Monthly Archives: August 2016

Learning to Drive – Self-help

The author of this blog is a Driving Instructor who has helped dozens of pupils become confident and competent drivers over several years. He offers this self-help blog for any readers who are currently learning to drive as a guide to help understand what is involved in the process.

Learning to drive is a pretty unique process. The majority of us will learn to drive, but how we do it is deeply unique.  The timing of when this happens, and even the motivation for wanting to learn to drive can vary enormously, but one thing is for sure, the journey that is taken continues to follow a familiar path as it has over the decades.  This blog will aim to raise the awareness of why learning this skill is an inspiring process for me and my pupils.

In any learning environment there are 2 perspectives that each and every one of us will consider in differing degrees and at differing times along the process.  The first perspective is a very personal one.  It is directly linked to our inner most thoughts and feelings, it affects our motivation and confidence because it talks directly to us, and I will refer to it as the ‘inner perspective’.  It is that voice in your head.  It might affect you in your sleep, it might excite you as your training session draws nearer, but it can’t be ignored.  Try as we might, we cannot hide these feelings that we experience.  They may be intensely positive or negative, but one thing is for sure, we do not control when they arrive or how deeply they resonate within us.  No-one, but no-one can criticise you for feeling the way you do… it is what makes you, gloriously, uniquely, you.  They are undeniably present; some people are more able than others to express the believed reasons for these thoughts, and the extent to which they can be heightened or dulled varies within us all.

The other perspective within a learning environment is that which is around you, I will refer to it as the ‘outer perspective’.  It includes the conditions in which you learn, the “how” of the learning process.  Think of it as the oil which lubricates the “learning cogs”.  Vitally important as without this oil, we have no turning of cogs, we have no learning taking place.  Any aspect of this perspective can directly affect the effectiveness of the process.  The relationship between instructor and pupil and the external factors involving equipment, conditions, timing and duration – these will all affect enjoyment levels and effectiveness.

The 2 perspectives are very much inter-related, in as much as the potential for either or both to affect learning outcomes, but how much any given pupil is actually aware of them differs greatly.  I will give some examples of how important it is to be aware of how these 2 perspectives can affect you, because if you were to ignore this, you are leaving the success of your learning experience to chance – you may, or you may not be successful in achieving your dreams.  For peace of mind, a pupil would do well to be aware of their inner and outer perspectives.

The inner perspective is something that is dear to my heart.  I can recall countless learning environments in my personal life where this inner perspective was paramount in my failing.  It is generally under estimated quite how powerful this perspective is in affecting outcomes.  The courage and inner-strength required can be enormous, such is the turmoil of this inner fight and how it affects our behaviours.  This deeply personal inner conflict reminds me of the following phrase by Anais Nin:

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom


The outer perspective can be deceptively sinister and equally as deadly in its ability to disable learning. It is deceptive by the very nature of it often being overlooked or not referred to.  To continue with the analogy above of greasing cogs for smooth operation and effective learning, the quality of oil used, the frequency of checking the oil level, and the timing of identifying leaks are very much in the control of each of us.  For sure, we could choose to not burden ourselves with considering oil levels, we may have no inclination for such matters; but crucially, by doing so, we are running the risk of attempting to turn cogs with NO lubrication at all.  The reason why this can be sinister in nature, is due to the fact that many people will naturally leave the ‘conditions’ of the learning environment to the experts – on the basis that surely, all things being equal, it is all of a  muchness.  As understandable as it is to fall into this trap, it really can be avoided with some attention to it.  Pupils who are experiencing “failure” in a learning environment, will often mistakenly place the cause as their own inability and limitations when in fact, it is the condition in which they are learning that is failing them, and often, those conditions are not being controlled by them at all.

How able and willing a trainer is to adapt the learning methodology around the needs of a pupil is just one measure of “quality of oil”.  Steepness of the learning curve, timing and duration of driving lesson, location of driving training, quality of the driving school car, relationship with Driving Instructor – all of these things matter greatly for providing an effective, long-lasting and valued learning environment.

Why is this so important?  Put simply, it can seriously affect our outlook on things…. permanently.  Consider a teacher at school that put you off a certain subject for the rest of your life, and the resentment you felt for that individual.  How about a coach that turned you off swimming, skiing or learning a musical instrument for life.  Consider how a work colleague or boss affected your career development within the work environment.  This affects lives.  In the book “Creative schools” by Ken Robinson, a contribution from Joe Harrison summarises this point clearly…. “At the heart of it is the quality of the engagement between the teacher and the learner being more important than simply judging students by ability and tests”.

The aim of this blog was to raise your awareness of how differing factors within a learning environment can be categorised into “inner and outer perspectives”.  The inner perspective that affects how we think and feel within a certain learning environment is pure, undiluted and affects us to our core.  The outer perspective is just as powerful but absolutely controllable in its ability to affect positive or negative outcomes.  I have come to realise over the years that pupils who come to me having experienced much pain with learning to drive have simply been enforced to remain ‘tight in the bud’….. when I change the environment in which they learn, they will blossom with more colour and vitality than anyone could ever have dreamed.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Stamford, Boston, Spalding and Bourne.  Contact us HERE


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Remote Control Wizard Gets His Driving Licence

Jack passes his driving test first time!

Jack Keatley from Market Deeping has passed his driving test in quick smart time.  He took his test in Peterborough and passed quite comfortably with only 4 driving faults recorded.

Jack says of his experience with BIG TOM:

“I am so pleased as I can now help my Dad out with the driving.”

Jack is a keen remote control car enthusiast and travels all over the UK.  Prior to this test pass, his Dad has had to shoulder all the travel to the venues, but now Jack can assist with splitting the journeys up between them.

Chris Jubb was his BIG TOM Driving Instructor and said:

“I know how much this means to Jack, it is only right that he should feel so pleased with himself.  I know how important it is to manage driving long journeys, and for Jack to now be able to contribute to the travelling across the UK is really good for his Dad, and also great for improving their safety as it enables them to ensure the driver is fresh and alert.  On motorway driving, with the speeds being what they are, it is essential that the driver is always reading what is developing in advance.”

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Stamford, Boston, Spalding and Bourne.  Contact us HERE


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Success breeds Success

A Winning Formula

The age-old adage of “success breeds success” is in the forefront of the minds at BIG TOM Driving School.  When mentioned in the context of a learning environment within a driving school, it can be demonstrated in many ways.  Key personnel in the organisation are focussed on the goal of achieving success and this naturally filters through to BIG TOM Driving Instructors and customers.

The owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram says:

“Nothing gets me more excited as when my customers and instructors have success.  I have found over the years of running this school that when there are clear goals at all stages of learning to drive, and the focus is on achieving them, the success just comes.  It literally just comes naturally as a by-product of all the efforts by everyone.”

One of the key differences with the operation of BIG TOM Driving School is that it treats every single person as an individual, recognising how previous experiences affect learning, and how this point is so inter-related to confidence.  The building of relationships between instructors and customers that are based around trust, understanding and effective communication are an essential ingredient to the school that continues to grow in popularity.

The school has been running since 2009 and caters for learners taking driving tests in Peterborough, Lincoln, Spalding, Stamford, Grantham and Boston.  Customers get to choose between traditional pay as you go driving lessons, or the popular BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course.  Tom Ingram continues:

“I’m afraid we hear far too often when there is a mis-match in expectations between a driving school and their customer; inevitably this causes ill-feeling, frustration and a thoroughly miserable 1:1 learning environment.  My school has obtained over the years many authentic comments from previous customers that confirm the fact that the learning is undertaken in a stress-free, enjoyable manner, where our customer feels in control and safe.”

New instructors at BIG TOM Driving School are achieving incredibly high personal standards of driving, and generating substantial revenue from the reputation of an established and reliable driving school.   Mike Jones who recently passed his driving instructors Part 2 driving test with 0 faults is keen to start with BIG TOM.  He is no stranger himself to investing in effective training for female rugby players and recently contributed to a BIG TOM driving video about what makes a good driver with the following mnemonic for what a “Classs driver” thinks about:

C – Consider the car

L – Limitations: know and understand your limitations and development areas.

A – Appreciate what your passengers are experiencing

S – Swerve……..Don’t want anyone to do any of this as a result of my driving

S – Stop  ……..Don’t want anyone to do any of this as a result of my driving

S – Slow ……..Don’t want anyone to do any of this as a result of my driving

S- Swear ……..Don’t want anyone to do any of this as a result of my driving


Tom Ingram continues

“When you have driving instructors with creativity, confidence, competence and calmness you know that the learning environment for their pupils is going to be effective.  It is a sad fact that Learners can waste much time and money within learning environments that do not create much learning.  The reason why this driving school continues to grow in popularity is precisely because it provides an opportunity for a pupil to learn at a pace that suits their individual needs.”

If you think that you have much to offer Learner drivers, then BIG TOM would be keen to hear from you.  Training can be provided for new driving instructors but applications are welcome from qualified instructors.



BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Stamford, Boston, Spalding and Bourne.  Contact us HERE


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Success for a Driving Instructor

Driving Instructor Training Success


If you are needing to put some extra sparkle into your work-life read on!  BIG TOM Driving School is recruiting for more driving instructors and are particularly keen to hear from people who are new to the industry.  Making a career change can be a daunting prospect due to moving into an unknown environment especially if you have many years of experience in your own particular workplace.   The driving school is reputed for being able to provide a calm, stress-free learning environment for our Learner driver customers, and we take great pride in developing trusting, respectful relationships with our trainee driving instructors so that they also benefit from learning new skillsets in a relaxing, enjoyable way.

Our experience has shown us that whilst there will be many people who are very interested joining this successful driving school, it is quite natural to find reasons why this wont be possible for them.  Previous concerns raised include:

  • Childcare arrangements
  • Holiday and pension entitlements
  • Pay
  • Passing any tests
  • Expenditure for training
  • Time Management

We would encourage anyone who is concerned about any of the above to get in touch as these need not prevent you from having a better life with new, exciting rewards.

The owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram offers the following advice:

“I have 2 young sons and needed to find an alternative work schedule that suited my family needs.  Being a driving instructor has proved to be exactly the right choice for me personally as it has given me the income and flexibility of hours that I need.  I would also emphasise that the work itself is incredibly stimulating, and keeps me on my toes which I personally find rewarding as it keeps my brain active.  The relationships that are developed to help people learn this life-skill are incredibly positive and I have found over the years that it has had a beneficial effect on my general outlook on life which is hard to put a price on.”

We are looking for applicants of all ages and will happily answer any questions of a technical nature relating to health or driving endorsements.  The driving school serves the areas of Stamford, Spalding, Grantham, Peterborough, Lincoln and Boston but we would also be very interested to hear from applicants outside these areas.  We offer traditional driving lessons on a “pay as you go” basis as well as our popular BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course.  We also hope to be providing Under 17 driving experiences soon.

If you have a natural interest in people, enjoy communicating with all age groups and like the idea of gaining more control of how your work/life balance is developing then don’t miss out on this opportunity.  Click here for more information relating to this Franchise or better still, come straight through to us and we will be pleased to call you back at a time that suits you.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Stamford, Boston, Spalding and Bourne.  Contact us HERE


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Ben is on cloud 9 after driving test pass

Ben from Bourne Breezes his Driving Test at Peterborough

Ben Jackson lives in Bourne but works in Peterborough and needed to pass his driving test fast so that he could travel to work in comfort.  He didn’t want to travel over on the buses due to the inconvenience and the fact the he would need to get a connecting bus from the bus station.  He made full use of the flexibility that BIG TOM offers customers by organising his training in the evenings after he finished his work shift.

Ben says of his experience with BIG TOM:

“I am very grateful to Chris for a successful first time pass, I am hoping to get a job in Bourne and a driving licence is essential for me.”

Chris Jubb was Ben’s driving instructor with BIG TOM Driving School on his 5 Day Intensive Driving Course in Peterborough and said:

“I am really pleased for Ben.  He loves his climbing having just walked up Snowdon and now wants to do Ben Nevis so is no stranger to challenges, but I must say that he thoroughly deserves his first time pass after just 15 days of taking his course.”

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Stamford, Boston, Spalding and Bourne.  Contact us HERE


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New Driving Test and Road Safety

How does the new driving test proposals fit in to improved road safety on Lincolnshire roads?  Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School) offers his opinion.



This was a photo taken recently on the A15 near Bourne which shows that when it comes to road safety in Lincolnshire, the picture is not good. This shows a 52% increase in fatalities when comparing the first half of 2016 with that of 2015.  Taking a quick look at my Twitter feed, I see that for Jan – May 2014 it was 12 and for the same period in 2015 it was 17, a near on 42% increase.  For the year of 2013 it was 36 and for 2014 42, a 17% increase.

We appear to be in the midst of a dramatic increase in road fatalities across the county.  Taking a look at the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership website reveals the following stats since the year 2000:

2000 70   2001 88   2002 93   2003 104   2004 77   2005 69   2006 66   2007 79   2008 51   2009 52   2010 45   2011 47   2012 39   2013 36   2014 42


And as can be seen on the image, the figure up to July 2016 is already 35.  These are worrying times, which begs the question why is this happening?

I have a background in Quality Assurance so have a tendency to want to dig deeper to attempt to analyse the root cause factors within a system.  One of the key considerations when looking at any statistics is to be aware of the many factors that can contribute to the figures.   Commonly, road safety still tends to be spoken of in terms of the 3 E’s: Education, Enforcement and Engineering.  Of the three, the one that I personally have most involvement in is “Education”.  The scope of this subject is wide.  In a few weeks time I will be attending my local Grammar School for my yearly talk on road safety to near on 200 Year 12 pupils.  In addition to this, I continue striving towards my goal in 2016 to introduce driving experience in a fun but safe environment to under 17 year olds.  The introduction of a BTEC qualification prior to obtaining a provisional licence continues to gather momentum.  But there will be many people who feel that the assessment system that is in the UK is inadequate.  I regularly hear of people complaining that there should be more testing done of drivers throughout their life, including as they get older when reaction times and sight, hearing and spatial awareness levels can begin to reduce.  Equally, there are plenty of people that I speak to on a regular basis that question the actual standard of driving attained by newly qualified drivers.  There is arguably much to be said for this point of view.  The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) do continue to state that a significant amount of accidents are being caused by newly qualified drivers who have recently passed their test.  The correlation between quantity of driving tests in the UK and fatalities in Lincolnshire is striking:


As crude and seemingly superficial as this graphic is, it does demonstrate that the trend of fatalities in Lincolnshire is generally following the trend of driving tests being conducted in the UK from 2007-2014.  Which opens up more questions relating to the system by which the industry trains and assesses how “ready” a newly qualified driver is for safe driving, independently after passing the driving test.

The DVSA are indeed a key organisation in the UK.  They stipulate the standard of driving expected of learner drivers, it controls the assessments of driving instructors as well as learner drivers.  What it crucially does NOT do is control how learner drivers are trained; in fact in this country, learner drivers do not even have to be trained by driving instructors at all in order to take driving tests.  It also does NOT control how driving instructors are trained; as before, there is no stipulation of the extent of training undertaken.  As such, without any formal signing off of training by a professional trainer, we have in this country a system which means that learner drivers and trainee driving instructors have the freedom to limit the scope of their training at the standard of the assessment criteria of the tests set by the DVSA.  It is generally acknowledged, even very recently by Lesley Young, the Chief Driving Examiner of the DVSA that the driving test is limited in its ability to test the ability of drivers to cope with driving at night, with a few friends in the car distracting the driver, or even to ask the most basic questions of drivers while on test to explain key road safety concepts.  As a result of this fact, the industry is caught between 2 conflicting values.  On the one hand the DVSA are keen to ensure that learning to drive does not become a privilege only for the financially able and yet, the evidence appears to be indicating that there is a battle between the “right to drive” versus the ability to ensure appropriate driving standards are met.  Lesley Young is proposing that the average driving test is extended to increase by an average of 2 miles on each driving test, so as to enable the examiner to observe the candidate driving on faster, rural roads which are generally recognised as being the high risk roads for newly qualified drivers.  As the owner of BIG TOM Driving School I very much welcome this change but believe it does not go far enough.  On my intensive driving courses, my customers regularly drive over county boundaries, covering several dozens of miles and this is one of the strengths of the concept of the course.  By nature of the design of the course, the trainer has the time to get the pupil driving greater distances, experiencing a wider range of driving conditions than is able to be accomplished on 1 or 2 hour driving lessons.  It has long been my view that one of two things has to be changed; either the driving test standard required to pass is significantly increased which will in itself pull up the standards of training, or the syllabus of the driving training has to become formalised and compulsory so that training in such techniques as limit points on rural roads and commentary driving must be covered to a standard.

In my own experience, one of the key barriers to successful outcomes for raising driving standards, is observed by the quite understandable attitudes of the vast majority of learner drivers.  We have an education system in this country that is based around a “transfer” of short-term factual knowledge that is assessed by how well a pupil is able to regurgitate that knowledge at critical times in the academic year.  As such, generations of the population have become used to this concept of inwardly digesting factual information of very little relevance outside of the school environment, for a short timescale, purely for the purpose of then demonstrating that knowledge has seemingly been learnt.  How long that knowledge is maintained, and what practical purpose it has for the individual is of little consequence because all the pupil is conditioned to strive for is good grades.  As such pupils may not necessarily obtain any knowledge of practical use, but they do demonstrate that they are able to absorb and recall knowledge for a short period.  Often, pupils will come out the other end of this process with feelings of low self-esteem and utter confusion of how the last dozen or so years of their lives really had any bearing on assisting them with identifying the skills that they have within them that will help them to enjoy life post-education.

The reason why this point is important is because these same young adults whilst in the process of enduring this situation they find thrust upon them that they have absolutely no control of, then have the prospect of learning to drive added to the expectations upon them.  The consequence of this is that we have people learning to drive who have often had a pretty rotten ‘learning experience’ at school and college or university, they may not particularly welcome the prospect of starting yet further training having witnessed the demoralising outcomes of their schooling, and quite understandably they desire the quickest, most pain-free method of learning to drive that is available.  Many learners will have been conditioned to conform to the educational constitution they have experienced of listen, obey and copy.  As such, they will not by nature be willing (or practised) in absorbing information in a manner that they prefer in order to develop and apply driving skills that encourage long term road safety.  This is one of the fundamental reasons why driving instructors will continue to observe pupils learning to drive who have very little knowledge of the theory; that information will have been lost from the short term memory soon after passing the theory test.  It is also one of the fundamental reasons why your average learner does not have the required level of self-awareness to appreciate how their driving ability fits in with the standards required.  They are only used to receiving feedback about academic work they have submitted and being told what to change, they have not been invited to take responsibility for the standards – they are used to repeatedly making attempts with no understanding of the required standard, until eventually the level they have obtained is sufficient.  This is why at the time of writing the national driving test first time pass rate is only 21%.

The driving training industry has great challenges.  The influence of the typical driving instructor is limited in terms of affecting outcomes.  Far more influential to the attitudes from the typical learner driver will be the learning experience they have previously received and the affect that friends and family have on their driving behaviours.  Quite naturally, how learners intend to drive can be significantly different to how they actually drive.

The reason why the driving training industry finds itself anchored in the quick sand of failure is because either of the two options highlighted above would be, by their very nature unpopular with the public.  The DVSA have gone out of their way to say that the proposed new changes to the driving test will not be any more difficult in the technical competence of driving.  The DVSA don’t want to be seen to be making “learning to drive” harder.  In the current trials, the calibre of the driving instructors has not changed, the calibre of the candidates has not changed, the DVSA have stated that it is no more technically challenging, so it is difficult to understand how any increase in the pass rate of this new driving test can result in increased road safety for newly qualified drivers.  If you re-jig a test but make it no more technically difficult, how can an increased pass rate be construed as raising standards, surely that is called “dumbing down”?

It would be a brave soul who proposed changes to the driving test that made it significantly more difficult to pass.  Likewise, it seems very unlikely that any time soon we are going to see a change to the training of driving instructors and learner drivers that ensures higher quality driving training is provided.   As long as driving instructors and learner drivers have complete freedom as to how much training they receive and how well they are trained, in terms of scope, there will be little change in improvement on road safety figures.   It is in many ways highly desirable to see what is naturally developing, as we all wait for the “human element” of this problem to be taken out of our hands  – what we then lose in freedom with driverless cars, we will truly gain in road safety.





 BIG TOM Driving School  Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Spalding, Stamford, Grantham. Boston, Lincoln and Bourne  Call NOW 0800 689 4174

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