Monthly Archives: April 2017

Learn to drive quickly

 

In this blog from Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) he draws on the experiences  pupils recently had with BIG TOM.

The reason why this topic matters is because BIG TOM gets tons of customers who choose to do the popular BIG TOM intensive driving course over the old fashioned “pay as you go” method of learning to drive.  Customers like Sarah Crawford who passed her driving test last Thursday at Peterborough Driving Test Centre on her first attempt.  Due to where Sarah lives, she met up with me at Peterborough train station for her intensive driving course.  She had less than 5 hours of driving experience previously and was graded “red” from our initial assessment of her experience and ability.  This means that she would have been explained very clearly the process that we take here at BIG TOM and unlike competitors of ours, pupils with little experience are welcomed but we do not make any false promises of “guarantees” for taking tests on Day 5 of the intensive driving course.  Sarah completed her Day 5 on 31/3/17, took a further 3 sessions with BIG TOM and passed her driving test on 27/4/17.  Sarah had a need to learn to drive quickly due to her personal circumstances, and she passed her test, first time, in less than a month of taking her course with us.

If that sounds good to you, then it is worth reading on to discover what happened to make that possible.

Sarah was provided with links to exclusive BIG TOM customer driving videos prior to her intensive driving course to help her to prepare for the accelerated learning programme.  When she started her course she was provided with further resources that enable her to maximise the learning experience whilst she is both in the car, and then also once she left me each day.  She had a Day 3 assessment and then a Day 5 assessment.  This enabled her to see precisely what she had done, where she was at with the curriculum and although on Day 5 she hadn’t received a mock test yet, she was given a summary of her ability and confidence levels.  On the following 3 sessions she then completed the curriculum of training, and the mock test and was then fast-tracked to receive a driving test. 

There are key ingredients in that process that made that work.  Not least was the working relationship that was developed between Sarah and myself (this is an important aspect that I expand on in my ebook “Reflections of a Driving Instructor”).  Sarah was willing and able to consider her feelings about her driving competence as well as confidence and was happy to also positively engage in the formal assessments that were provided to her.  This willingness to identify and deal with the gaps between driving ability and the standard required as set by the DVSA Driving Standard is not insignificant.  Whilst it is perfectly possible to coach a pupil to pass a driving test using very lazy techniques, it is not the approach that BIG TOM Driving School adopts.  There is plenty of evidence that suggests newly qualified drivers are simply being told how to pass the driving test but not actually being equipped to then drive independently post-test eg accident rates for newly qualified drivers, a national driving test pass rate of less than 50%, expensive car insurance premiums.

And this point is worthy of expanding on.  We have a culture within the structure of our educational secondary schooling system of modular learning for exam taking.  Essentially, students become conditioned to approach an exam in the knowledge that even if they were to fail, it matters not, as they can then do re-takes at a latter stage.  The problem that this presents to them when they are learning to drive is that unlike in the academic world where failing exams affects grades, failing driving tests affects confidence and road safety.  The idea that a failed practise mock test can just be re-taken again, with the expectation that the driving standard will have somehow improved is debatable at best.  This is fundamentally why at BIG TOM Driving School the emphasis was on getting Sarah’s driving ability to the required standard so that the actual driving test is successfully passed.  Entering driving tests with the same approach as entering school exams is one of the top reasons why the national pass rate is as low as it is.  There is hope, in that it appears this structure of modular exam taking at secondary schools with re-takes is being phased out to a linear approach. 

But in essence the approach that Sarah took was one of being willing to engage in the resources offered to her in her BIG TOM intensive driving course which helped to develop her self-awareness levels of ability and confidence.  In addition, she was happy to take on the responsibility of her learning process, so that she was identifying her strengths and weaknesses and ensuring the time spent in the car was really effective.

It is that last paragraph that enables our customers to learn to drive in the timescales they are.  There is no cutting of corners of the curriculum, no matter what the starting point of the pupil; all pupils are given experience in driving in differing conditions and class of road as per the DVSA Driving Standard.  My driving school is not in existence to enable pupils to take driving tests when they are ill-prepared.  If a pupil chooses to ignore the assessments that are provided then they are not taking responsibility for the outcomes.  Safety is the number one priority of this driving school.  But as mentioned earlier, customers are on an accelerated learning programme where the idea is to continue on the learning path in order to get the desired outcome.  Our pupils have a 30 day window in which to become authorised to take the test, Sarah actually passed her test within 27 days.  But taking on the responsibility for the learning path is important as the package of benefits are not separately refundable in the event that the 30 day period elapses.

I mention on driving videos and blogs about this necessity to own the learning process.  It is massively important.  Sarah had a very real need to learn to drive quickly.  She listened to our advice about how this can work, and actually acted on the advice.  This is a life-skill that unfortunately is being neglected with the modular methodology of our secondary schools.  Even some driving schools prioritise the taking and re-taking of driving tests at the expense of the depth of quality training as set out by the DVSA in the Driving Standard.

Another customer did not engage in the methodology of the BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course.  She was also an absolute beginner from the start, had 26 hours of in-car training with me, but because she allowed the 30 days to slip by, she lost her right to make use of all the benefits.  It was still a fabulous result it should be said – she passed her driving test in her own car, just 6 weeks after completing her 5 day intensive driving course, but she had to fund the driving test fee herself.  Despite what many learners would consider to be a fabulous result, she said this on a BIG TOM facebook page:

“BIG TOM taught me alot however he said i was not test ready. I passed in my own car having to pay the driving fee myself due to not taking the test in the instructors car! Im glad i took the test in my own car as i have passed first time!”

What this pupil decided to do was take driving lessons with her Dad in her own car after her intensive driving course rather than with me.  This is perfectly legitimate and many customers have asked me in the past to continue training in their own car which makes a lot of sense.  But if a customer is wanting to take a driving test in a BIG TOM driving school car it is only sensible on safety grounds, that the instructor be able to assess if the test will be safe for the pupil, examiner and everyone nearby.  The performance of professional driving instructors is monitored by the DVSA partly by the quality of the candidates that the instructor presents for test.  The DVSA record the outcome of every test to the instructor concerned.  Just prior to Sarah’s test last week, we watched an examiner walk back into the test centre which could well have been due to a “test abort”.  This can occur when the examiner has so little confidence for the safety of everyone on a test, that they ask the candidate to pull over, and the examiner then walks back to the test centre as they are not insured to drive the car.  If this was a test abort that we witnessed, then you can only imagine what would have been said to the driving instructor concerned!

So there is a direct responsibility on driving instructors to ensure only pupils who are safe to do driving tests, are presented for test.  But more than that, there is a need for the pupils and their family members to also take responsibility for the safety of all concerned.  This is demonstrated beautifully in this graphic.  If pupils (and their family members) want to go to test in their own cars, the safety of all concerned is a responsibility for them.  But there are no givens in this industry.  There are a wide variety of pupils needs when learning to drive.  Confidence plays a massive part in the learning path. 

But pupils are wrong to assume that it is a given.  As we recently put up on one of our BIG TOM Facebook pages:

“Much respect to Christian Whitley-Mason from Barnsley. He has just passed his driving test on the 33rd attempt! 14 different driving instructors and £10k in cost. I take my hat off to the chap.”

But this subject of responsibilities for maintaining safety is important at the other end of a drivers life too.  Family doctors were historically encouraged to persuade their patient to stop driving and were only supposed to contact the DVLA if they failed to do so.  Recent changes mean now that the GP is not duty bound to discuss the matter with the patient on all occasions.  The General Medical Council is advising GP’s to inform the authority when it isn’t “safe or practicable” to try to persuade the patient such as when the patient poses an imminent risk to themselves or others.*

Road safety is after all one of the key reasons of maintaining standards of driving on the roads.  It can sometimes be a difficult concept to get over to learner drivers when they might be exposed to some rather poor driving by others while they train.  But in the UK all of us do only get one compulsory assessment of driving standards.  It really does pay to train well, comprehensively and aim high with driving standards.  The consequences of not doing so includes driving around not feeling confident, having accidents, picking up penalty points, court appearances, paying high insurance premiums, frightening people in the vicinity, being banned from driving.

The best piece of advice that I could give any person who is looking to learn to drive soon is to put aside the goal of wanting to pass the driving test soon.  Everyone but everyone wants to pass the test as soon as possible.  Much more important is to try to appreciate what kind of learner you are.  If you do not have any inclination to embrace the concept of taking responsibility for your learning path and the standard of driving needed to maintain safety on the roads, then it may well prove best to take the option of learning to drive the old fashioned route of every now and again.  But although my driving school can provide customers who have a need to pass fast the opportunity to do just that, like Sarah last week, it is important to recognise that it will not be for everyone.  I cannot speak for how other intensive course providers run their courses, but a BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course is not for pupils who want to cut corners and fast track to get a driving licence at the expense of road safety.  

*Source: The Week 29/04/17 

 

BIG TOM Driving School  Enquiries: Admin@BIGTOM.org.uk  Sales: 07756 071 464

 

 

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Failing to attend a driving test

In this blog from Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM) he raises the issue of failing to attend a driving test.

The notice shown in this image is being publicly displayed in the test centre in an attempt to raise the awareness of the consequence when candidates don’t turn up for a driving test.  You notice that the total amount of missed driving tests in 2016 was 278.  The driving test fee for weekdays is currently £62 and for Saturdays £75.  If we were to make an assumption that those 278 were the lower weekday fees, that still represents over £17,000 worth of lost fees.  The DVSA are also keen to state that those tests represent 40 days of work, which equates to 8 weeks of test allocation.

They require 3 full working days notice to cancel a test and receive a refund or reschedule.  That means that if your driving test is planned for a Monday you have up to the Wednesday of the previous week to cancel it without losing the fee.  You could cancel on the Wednesday but any cancellation after the Wednesday will not be refunded.

Learning to drive is expensive enough without unnecessarily losing driving test fees.  If the test is not cancelled but the candidate does not turn up, the result is that the examiner who was allocated that test is then made redundant for that test….. and as we all know, finding driving test slots is no easy thing.

 

BIG TOM Driving School  Enquiries: Admin@BIGTOM.org.uk  Sales: 0775 607 1464

 

 

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How your mental state affects your driving ability

 

 

Owner of BIG TOM Driving School offers some advice for learner drivers (and funders) about how the mental state of mind affects driving behaviours.

 

There is a distinction to be made of how the mind affects the driving behaviours of learner drivers within the learning environment and driving behaviours of all drivers.  This is a key consideration when learning to drive and even before you start driving lessons, because whether we like it or not, the path that each of us takes when learning is unique to our personal circumstances.  I have mentioned the factor of previous experiences of learning environments in other blogs, but in this one, I want to expand on how our mental state can affect our driving.

 

Let’s start with “nerves”.  Consider this conversation for a moment:

“You very nearly lost control of the bike at that point, didn’t you?”

“Yea I did, it was the nerves of the test”

“Is that what you’re going to do when you are nervous?”

This was a conversation I heard between examiner and candidate this morning after a bike test.  Seem a bit harsh?  Well, the examiner asks this question for a very good reason.  We will need to drive a car to attend an interview, to meet a first date, on the driving test, and on the first day of a new job.  All these situations will probably result in you driving while nervous.  So as the examiner asks above, does that mean then that it is ok in these circumstances to risk safety?  Managing risk is a key skill that needs to be developed when learning to drive, as it crops up constantly in day to day driving.  Having the ability to recognise when you feel nervous, assess the risk involved in driving when you feel like that, and making a decision based on weighing up all the options could literally be a life-saving skill.  Take care what you are saying indirectly when you excuse poor driving for nerves, it demonstrates a lack of awareness of what risk you actually pose in that mental state of mind.

 

Let’s move on to “the loss of confidence”.  This can pop up for several reasons.  A few will include how you feel after having been involved in an accident, driving in different areas due to a house move, going to university or even a job change, driving in challenging conditions eg fog, snow, very late at night, and also driving a new car or perhaps different work car.  All of these circumstances can make us apprehensive and not feel the same confidence levels that we normally have when driving.  It is interesting because if you were to track the levels of confidence and competence of a learner driver throughout their driving training, they will both go up and down, sometimes inter-connected and sometimes independently.  Family and friends of learners generally under-estimate what effect they have on learner drivers when they make comments about apparent lack of progress, or when a learner expresses not feeling ready to go to test.  Confidence is a key element within any learning environment and family members really ought to be more mindful of the impact their words have on their nearest and dearest as they learn to drive.

 

Moving on to feeling angry or upset.  The mobility that we all have with the use of cars these days, means that we can often find ourselves exposed to feelings of anger or distress when on our travels.  Road rage, a bad day at work, attending a funeral or court case, there are numerous reasons why we might be behind the wheel driving, when our mind is really not concentrating properly.  We wont be as considerate to other road users as we normally are, our willingness to anticipate and plan ahead is restricted due to our thoughts being elsewhere.

 

Feelings of high stimulus are brought on by music and/or friends in the car, driving in a different country, driving immediately after a sports game that we either watched or played in, and even after watching our favourite musical artists.  Judgements are clouded by this feeling of euphoria; we drive faster, we go to overtake when we ordinarily would be more patient, we seek to impress, our natural defences are lowered in this state of elation – reasoning is compromised.

 

The real point of my blog here though is to mention the necessity to get used to recognising how you are actually feeling.  There is a responsibility on all of us to know when our driving ability is compromised – not to wait for someone to tell us, not to keep going until something bad happens, but to have the awareness levels within us, to recognise that differing states of mind will have consequences.  In much the same way that we wouldn’t necessarily care to eat, drink or socialise when we know our mind set is affected in certain ways, so it is true about driving.  It is simply not a given that humans will maintain the same standard of driving in any situation – emotions are a reality of everyday living, and if you can develop the skill of recognising how they affect your ability to drive, you are doing well.  Although this is a very relevant point for learner drivers as they go through their driving training, by developing the skill now, you will be better equipped for the trials that will come your way in the years of driving ahead.

BIG TOM Driving School  Enquiries: Admin@BIGTOM.org.uk  Sales: 0775 607 1464

 

 

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Beware the impulse buy – 5 BIG TOM tips

In this blog from Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM) he discusses the primary considerations customers make when choosing how they buy.

It matters who we are talking to.  The priorities for a 17 year old can be entirely different to their parent, or perhaps the 38 year old customer who wants to learn to drive.

As the desire is to pass the driving test in order to get the full driving licence it really isn’t surprising that so many people don’t really go much beyond price and availability.  But before I expand on this natural default position, let’s get some context.

Yesterday, while browsing at the Apple store Covent Garden, my wife is being shown a variety of different straps for her watch.  The colours, the textures, oh there was so much choice.  My 12 year old asks the assistant with the carefree abandon that the innocence of youth provides “Can you say what the prices of these are?”, pointing to about 10 straps that my wife has in front of her.  There was an instant and firm response “I can!”.  Pause.  Everyone takes a deep breath (except my son).  The assistant gives a range of prices from £150 to an eye watering £370, feeling absolutely no compulsion to make any effort whatsoever to put context to the pricing.  No mention of materials, functionality, user experience, predicted life length, nothing.  We are standing in the Apple store, his companies marketing efforts are clearly already done.   As we browse through the SONOS speakers, the Macs, the laptops not a single price is in sight.  It is a wonderland of Appleness where time momentarily stands still, pristine products with no prices are sat there just waiting for customers to EXPERIENCE them in their hand.  You can almost see the signs saying “Pick me up”.

With driving training, my company is providing a service.  Whilst it is always a good idea to check out the car and driving instructor prior to committing with anyone, what is more difficult to EXPERIENCE is how the training will make you feel.  When you try on a new clothing product or sunglasses, or fiddle around with a new smartphone the senses go into overdrive.  Unconsciously, the feel of the fabric or button pressing, the visuals your eyes are detecting, how the sunglasses make you feel when you turn your head in this direction, then that direction then pucker the lips.  Your heart is beating faster, feel good impulses are coursing through your body, there is a rather pleasant combination of the anxiety of parting with some cash in the next few minutes with the reward of owning something that makes you feel good about yourself.  In your mind you have already decided you are purchasing this product, the next clever bit is handling the phase of negotiating a price so that you give the impression that you are perfectly happy to turn around and decline the purchase.

With enough of this experience of instant gratification of getting what one desires, quite understandably, we will transfer over that mind set when selecting with whom to learn to drive.  The end goal is passing the driving test, therefore naturally, questions are based around turning that desire of the possession of the full driving licence into a reality.  Parents will often ask BIG TOM Admin of our pass rate, they will ask if there is a guarantee to pass the test on the 5th day of the intensive driving course – the mind set is centred entirely around replicating that feeling of buying the product.  Our lives are filled constantly with that feeling of instant gratification, it becomes the default position.

The difference with the service of learning to drive is that you just don’t know how this is going to make you feel.  You might have heard some horror stories from friends.  Learner drivers reduced to tears, made to feel worthless and incompetent, bored at driving around test routes repeatedly, unprepared for real life driving after passing.  With learning to drive, the problem is that if you come out the other end of the process, having passed the driving test but nervous or unable to deal with real life situations, then it’s a little bit like paying the asking price for a product, only to find that actually it doesn’t quite look or feel in reality how it did in the shop.  Impulse buying, as addictive as it is because of the high it gives you, really is not a smart way to shop. 

When it comes to choosing a training provider to learn to drive with, let me give you 5 tips that will greatly enhance your chances of making the right choice:

1.       You can’t experience the service beforehand, but you can learn how others have felt.  Search for authentic customer reviews.  Authentic means that the customer has literally written the words of their experience rather than ticking a pre-forma box of what the company concerned wants them to “say”.

2.      Ask to see the driving school car and the instructor.  This should be free without obligation.  This is a no-brainer.

3.      Compare the benefits. Print out our helpful “compare us” checklist. You will be simply amazed how the features of an intensive driving course differ.  Know what you are buying.

4.       Demand to see the Terms & Conditions prior to committing.  Once you have obtained them, read them.  If the Terms have been written in a manner which makes it very difficult for you to understand or compare, then you should be very careful to properly understand them before you decide to buy.

5.      Beware of the “guarantee”.  This Learner from Barnsley finally passed his driving test on his 33rd attempt.  There are no guarantees and it is disingenuous to suggest there are…. READ THE TERMS.

BIG TOM Driving School  Enquiries: Admin@BIGTOM.org.uk  Sales: 0775 607 1464

 

 

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BIG TOM Mission Statement

BIG TOM Driving School – Mission Statement

The purpose of BIG TOM Driving School is to provide high quality driver education in combination with unrivalled customer service.

  • We will distinguish our self from competitors by providing excellent value with a flexible and personalised customer service.
  • The Admin staff will endeavour to answer all calls in person between 09.00 am to 17.00 pm Monday to Friday.
  • Instructors will arrive on time, and always courteous.
  • Instructors will offer an interactive recap of previous lesson to set base line for tuition
  • Instructors will state firm objectives for the current intensive driving course session so the pupil is in no doubt as to the purpose of it and what they are trying to achieve from the session.
  • Instructors will teach in a non-confrontational manner.
  • Instructors will offer feedback and encouragement linked to specific areas of development.
  • Instructors will interactively summarise the session so the pupil is fully aware of strengths and weaknesses and whether the objective(s) was achieved.
  • BIG TOM Customer Support will endeavour to reply to text messages and calls from customers as soon as possible and at the very least the same day.
  • Instructors will keep the tuition vehicle clean and tidy to reflect and reinforce the branding and professional image of the driving school
  • Instructors will ensure that personal hygiene is of the highest order including body odour and bad (coffee / cigarette) breath.
  • Instructors will train to Role 6 of DVSA National Standard for Cat B

 

 

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New Driving Test 4/12/17

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In this blog owner of BIG TOM Driving School (Tom Ingram) discusses the value of the new driving test that the DVSA have announced today will start on 4/12/17

 

The changes to the new driving test are as follows:

 

Two new manoeuvres will, for the purpose of the trial, replace the current ‘turn in the road’ and ‘left reverse’ manoeuvres. You should still be taught these, though.

The table below shows the main differences between the current and trial test.

Current test Trial test
‘Show me’ and ‘tell me’ question at the beginning of the test ‘Tell me’ question at the beginning of the test and a ‘show me’ question on the move
10 minutes independent driving using traffic signs or verbal directions 20 minutes independent driving using a satnav or traffic signs
One of the following manoeuvres – turn in the road, reverse around a corner or reverse parking (either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road) One of the following manoeuvres – drive in to and reverse out of a parking bay, pull up on the right, reverse, and rejoin the traffic or reverse parking (either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road)

Everything else stays the same as the current test. The standard of assessment is the same for both tests.

 

The trials occurred over several months in 32 test centres in the UK involving thousands of driving tests.  The results as shown here are not terribly encouraging.  The outcomes in terms of pass rates and collision rates were monitored and compared for those who trained and took the new test versus those who took the current test.   The “attempts to pass” rate remains the same, the DVSA make the point that the new test is no more difficult, even the number of driving faults committed is statistically similar.  Regarding collision rates between the drivers who passed both types of driving test, there was no different when they were monitored for 6 months after passing.

There was a glimmer of positivity though as reported by the DVSA:

When compared with those who have just passed the existing test, those passing the new test had slightly more insight into their (relatively low) level of skill, and slightly more confidence that they would be a good, safe driver.

 

This is an interesting finding because it starts to delve into the thoughts and feelings of the newly qualified driver.  I think it is a shame that this finding is not expanded on at all, because for me, it begs the question why?  We should remember when looking at these findings that the driving instructors who trained both sets of pupils (for the two different driving tests) did not differ in HOW they gave instruction, the teaching methodology.  There is no extra training required for driving instructors.  As such, for there to be an increase in the levels of self-awareness of the “relatively low level of skill” for the drivers who took the new test is interesting.  It would have been quite interesting for example to ask those drivers who responded as they did, why?  Equally, it would be interesting to compare the number of hours training for the two groups.

What does this mean in practical terms to learners?

Not a great deal it would seem.  Here at BIG TOM we do introduce the use of satnav to our pupils early on, and have done that for a very long time now.  We ensure that our pupils get extended experience driving in 4 modes of driving: town roads (urban), country roads (rural), faster roads and manoeuvres.  On the subject of manoeuvres, we have always trained our pupils to be willing and prepared to keep their mind open regarding how they do a manoeuvre, assessing risk, safety levels and appropriateness for the goal in mind.

So what do I conclude from this announcement today.  Personally I think this is an opportunity missed.  There was an opportunity here to make positive change to the assessment phase and it appears to be coming in now with very little consequences to the outcomes for newly qualified drivers.  I think this problem is typified by the response given to the DVSA by all the various people involved in the new test who were asked their views, this is what they said:

While interviewees accepted that it could not teach everything required to keep newly qualified drivers safe, it was perceived as providing a good basis for independent driving and decision making.

This is a very strange comment as it is mixing the role of quality of training with the role of assessment.  Since when does a driving test “teach” anything, let alone everything as quoted above.  Examiners should be given the opportunity to comprehensively assess the skills, thoughts and attitudes of candidates on a driving test, and this new test continues to not allow examiners to ask questions of candidates which is a great shame.

 

BIG TOM Sales: 0775 607 1464

 

 

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Training Driving Instructors in Peterborough – FAQ’s

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Q.  I’m not a great driver myself but do like the idea of being a driving instructor – will that hold me back?

A.  There is an expected standard of driving from the DVSA on what is called the “Part 2” test (1 of the 3 tests that a trainee has to pass to qualify).  But in our experience this need not be a barrier to applying for the job here.  At BIG TOM we place more emphasis on the skills that our instructors have of clear communication, people skills, adapting training to satisfy the pupil’s needs.  There is plenty of assistance provided for the driving element of the qualification process – try not to get hung up on your perceptions of your ability to do a manoeuvre or to handle the big roundabouts in Peterborough.  BIG TOM has a good reputation of assisting people through the extensive driving videos that we offer.

 

Q.  Do you have to be ultra-patient to do the job?

A.  It is fair to say that patience is a good attribute but what you must never forget is that when training people, they have a great desire and motivation to succeed.  It is more about helping them to provide the key that unlocks their potential.  You would do well of thinking of our work in those terms, rather than getting impatient with a pupil who is not doing what you want them to do – this is a pretty fundamental stance that BIG TOM driving instructors take.  It is more about paying attention to the surroundings of the learning environment that will in itself create good learning outcomes rather than expecting pupils to perform to a pre-conceived idea that you have.  You will be given a great deal of help and assistance in this regard as it is vitally important to not only maintain safety for you and your pupil but also it maximises the learning potential for your pupil.

 

Q.  Is this opportunity also available to existing driving instructors?

A.  It is but please bear in mind we are not attempting to attract driving instructors who are set in their ways of providing mediocre training for pupils.  We mean no disrespect by that statement, but there is a great deal of “average” standards of tuition in the industry and that is not where we are at BIG TOM.  Our instructors are expected to go the extra mile to truly tune into their pupils requirements so that not only do pupils get successful outcomes but they enjoy the experience as well.  BIG TOM customers have every right to receive a standard of experience that is significantly above the “norm” out there.  This means that we work hard at creating respectful relationships with customers creating open and honest channels of communication and a trust and reliability that means BIG TOM continues to be dependable.

 

Q.  How long will it take me to qualify?

A.  Our last instructor turned it all round in less than a year.  It is possible to turn it round sooner depending on your commitments and availability for study and training.  At BIG TOM we do provide resources that encourage trainees to continue to learn in the comfort of their home, at no extra cost to them, just like we do with our Learner drivers.  This does make for effective learning because it means you do not have to wait until you see us for the in-car sessions.  This is a significantly different stance to driving instructor training because rather than telling you that you will need a set number of hours, instead at BIG TOM we encourage you to take the responsibility for your training; much as we do for our Learner drivers.  We recognise that trainee driving instructors come into this process with differing skills and experience and this means that to insist everyone does a set number of hours training is completely illogical.

 

Q.  Do I get access to real learners and other PDI’s?

A.  You most certainly do.  This is in fact a very important question to ask any training provider.  There is much to be gained by stepping out of the trainer v trainee in-car training environment and putting some real context towards the training.  Observing in-car training with a qualified instructor and a pupil can be extremely beneficial.  You will also be given the opportunity to practise with non-paying pupils under our supervision.  You have the option of having these sessions recorded for your training purposes as this has great benefits for you to reflect on your performance.  These sessions are formally recorded so that you have a record of the differing types of training that you receive.  We want our trainees to be provided with a rounded experience in their training so they are properly prepared not only for the DVSA tests but for the actual job itself.

 

Q.  Is there going to be enough work for me?

A.  BIG TOM is an established driving school.  Whilst the bulk of our work is providing intensive driving courses, we get high demand for traditional pay as you go driving lessons, driving training in automatics and we are looking to provide under 17 experience days shortly.  Our driving instructors get their diary instantly filled when they come on board, but do remember that it is you who controls how much work you do, how many hours you work in your week.  We do expect our instructors to own the quality of their work.  Our customers are provided with pre-course and post-course customer surveys and we take their feedback very seriously.    

If you feel like you want more information, contact Tara on recruit@BIGTOM.org.uk or 0775 607 1464

 

 

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Trainee Driving Instructors in Peterborough

On a driving instructor recruitment campaign in Peterborough, Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) describes the process of training to become a driving instructor.

Changing career is no small thing and at BIG TOM we take considerable care with our driving instructors from the very initial contact they make with us, all the way through the qualifying process.  People will consider joining us for a variety of reasons which include wanting an interesting line of work that fits around their home commitments, as well as parents of young ones who find that the time is now right to get back into work and start earning some extra cash.

One advantage that BIG TOM offers that the larger national driving schools struggle with is the personal touch of being flexible.  BIG TOM doesn’t demand excessive driving instructor training fees of around £4000 to be paid in advance.  All that does is tie in the customer to receiving potentially sub-standard training.  If an organisation offers good quality, professional training it should not need to revert to these tactics.  At BIG TOM our trainee instructors have full control of how much they train, and the financial cost they want to commit to as they go along.  This is no small point, a recently trained driving instructor at BIG TOM made this point on qualifying with BIG TOM:

I researched other ADI training providers and found them to be; expensive, inflexible and impersonal and through them I would not have been able to pursue this.

BIG TOM trainee instructors can train at times that suit them, around their existing schedule.  There are 3 tests in total that the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) have in place for the qualifying assessment.  They breakdown into a theory test, a practical driving test, and an instructional test.  This third instructional test (which is referred in the industry as “Part 3”) is soon to be amended by the DVSA so that actual learners are used in the test, rather than the examiner role playing.  BIG TOM is ideally suited to provide plenty of pupils for BIG TOM trainee driving instructors and very much welcomes this new change.

One very common question that is asked of us is how long will it take to train.  A recent instructor took 24.5 hours of 1:1 training, splitting them up into durations that suited his personal schedule.  Although typically the industry tends to do training in 4 hour blocks, this is not something that BIG TOM insist upon, quite the opposite in fact.  Paying attention to the learning environment for trainee driving instructors is a skill that we will want those same instructors to transfer over when they work with BIG TOM learner drivers.  In our experience it is incredibly important to make sure that the learning environment is ideal so as to maximise the effectiveness of the training.  And let us not forget that investing in re-training for ourselves is also supposed to be a fun experience.  No-one should have to endure uncomfortable, unexciting training, we make every effort to ensure we cover the necessary training so that we are thorough, but at the same time our instructors enjoy their time re-training.

If you feel like you want more information, contact Tara on recruit@BIGTOM.org.uk or call direct on 0775 607 1464

 

 

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5 BIG TOM tips for a smooth drive

BIG TOM has come up with a great blog to help their customers.  Here is a top 5 list of tips to help you provide a smooth ride to assist your confidence as well as be kind and thoughtful to your passengers.

Can you imagine how a chauffeur would drive when driving with newly weds in the car, or a VIP?  No-one would want to cause them to spill their champagne!  If you were driving and your Grandma was in the car, would she feel comfortable with the smoothness of the drive?  Did you know that sharp, last minute braking seriously affects the calmness of other road users around you? 

When you drive imagine there being a bowl of jelly on the dash board, when you complete your journey we still want to see an intact jelly on the dash!  To achieve this you don’t need to drive around like a snail annoying everyone around due to the slow speed, instead what you need to do is refine your technique so that your driving is more systematic, consistent and considerate to others.  Here are 5 tips to help you on your way:

 

Set feet  When you start to learn to drive it wont be obvious where the “biting point” on the clutch pedal is.  This is the point that you raise the clutch pedal to in order to engage the gear.  If you practise setting the clutch to the bite point PLUS setting the gas to a low humming noise, then you will start to achieve moving off from a standstill smoothly.  Get this wrong and drivers often stall or “bunny hop” down the road.

Think speed before gear  A very common error is putting the clutch down and then changing gear before you have set the speed you need.  It should be the other way round.  Place a bit more priority on looking at your speedo and appreciating speed before you just start changing gear.  This is especially true when the vehicle is in need of slowing.  The slowing part should be achieved by braking rather than putting the car in a lower gear and raising clutch – yes it will force the car to slow down but this is not good for your gearbox.

Get friendly with your handbrake  In order to make moving off smoother, it is essential that you “set the gas” with your right foot.  It is a common mistake to keep the right foot on the brake pedal when the car comes to a pause.  Whilst it is perfectly understandable why you might want to do this to prevent the car from rolling, get friendly with the handbrake, that will then enable your right foot to “set gas”.

Clutch down  To take the drive, the force, the propulsion out of the car, the clutch must go fully down.  If the clutch stays up, the car will want to continue on its way in whatever gear it is in.  So when you approach a junction, be sure to get the clutch down nice and early (2-3 car lengths away) because then the braking needed to pause the car can be smoother, more gradual and calmer.  If the clutch stays up too long, then the car approaches the junction too quickly and the braking will need to be harsher, sharper and this can seriously shock other road users around you.

Get busy with the gears  When accelerating away from a standstill, get cracking with the gears.  Move off in 1st gear, but don’t stay in it too long, it is not designed to be a gear you drive around in.  Change from 1st to 2nd once you have some momentum going, then likewise, 2nd to 3rd pretty soon after.  Holding out in lower gears when you are moving off from a standstill is not only uncomfortable as a passenger, but it is not good for the car and certainly not fuel efficient.  Do the upward gear changes sooner but certainly not quickly… there is no rush with gear changes, smoothness comes from slow gear changes. 

 

This blog will help you to achieve some smoother driving.  The tips will take practise.  One last little point to bear in mind when it comes to feet pressure on the pedals, is to not forget about your shoes!  You might be surprised; shoes/trainers with thick soles can make it more difficult to set gas, find the “biting point” or feather the brakes.  Some people even keep a pair of suitable “driving shoes” in their car for this very reason.  

 

BIG TOM Driving School  Intensive Driving Courses in Lincoln, Peterborough, Grantham, Stamford, Spalding and Boston.  Sales: 0775 607 1464

 

 

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Mobile phone compartment

THINK! have a campaign running which is designed to interrupt our habitual use of the mobile when driving

The reason why this simple idea is effective is because it interrupts habitual human behaviour.  Most people don’t recognise that they are addicted to their mobile phone, they will likely under-estimate how much time they spend with the mobile in their hand.  This lack of awareness is very common in many behaviours that are habit.  With eating for example, you are encouraged to note the sugar or fat content of everything that goes in your mouth and record it, you also regularly monitor your weight.  Likewise with Fitbit, the device is raising your awareness of how much time you are spending being active.  Without such a device, people would not be able to monitor it with as much accuracy.

What THINK! are attempting to do is make a visual prompt that interrupts the habit of having the mobile nearby while driving.  Drivers will not readily associate the closeness of the mobile phone to their hands when they go to sit in the seat.  By having a sticker (as shown) prominent in your car, it acts as a visual cue to do something different.  It is no different to the above examples, it is forcing you to do something that you would not normally do.

These stickers are freely available to all BIG TOM customers, past and present.

 

BIG TOM Driving School  Intensive Driving Courses in Lincoln, Peterborough, Grantham, Stamford, Spalding and Boston.  Sales: 0775 607 1464

 

 

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