Hope as a motivation in learning

In this blog from Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) he discusses the importance of driving instructor – pupil working relationships that nurture hope.

The effectiveness of a learning environment comes down to the level of engagement with the pupil.  If whatever is being learnt does not “mean” anything to the pupil, then quite simply it is not being learnt.  In the driving training industry this point is often overlooked where trainers mistake a pupil’s willingness to “obey” to instruction as learning – it is not, it is just that, compliance.  Humans are too complex by nature to assume that just because they momentarily comply with the desires of a driving instructor they are learning road safety skills and techniques. 

There are many variables that affect driving behaviour and it is very important that a driving instructor does everything possible to tap into the potential influencers of driving behaviour when they work with a pupil.  In the driving instructor training that I provide, emphasis is placed on the important cognitive aspect of intentional v non-intentional behaviours.

Likewise, there are many variables that will affect a working relationship between driving instructor and pupil.  Open, honest and clear communication based on mutual respect is absolutely essential.  Pupils will come in to the process of learning to drive at different levels of previous experience, knowledge and skills.  They bring with them their own specific needs and potential barriers to learning.  It should be the duty of any professional driving instructor to do anything and everything possible to align with the hopes and desires of their pupils whilst also constructively assisting with any issues relating to anxiety or character traits that might affect learning outcomes.  Victoria McGeer speaks beautifully on this subject here.

The message I would want to give my customers is that what the BIG TOM intensive driving course provides you with is opportunity.  You are given choices of engaging in online Q&A group sessions like we did yesterday, driving videos, internal reflection, self-evaluation and much more.  It is ultimately the choice of the pupil as to how much they engage.  But they are not alone.  They are not fighting a lone battle.  It is massively important that any pupil can sense that they are being supported and offered a meaningful, effective learning experience that is based around positivity rather than criticism. 

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Driving Examiner Strike Action

Driving instructors across the UK are being warned of the potential for more driving examiner strike action in the near future.  At this stage examiners are being balloted for the potential of industrial action regarding a DVSA ‘flexible working’ regime.  Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) wants to reassure BIG TOM customers:

“It is of course unfortunate that there is the potential for yet more disruption to the process of taking driving tests.  The DVSA did make assurances to driving instructors last year that their recruitment of driving examiners over 95 driving test centres in the UK was to alleviate their problem of not planning for the volume of driving tests that were being requested.  Fast forward a year, and we are now hearing that examiners are considering strike action due to the DVSA requiring them to hop around driving test centres with little notice to alleviate demand for driving tests.  I can assure my customers that I will be monitoring this situation closely.  I have already reserved attendance at the DIA conference on 17/11/2017 where the DVSA are attending and will not hesitate to speak up for my customers who have every right to expect being able to book driving tests in a timely manner that compliments all the hard work and training they have put in place to get authorised for test.  I think at times, being as big an organisation as it clearly is, the DVSA does seem to forget that ultimately they are supposed to be providing a good quality service to the paying public; and with the test fees that the public have no choice in having to pay, they do expect there to be a reliable, dependable service for providing driving tests within a reasonable time of the request.

The other aspect to this which I personally always have in mind when I work alongside my customers is that pupils work hard and place a considerable amount of effort in attempting to achieve their goal of possessing a driving licence.  There is a case to put forward on behalf of my pupils that having positively contributed in all that effort, it is not only unfair to be causing an obstacle for them to take their driving test, but within a learning environment, it is actually detrimental to the effectiveness of the learning process.  Driving tests by their nature create anxiety and stress, even if a pupil has not taken one before, and causing pupils to hang on for prolonged periods of time due to insufficiently organising resources at driving test centres, is quite unkind.

Any BIG TOM customers reading this, please be assured that I will monitor it closely. I know from last year many parents expressed their anger with the situation of delayed driving test bookings due to insufficiently resourced driving test centres, and it saddens me to now discover that this issue has not in fact been resolved despite all that we have been told by the DVSA”.

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Pupil Selection

Recent news highlights that certain schools have been ejecting students after Year 12 A/S results and refusing to allow the students to carry on at the school in to Year 13.  It is a controversial subject by nature because in effect the schools are pre-selecting which students are being allowed to contribute to their A level pass grades.  However, as the heads of the schools involved are now discovering with the threat of disgruntled parents taken the school to court, this pre-selection of pupils is in fact unlawful. 

When these kinds of situations occur it is often sensible to attempt to understand the motives for such behaviour.  For sure, schools are under immense pressure to attain high grades for their students and sustain their perceived reputation, so by continually filtering out what is deemed to be lower performing students, a school is in effect increasing the %’s of higher grades per student.  But this point about assessing the potential for pupils is important.  What these schools who now under the spotlight are doing is using the now defunct A/S examination at the end of Year 12 to provide them with some perceived “authority” to then eject the lower performing students.  Not all schools are taking this approach – a great many in fact do not.  Many schools have sufficiently robust and accurate means to assess student potential to ensure that support mechanisms are put in place without the need for the externally assessed examination.

So if a school is being run by a head that places extreme importance on the percentage of high grades PER student then clearly the temptation to what turns out to be unlawfully control the students who are allowed to be measured is quite simply too high. 

Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) adds what relevance this has to learning to drive:

This now nationally exposed development in schools comes as no surprise to me, I have been hearing pupils who were learning to drive with me complaining about this at Bourne Grammar School for a long time.  And there is a lesson to be learnt here with regards to learning to drive too.  If there is a pressure to perform certain percentage pass rates then it will, by nature, effect the behaviours of driving schools. I sincerely hope that the DVSA are paying attention to these events.  There are some intensive driving course providers for example who will not allow a pupil to take a course if they have not already driven for a certain number of hours.  In effect, just like the schools mentioned in this blog, they are being selective as to which pupils they will work with.  With BIG TOM Driving School we have never set such conditions to come and enjoy our popular 5 Day Intensive Driving Course.  We set no unrealistic expectations and we offer a very accurate and methodical assessment process so that pupils know precisely where they are in terms of progress as they go through their course.  In my experience it makes very little sense to directly place an unnecessary external pressure on the shoulders of a pupil who is attempting to learn.  I am not suggesting that it is impossible for it to be motivational, but this concept of only working with pupils of a certain standard is a very lazy and complacent approach within a learning environment.  No pupil should be refrained from the opportunity for learning.  The restrictions that are set by the training providers is purely designed for their own personal gain rather than having any regard for providing help, guidance and assistance to all pupils with a variety of needs.  So here at BIG TOM we openly welcome pupils to come and learn to drive with no previous driving experience at all.  We make no false promises or ‘guarantees’ about outcomes, we will not put any unnecessary pressure on you at all, but you will be given the opportunity to significantly reduce the time taken to learn to drive as compared to the old fashioned method of pay as you go driving lessons.  My driving school is giving our customers choice about how they learn to drive, so it is all about opportunity for all as opposed to selection for some.

I would encourage my customers to think of the process of learning to drive as an opportunity to gain experience, confidence and refine key skills for road safety, rather than the attainment of a certain academic qualification grade.  The consequences of not being trained appropriately when learning to drive are just too serious and the aim is to effectively learn a practical skill.  

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Trust and belief in training

Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) explains in this blog the range and depth of learning that is made available to pupils on the BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course.

“Rather than simply making it up as we go along, the work that is carried out in my driving school has always been as directed within the DVSA Driving Standards.  These are the people who have a wide range of responsibilities for road safety in the UK, they are the authority organisation for a number of key activities and there is an expectation in the driving training industry that training providers such as driving schools comply to these Driving Standards.  This is a key point because the public do seek reassurance that the training that is being provided for their son or daughter is going to be relevant, technically correct and thorough.

One example is the fact that the Driving Standard makes reference to pupils building confidence and ability when driving on a range of classes of road.  So here at BIG TOM we simply do not restrict our training locations to those on driving test routes, we will take our pupils on different types of roads to build their bank of experience.  Charlotte, a pupil only this week travelled in 4 counties while out on her driving session with me on Day 3 of her course…… Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Rutland and Northamptonshire.  You can begin to imagine the experiences that she is gaining with this training.  When we asked Charlotte for feedback regarding her course experience, part of it included “…you can go many places – you are not restricted to where you can go as you are not limited to a short time….”.

One technique that we like to introduce to pupils when driving on rural roads is the use of assessing the severity of a country road bend by the technique of “limit points”.  For me, this is absolutely essential training because it offers our pupils the opportunity to develop a technique that might very well prove to be incredibly important to them later in their driving life.  The basic concept with this is that my pupil is encouraged to assess the severity of a bend in advance so that the correct speed and gear is selected prior to arriving at the bend which maximises traction and vehicle stability.

Ultimately, our customers need to have the trust and belief in knowing that what we are doing is for the absolute benefit of their loved one, assisting them in becoming safe, confident and “thinking” drivers.”

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Learn more with BIG TOM

At BIG TOM we recognise there are two distinct phases of learning that go into developing a safe, “thinking” driver: the initial driving actions required to control and operate the car, and discovering what affects your own driving behaviours. 


The first challenge of effectively operating the car is one that our customers can practise away in a safe environment with as much or as little verbal assistance from the driving instructor as the pupil chooses.  The aim is have full control of the car at all times, being kind to the engine, considerate to other road users, and thoughtful of how your driving can affect the comfort of your passengers.  Getting comfortable with the controls while you are driving is important such as using cruise control appropriately and safely, adjusting the air conditioning, putting lights and wipers on – all the things that you will be doing when you have passed your driving test.  Driving in the right gear for the speed, at a speed that reflects the driving conditions, with the ability to anticipate and plan for all the normal events that you can reasonably expect on a journey.  BIG TOM has a bank of driving videos to assist you here, they are so popular that they have been watched OVER HALF A MILLION TIMES!  If you are new to driving or have only a little experience, you can benefit from feeding this useful information into your long term memory even before you start on your BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course.  This is smart learning and will definitely help you to learn to drive quicker.

The second challenge of considering what affects your own driving behaviours is quite a personal journey that you are invited to go on.  It is a fact that each of us holds beliefs and attitudes within our minds that will affect our driving behaviours.  Sometimes these can be formed by our upbringing, the influence of those near to us, previous experiences, and other external influences which may not be quite so apparent like our attitude towards legal matters or speeding or wearing seatbelts or taking risks.  Prior to your course, you will be sent a string of exclusive BIG TOM private driving videos that will start to introduce some of these subjects to you and give you the chance to consider how you personally feel about them.  The real key to this is that no-one but you can truly affect how you feel about the responsibilities of safe driving.  You might say to a driving instructor that you do not intend to text on your mobile while driving, but once you pass your test you find that is precisely what you do!  But you will be given the opportunity to raise your awareness of your beliefs so that you can discuss coping mechanisms that are available to help you to be safe.  This is a vital difference of your training with BIG TOM, as it taps into the responsibilities of safe driving that go beyond the skills required to pass the driving test. 

Yes, we do want our customers to pass driving tests, but we also offer them the opportunity to self-evaluate what driving will mean to them and that is an essential aspect of safe driving.

Interested?  Call Tara now to discuss how we can help you to become a safe and “thinking” driver.


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I love my driving lessons

In this blog from Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School), he discusses the benefits of using a driving instructor that can adapt to your learning needs.


If I asked you how would your Mum or Dad teach you to change a punctured car tyre, how would they go about it?  Your parents know you very well, they know how you tick.  They will instantly be able to think of ways in which to get the message across to you.

I’m not asking you to imagine or explain how you go about changing a tyre, I’m asking you HOW to practically change a tyre.  The distinction is that this is not a knowledge test, a test of how well you can recall details.  Instead you are being asked to recall a sequence of ACTIONS, and the reason why they are done in a particular order, to ENABLE you to change the tyre.  You will then either be prepared to try it out, or not.  Some will be quite content with the theory knowledge and others wont be satisfied they have learnt it until they actually try it out. 

So in this simple example of changing a tyre, I am introducing to you the idea that the learning has to actually mean something to you, you have to connect with it in such a way that goes beyond recalling of facts. The goal here is to effectively, safely change a tyre – which involves the mental skills of remembering a sequence and the reasons for it, as well as the practical skills of changing the tyre.  I am suggesting that your parents will know very well the best ways in which to facilitate your learning this new skill.  I am also raising the question of whether you tend to be content with knowing knowledge for the sake of having the theory in your head, or whether you realise that practical skills do actually require practical practise.

The relevance this has on learning to drive is that to become an effective, safe driver, it will involve you learning mentally “what to do” as well as turning those thought processes into action so that the practical skills can also be developed.   Driving is not an activity centred around intelligence.  There are different techniques available to facilitate the required learning.

One technique that we use here at BIG TOM is called “commentary driving”.  It is very empowering to pupils as it helps them to understand this balance between the cognitive processes involved in driving (anticipation, judgement, spatial awareness, identification, assessment, decision making, reflection) as well as the practical skills (multi-tasking, co-ordination, fine motor skills, posture, use of the senses).  When a pupil sees a demonstration of commentary driving by the driving instructor, they can immediately relate to the goal, and they are then encouraged to practise it in a stress-free manner with no criticism of any errors made.  The benefit for the pupil is that they can recognise instantly this need to think about what is needed to do, before they start actually doing it….. just like you would do if you were about to embark on changing that tyre.  This skill of thinking PRIOR to taking driving actions is essential to develop in order to sustain road safety for you in the long term.  So pupils will describe what they see around the vehicle, and then explain what they need to do BECAUSE of what they have seen.  It might involve recognising hazards, assessing risk, identifying a speed limit change, planning for a roundabout by using the signs and road markings, choosing options based on their preferences, anticipating the actions of others….. but the common theme is that there is methodical thought going on before they take action such as change speed/direction or take observations.  They are not checking the central mirror every 8 seconds while driving so as to show an examiner that they are checking the mirror (albeit for no apparent reason).

It is a practical example of how pupils on the BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course are encouraged to develop the skill of meaningful and personalised learning in order to help them drive safely.   It complements very well with the established learning technique of verbal reasoning that pupils are naturally often very happy to do while they drive around.  And this is the key to effective learning; identifying techniques that enable a pupil to practise within a stress-free environment that is surrounded in skill development rather than focussing on driving faults.   

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Intensive Driving Course Resources

The BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course is backed up with a bucket load of resources for customers.

The BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course has been assisting customers to pass driving tests for several years.  At the heart of the ethos of the driving school is a desire to provide high quality, good value driving training for customers who are looking to obtain their driving licence in a faster way than the old fashioned ‘pay as you go’ route.

The effectiveness of the training is achieved by providing resources that assist learning.  There are numerous ways in which pupils are offered the opportunity to initially discover key driving skills, reinforce the learning by making it meaningful to them, and check for understanding and knowledge in how to refine and apply the skills to real-life situations.  This is all backed up by timely and effective feedback methods that help to develop independence, self-learning and the responsibilities of being a safe driver.

Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram says:

“Over the years what I have discovered as being absolutely essential is that pupils recognise the range of skills needed to be a safe driver, and develop the techniques that enable them to recognise where their strengths and weaknesses are.  No-one is suggesting for a moment that all drivers end up performing perfect, robotic driving behaviours, but where my course really assists pupils is in putting some proper context to the training so that the skills are practised and refined, rather than having a notion of simply performing driving actions in order to please driving examiners on the driving test.  It is this connection between driving behaviour and the resultant consequences that is essential for newly qualified drivers to recognise and develop in the early years of qualifying.”

Tom who has a BTEC Level 4 Award in Coaching for Driver Development continues:

“There are a range of influencers on newly qualified drivers that directly impact on their driving behaviour and it is essential for professional driving trainers to provide responsible training that encourages pupils to become “thinking” drivers.  The pressures on pupils to pass driving tests like they are some kind of academic exam that has no practical relevance are immense, and everyone around their inner circle has a part to play in attempting to ensure that drivers who want to take driving tests are truly ready and feel confident in the day to day challenges of modern life driving.”  

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Bourne driver proud of his driving test result

Dalton Marsh from Bourne (shown here) passed his driving test at Peterborough on Day 5 of his BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course

He was very proud of his result as he recorded a “clean sheet”; no driving faults committed at all on his driving test.  He needed to pass urgently so that he could drive himself to his workplace in Peterborough in the week, rather than relying on lifts from his Wife who also had to take their 2 very young children. 


This is what he said about his experience with BIG TOM:

“I had a great week with Tom, very professional and polite.  I enjoyed his teaching style, calm and patient which suited my learning style.  Overall I feel I’m a much better driver than when I started.  Big thumbs up!  10/10” Dalton Marsh from Bourne

Tom Ingram, his driving instructor and owner of BIG TOM Driving School said:

“Big congratulations go to Dalton.  Another zero fault driving test result is really encouraging to see, that is a good standard of driving.  But perhaps more importantly Dalton is showing once again that the BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course is well developed to offer the opportunity for customers to obtain their full driving licence within 5 days.  He is one very happy chap and I am so pleased for him.”


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Systematic approach to driving

In this blog Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) provides some explanation to the expectation driving examiners have when they observe a driver on a driving test.


Until driverless vehicles become the norm and as long as we have humans driving vehicles we have the potential of sporadic driving behaviour; we are not robots and we are prone to allowing our driving behaviours to be affected by our emotions.  Stress, irritability, mood swings, fear, anxiety will all affect how we drive.  The causes for these mixed emotions are varied and a product of day to day living.  Other road users can instantly “push our button”, our environment such as lack of parking at home can make us angry, even the weather eg heavy rain or 30 degree + heat can all affect how we feel.  To try to combat this fact the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) have stated in their Driving Standard under the heading of “Drive the vehicle safely and responsibly” that they expect to see a “systematic” approach from a driver on the driving test.  As you might expect from them, they choose their words carefully.  By using the word ‘systematic’ they are wanting to express the need to see logical, consistent, efficient and planned driving behaviour.  By having this consistency instilled in the driver, s/he is more likely to continue with the same behaviour in differing contexts as mentioned above.  In effect, they are wanting to see evidence that a driver will maintain driving standards in any situation that they happen to be in.  We all use vehicles for so many different reasons, some pleasurable, some a necessity and sometimes, quite frankly, we would rather not be driving at a given time – but, regardless of how they feel, drivers still maintain standards of driving by falling back to a system that ensures safety.  If a driver has no regard to this expectation from the DVSA then it raises the question if they intend to “drive the vehicle safely and responsibly”. 

On the BIG TOM 5 Day Intensive Driving Course, this expectation is raised with our pupils because the DVSA rightly require professional driving instructors to do this in a “meaningful” way for our pupils. 

Some of the key principles include:

Making effective observations prior to changing direction or speed

Acknowledge the consequences of poor driving standards so as to prevent recurrence

Drive in a manner that gives due consideration to the needs of anyone around the vehicle

Assess risk in any given situation so that timely appropriate action is taken to maintain safety

There are a variety of techniques to encourage these principles to be learnt and applied in every day driving.  Our pupils are shown the benefits of developing thoughtful driving actions as opposed to just wanting to pass the driving test.  The reason why this distinction is made is because it is entirely possible to achieve the goal of passing the driving test WITHOUT developing these key principles.  To be coached on driving test routes and through a learning process no more involved than “trial and error”, a pupil would be suitably prepared to pass a driving test but this is not the hallmark of professional driving training.  This might achieve the goal of obtaining a driving licence, but it falls far short of preparing a newly qualified driver for the challenges of safe driving in the years to come.  It effectively is short changing the pupil who then pays dear for the consequences to follow.

This kind of driving training involves pupils performing driving actions that defy any kind of logic or meaning eg checking a mirror every 8 seconds, doing a right blindspot check before moving off to the left, approaching all roundabouts automatically in the same gear and speed. 

Preparing drivers for real life driving situations involves helping them to appreciate that driving on roads is a fluid, evolving process where challenges are presented from road design, behaviours of others, limitations of the vehicle, familiarity of the area and concentration levels of the driver.  The conditions are not sterile like that in a school/college environment.  Our pupils are given the opportunity to appreciate how these factors impact on how it makes them feel whilst driving, and they are encouraged to reflect, and think about their ability to manage these situations.  The emphasis on the training is one of self-development as opposed to strict compliance of instruction.  


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BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course Content

This blog enables readers who are considering how they want to learn to drive the opportunity to knowingly choose between providers of driving training for their own particular needs.


BIG TOM driving training is centred around the thoughts and driving actions of the pupil rather than concentrating on driving faults.  The training concentrates on the fact that human behaviour is motivated by emotion.  What this means from a practical point of view, is that the pupil is encouraged to consider what influences their own driving behaviour as it will be these influences that ultimately control how they drive, rather than the “commands” of a driving instructor who is only in the pupil’s life for a relatively short period of time.

Safety whilst training is essential and this inevitably does involve explicit instruction at times, but just as important is the development of skills so that learning can continue after a learner passes the driving test.  These skills can only be developed if the driving instructor creates an environment within which a pupil has the freedom to learn about how their thoughts and feelings affect their driving behaviour.

Some of the key skills that you will be encouraged to develop include:

Understanding the responsibilities involved in driving a vehicle around safely and efficiently on public roads

Developing learning techniques that will be meaningful and effective in the LONG TERM

Considering how driving behaviour is affected with day to day living

Identifying personal strengths and weaknesses associated with the planning and taking of journeys

Fostering the potential for continued learning by identifying essential thought processes

Being able to identify ‘increased risk’ when driving and appreciating the skills required to manage critical incidents

The ability to recognise the differing phases of effective learning and the differing contexts of driving tests versus real life every day driving


In the interests of providing professional driving training that delivers on effective learning rather than coaching pupils how to pass driving tests, BIG TOM Driving School actively complies to the DVSA Driving Standard.  The key to developing safe drivers is by creating “thinking drivers” and those thought processes have to be learnt – it is a skill in itself.  Thought processes have to be practised, refined, evaluated and this takes time and a methodical approach.  As such customers of BIG TOM are given the opportunity to become aware of the need for these thought processes and how to develop them.  In line with the DVSA Driving Standard, this driving school does not instruct pupils how to drive by ‘forced compliance’.    


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



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