeuvring a vehicle, and recognising how attitudes can impact on ability to drive safely.)

The Standard sets out the content of the Competence Framework in a way which is compatible with the National Occupational Standards and which can be turned into a formal educational qualification if required.  They set the level of the work involved and form the basis for assessment.

It is intended that the Standards are updated on a regular basis. DSA welcomes questions and any suggestions about how they can be improved.

The Standard is divided into 6 Roles and the basic outline of Roles 1 - 5 is as follows:

Role 1: Prepare vehicle and its occupants for a journey

  • Unit 1.1 Prepare occupants of a vehicle for a journey
Choose an appropriate mode of transport, make sure you are fit to drive, control the risks associated with carrying passengers, loads and animals.
  • Unit 1.2 Make sure the car/light van is roadworthy
Make routine checks of the car/light van roadworthiness, check the car/light van is fit for the journey, make sure the car/light van documentation meets legal requirements.
  • Unit 1.3 Plan journey
Plan a journey.


Role 2: Guide and control the vehicle

  • Unit 2.1 Start, move off, stop and leave the vehicle safely and responsibly
Start the vehicle, move off safely and smoothly, decelerate and bring the vehicle to a stop safely, park the vehicle safely and responsibly.
  • Unit 2.2 Drive the machine safely and responsibly
Monitor and respond to information from instrumentation, driving aids and the environment.
  • Unit 2.3 Drive the vehicle while towing a trailer or caravan

Drive the vehicle while towing a trailer or caravan.


Role 3: Use the road in accordance with the Highway Code

  • Unit 3.1 Negotiate the road correctly
Maintain an appropriate position on the road, negotiate bends, negotiate all types of junctions, including roundabouts, and all types of crossings, driving on motorways and dual carriageways.
  • Unit 3.2 Comply with signals, signs and road markings
Comply with signals, signs and road markings.


Role 4: Drive safely and responsibly in the traffic system

  • Unit 4.1 Interact appropriately with other road users
Communicate intentions to other road users.
  • Unit 4.2 Minimise risk when driving
Identify and respond to hazards.
  • Unit 4.3 Manage incidents effectively
Take appropriate action if your vehicle breaks down.

Role 5: Review and adjust driving behaviour over lifetime

  • Unit 5.1 Keep up to date with changes
Performance Standards/Knowledge & Understanding Requirements.
  • Unit 5.2 Learn from experience
Learn from experience.

Each unit has both Performance standards and a list of the Knowledge and Understanding Requirements.

Role 6 is the Training Standard and this was published late in 2011. This sets out the key competencies expected of driving instructors and motorcycle trainers.

The Standard details the skills knowledge and understanding required to deliver driver/rider training programmes both before and after the candidate has passed their test.

This Standard is of particular importance to driving instructors as it sets out what instructors need to be able to do and they need to have in order to deliver effective learning that will help people to become and remain safe and responsible drivers.

The main areas covered are as follows:

Role 6: Deliver driver training programmes
  • Unit 6.1: Prepare to train learner, ensuring that all legal & regulatory requirements are met
  • Unit 6.2: Design learning programmes
  • Unit 6.3: Enable safe & responsible driving
  • Unit 6.4: Manage risk to trainer, learner & third parties
  • Unit 6.5: Evaluate & develop your knowledge, understanding & skills in driver training industry
  • Unit 6.6: Monitor & review progress to ensure compliance & promote improvement

The learning to drive Syllabus sets out in detail how the National Driving Standards should be achieved under the following headings:

The learning outcome
What you need to be able to do
What you need to know and understand
 Each unit also has:
Performance standards
Knowledge and understanding requirements

The DSA is currently undertaking a trial of the above using 50 specially trained driving instructors and between 300 – 400 learners.


In May 2011 the then Transport Secretary Philip Hammond launched the Road Safety Strategic Framework. This was a 73 page document but the section of most interest to driving instructors was only 8 pages. It set out the following:
  • Withdrawal of theory test question bank from January 2012 (this has now happened).
  • Continue trial of Learning to Drive Syllabus.
  • Develop successor to Pass Plus.
  • Continue modernisation of driver training industry to ensure instructors can offer the range of service and standards that consumers need.
  • Educational Interventions for Offenders.
Other areas that the DSA are currently considering include:
  • Develop single on-line register of driver trainers to include more forms of vehicle training such as HGV etc.
  • Consider flexible options to deliver driving tests – a trial is currently taking place in areas not conveniently covered by the existing test centre network where tests are being conducted from places such as hotels or government offices. There is also a new pilot study planned in 7 rural/urban areas
  • Compulsory log books?
  • Motorway tuition & testing – The new Secretary of Transport Mike Penning has indicated that he would initiate plans to allow learners on Motorways if supervised by an ADI
  • Mandatory CPD – at the moment CPD is unlikely to become mandatory as this would need a change in regulation.
  • Clampdown on misleading advertising – DSA now refers complaints on misleading advertising in our industry direct to the Advertising Standards Authority.
On Driving Instructor Training the DSA are working towards:
  • Make ORDIT register mandatory – ORDIT has now been in operation for over 10 years and the DSA took over the day to day control of the register in 2004. Making it mandatory for anyone undertaking the training of driving instructors to be part of the ORDIT register is long overdue.
  • Access to more accurate information on becoming a driving instructor
  • Initial attitude and Aptitude test
  • Accreditation for prior learning
  • Abolish Trainee Licence – The current Transport Secretary has announced that he is going to end the current trainee licence system. In future any trainee teaching a learner will need to be supervised by a qualified ADI
  • Change format of Part 3 test
BUSINESS REGISTRATION - Could this lead to the end of the independent driving instructor?

Once ORDIT has become mandatory one wonders whether this will eventually lead to all driving schools having to be registered as a business and having to comply with a set of regulations and code of conduct similar to ISO 9001 (international organisation for standardisation).

It may be, that for the DSA it would eventually be easier to regulate and control businesses (driving schools) instead of individuals. This could have two main repercussions:
  • The end of the independent driving instructor
  • A natural cap on the number of driving instructors as organisations would employ on a vacancy system depending on how much work they had.