Intensive Driving Courses – Learning Difficulties

BIG TOM Driving School provides Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Sleaford, Spalding, Stamford and Bourne (0800 689 4174). This blog looks at how a pupil with a learning difficulty is affected when learning to drive. In particular, this blog expands on dyslexia, what it is and how it affects pupils.

Dyslexia is what is termed as a “specific” learning difficulty, as is Dyspraxia, Autism, Dyscalculia and ADHD. It is a neurological learning difference. The word dyslexia itself has two roots, “difficulty” and “words or language”.   It is hereditary and currently untreatable. Whilst it is not guaranteed to affect all members of a family through the generations, it is currently estimated that 1 in 10 of the population is dyslexic. Whilst the term dyslexia has a rather negative feel about it as it is describing a difficulty, many dyslexics are very creative thinkers and it is widely recognised that this characteristic can be very much a positive distinction.

People with Dyslexia will have dominant right brain activity which is somewhat of a flaw when it comes to processing words and language as that is predominantly a left sided brain activity. However, as there is a need for continual exchange of processing words and language between the left and right side of the brain, a dyslexic will have some difficulty with that exchange. A dyslexic person in general terms will not favour learning by hearing so on our intensive driving courses we make a point of favouring visual and kinaesthetic learning styles. Here are some typical characteristics that can be encountered, it is not intended to be a comprehensive list:

  • Whilst long term memory is very good, short term memory can be poor. Remembering sequences, orders of numbers or letters, and times/dates can be troublesome. As such, we don’t make excessive use of tight structure when learning driving actions and sequences.
  • Reading may not be a strong point, so we can provide an alternative study aid for the theory test study that provides an alternative to reading from books or computers.
  • Spelling can be a challenge, as such whenever we ask a pupil to reflect on their learning progress so far, we would favour verbal reflection rather than written. We specifically do not make judgement or criticize any spelling errors that might surface on the course.
  • Motor skills can cause difficulty – co-ordination of hand control, multi-tasking between hands and feet driving actions. Handwriting, use of the gear lever, signal and wiper controls can all be challenging and is best managed with bucket loads of patience from the driving instructor.
  • “Visual stress” is something that we take into account whenever we show a pupil anything in the in-car training on our intensive driving courses. We pay attention to colours and font styles.

One of the key goals that we strive to achieve on our intensive driving courses is to build a relationship with our pupil where honest, open communication is encouraged. Whilst it is generally recognised that not all children and young adults will necessarily be aware of having dyslexia, there will be a need to be taught differently, so it is essential to develop a relationship where the trust and respect between instructor and pupil enables the necessary adaptions to be made. It is reasonable to expect there to be a longer period of time required to learn to drive, and having this open channel of communication assists in keeping the learning environment calm, stress free and positive.

At BIG TOM Driving School we have experience of teaching pupils with a range of specific learning difficulties and recognise there is often overlap between them, as well as teaching profoundly deaf and deaf-mute pupils.

BIG TOM Driving School Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Spalding, Stamford FREEPHONE 0800 689 4174


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Driving School in Bourne – weekly update 29/11/15

Your local driving school in Bourne (01778 309773) gives you all the motoring info around your area…


  • Taylor Wimpey, one of the developers on the Elsea Park estate in Bourne has publicly committed to resolving the footpath issue that was causing pedestrians to walk along the hazardous bypass, by the end of this year.
  • Cambridgeshire police are requesting the public to confidentially report any known incidents of drink driving over the Christmas period by calling 0800 032 0845 which is available 24/7
  • 38,000 drivers were caught speeding on Lincolnshire roads last year
  • The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Road Safety Partnership are supporting Leicestershire Police by urging all residents to put 30 and 40 mph speed limit signs on wheelie bins as a visible reminder to drivers. Get the free stickers by calling 0116 248 2440
  • Lord Charles John Yarborough pleaded guilty to exceeding the 30 mph speed limit in his Porsche in Lincoln in March this year, and has been handed a £410 fine and 4 points on his driving licence.
  • A 35 yr old male from Sleaford was found guilty of using a mobile phone while driving and ordered to pay £327 fines and had his driving licence endorsed with 3 penalty points.
  • BIG TOM Driving School attended a Driving Instructor CPD event on Sunday 29/11/15 in Nottingham where further notice was given of the impending potential Examiner strikes being undertaken next week across all test centres in the UK – where driving tests could well be cancelled with little notice. All candidates are still being urged to attend their driving test. The strike action is being undertaken also with a “work to rule” after DVSA proposals to Driving Examiners work schedules.
  • A Lincolnshire Road Death Remembrance Service was held at St Norbert’s Church in Spalding where the emergency services were thanked for all their work they undertake.
  • A 66 yr old lorry driver has been convicted of inflicting gbh on a cyclist after an incident where he tailgated the cyclist. Jailed for one year and £1000 fines.
  • A 58 yr old male from Grantham was ordered to pay a £327 fine for driving without wearing a seat belt.
  • A Peterborough resident was stopped by Police while driving at Kate’s Bridge on the A15 and found to be guilty of drink driving. Banned for 1 year, and fined £375
  • Following on from the report here last week re the speed survey in Baston, the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership continue to emphasise the message that it’s 50/50 if a child would die after being hit at 35mph.
  • A bridge nr Fotheringhay has been closed due to safety reasons after recently being hit by a lorry.
  • The A47 at Wisbech was closed to allow an air ambulance to land to treat a man in his 50’s who had suffered a heart attack after a wasp sting.
  • The proposed Tom Tom sat nav being used on the new driving test trials as previously reported on the BIG TOM Driving School blog is being sold at half price (£69.99) at Tesco stores.
  • Unleaded fuel is being sold at Sainsburys and Asda in Grantham for less than a pound! The BIG TOM Driving School twitter feed constantly keeps an eye on fuel prices in our region and will let viewers know of good deals to be had on cheap fuel prices.
  • Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue crews have advised all drivers to properly prepare their cars for winter driving after a serious accident on the A47 near Peterborough.
  • Firefighters rescued a trapped driver last Sunday after an accident in Castle Bytham.
  • A vehicle that was accidentally set alight in Main Road, Deeping St Nicholas was successfully put out by firefighters attending from Market Deeping.
  • Two motorcyclists have been convicted of dangerous driving after being seen to ride at 126mph on the A151 at Edenham near Bourne. They have been banned for a year, told to undertake the extended driving test and fined £730 each.
  • In 2014 42 people were killed on Lincolnshire’s roads and 356 people seriously injured. Up to 1/11/15 35 people have been killed and 224 seriously injured.
  • The Director of a Spalding based haulage firm emphasises the need for all professional drivers to check their eyesight is still complying with the law.
  • Age UK is running a minibus service for Deeping residents to Stamford, Spalding and the Deepings to help the elderly get to shops. The fare varies, details via 01778 344 935.
  • Drivers are being advised to carefully read the demands on their car insurance policy after attending a speed awareness course so as to ensure it is disclosed to the insurance company if legally required.


BIG TOM Driving School in Bourne   Bookings: 01778 309773


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Driving Instructor Training – New Career

This is typically the time that people start to review their occupations and review how satisfied they are with the home/work life balance. It can be daunting to consider a new path of Driving Instructor training and this blog aims to provide some light on the many unknowns that regretfully often put people off from discovering an occupation that offers flexibility of hours, job satisfaction and financial reward.

Continuing on from the popular BIG TOM blog about Driving Instructor training that provided you with a 20 minute questionnaire looking at how suited you are to this new career, a real life Case Study to reflect on, and the industry pass rates to qualify, now in this blog, I will be focussing on some of the typical questions that PDI’s (Potential Driving Instructor) often ask before starting the training.

Question: How long will it take?

Answer: The qualifying process can be turned round within a short number of months with some careful planning. Typically, people take between 1 – 2 years if they are fitting the training around their own work/home commitments; our last instructor took 9 months and 24.5 hours of training. Whilst there can be more to Driving Instructor training than the Part 1, 2 & 3 tests, the number of hours that you will need for each varies depending on previous related experience, driving ability, and prior theory knowledge. I would advise you to beware of a learning programme that tells YOU how many hours you will receive; this approach is not client centred as by its very nature, it is treating all clients like they are the same, with the same needs. All of us come into the profession with our own strengths and weaknesses, and being aware of those will help to plan an appropriate learning programme – this piece of advice can save you time & money!

Question: How much will it cost?

Answer: The answer to this question will very much depend on the training needs identified in the previous question; the most recent instructor paid £980 for his training. It is not uncommon for some people to need very little assistance for Parts 1 & 2. However, in much the same way with learning to drive, there is a risk associated with setting yourself a cap on time or financial allowance, as the path you take will be individual to your needs. If you ask around, you will hear of ADI’s (Approved Driving Instructor) spending between £1000 – £4000. Be careful here though, you are considering starting a new business and any new business will have needs that fall outside the Part 1, 2 & 3 assessment scope – being technically able to use effective marketing for your new driving school is not to be underestimated.  See our website for key foundation blocks leading to a successful driving school.

Question: Who should I go to for my Driving Instructor training?

Answer: You would do well to spend some time researching the options that you have available. From personal experience many years ago, bigger most certainly does not necessarily equate to better. The progress that I made in my own qualifying period was severely restricted by the work schedule of the national organisation that I selected. I ended up having to do my Part 2 training many miles away from my home just so that I could be trained sooner rather than later, and even then it took me a year to qualify. With large organisations can come inflexibility and waiting lists. Beware contracts; do read the small print, often organisations will be wanting you to sign up to a specified number of hours training that it will be impossible for you to change after you have formally agreed to it. A trusted, reliable, good quality provider of training will not need to use these tactics, they will be able to retain their clients because they are providing a transparent, well conducted service that clients can see is providing value.

Question: Will I be able to fit my Driving Instructor training around my normal daily schedule – can I train on weekends?

Answer: You certainly would be able to at BIG TOM Driving School but this is something that will need to be checked thoroughly with other providers. Regarding the in-car training you will need to check if you are picked up/dropped off at your home address, where your training will take place, over what duration per session, whether you will be the only PDI in the car at the time. These are all important considerations to check out because crucially they affect the learning environment. Ensuring you have a comfortable, enjoyable learning environment is often overlooked and can be a source of regret at the time and after the experience.

Question: Do I have to buy a new car to set myself up once qualified?

Answer: Certainly not! To run a reliable service that customers can trust and become to depend on you, your driving school car will need to be in good working order, but nowhere does it say you have to be in a brand new car. A frequent reason for newly qualified ADI’s struggling to stay in business initially is due to being committed to high weekly/monthly payments that include a brand new driving school car – it is an easy trap to fall into, and entirely avoidable

BIG TOM Driving School website for driving instructor training

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Driving School in Bourne – weekly update 20/11/15

Your local driving school in Bourne gives you all the motoring info around your area…


  • According to LCC the gritters treat 1,869 miles of roads in the county – just over a third of Lincolnshire’s entire 5,500 mile road network.
  • Baston Parish Council discloses findings from interactive speed signs that proves that 1% of 50,000 vehicles travel at over 45 mph (5mph + over the speed limit) through Baston.
  • A parking scheme survey has been undertaken in Grantham conducted by SKDC and could result in local residents being forced to pay to park in their streets in order to guarantee a place.
  • BIG TOM Driving School in Bourne is proud to be associated and support the festive plays at Bourne Corn Exchange this Christmas – enjoy the show!
  • Safety issues for Elsea Park residents in Bourne continue to mount with news that residents living in the most recent new-builds have no means of walking other parts of the development resulting in pedestrians walking along a busy by-pass with no footpath. This is the same development that has previously been reported for not finishing roads to a reasonable standard, with high kerbstones and raised drain covers. It also is the same development where according to representatives of the Elsea Park Trust, the Highway Agency decided not to paint any white lines marking junctions – apparently an initiative that raises road safety.
  • There are continued complaints about the parking charges at Stamford Hospital. Comparisons are being drawn with the charges that have been in place at Peterborough for years now.
  • A 21 yr old male resident from Stamford has been charged with dangerous driving and 5 counts of causing serious injury through dangerous driving due to the cruise incident at Orton Southgate, Peterborough on 8/8/15
  • Age Concern in Deeping are asking for volunteer minibus drivers to assist with the transport needs of elderly residents (01778 344935 or 01778 348987).
  • Collyweston Parish Council are asking for volunteers to assist with a community speed watch – sign on at the village shop.
  • Local Councillor at Kings Cliffe Parish Council raises the issue of inconsiderate driving and parking in the village.
  • A 25yr old male driver from Leighton Buzzard was seriously injured late on Saturday night on Kings Clifffe Road, Wansford, when his vehicle left the road and hit a tree.
  • Donations continue for the female driver from Werrington who was involved in the head on accident on a Peterborough parkway. Her 2 young sons have been offered VIP treatment at a Posh home match and invited to the Junior Posh Christmas Party.
  • A male suffered serious injury after a collision on the A15 nr Yaxley at 7am on Tuesday.
  • Peterborough Mags Court have sent a death by dangerous driving case to the Crown Court. It involves the fatal accident of young male cyclist 2 days before Christmas Day last year, on Storey’s Bar Road.



BIG TOM Driving School in Bourne   Bookings: 0800 689 4174


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How Well Am I Learning To Drive?

Are you finding that learning to drive is a very expensive process? When you ask yourself about driving lessons “How well am I learning to drive?”, you are oiling a very important cog in the machinery of ‘learning to drive’. This blog will give some details how this important process of raising self-awareness can literally save you lots of money.

The old style of sitting in the driving seat and waiting for your Driving Instructor to tell you what you are going to do on your driving lesson, where it will happen and then how you will do it, is just that…. old. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency monitor all Driving Instructors and they would frown upon this approach to teaching driving lessons. The reason why is because it is globally recognised that a person learns best when they are given the opportunity to learn in an environment that suits them. If one person is learning more effectively than another, then this has enormous benefits. The depth of learning is deeper; people will be more inclined to remember why and how they need to do a certain driving action – ultimately because they had a say in how they learnt it, it actually meant something to them. And the other major benefit that the DVSA are particularly keen to see on driving lessons is that the learning will be much more long-lasting. Their research suggests that far too many people who have passed driving tests are either having accidents soon after passing, or don’t actually feel too confident with driving on their own.

Wipe away any visions of teachers standing at the front of the class and you having to write down word for word what the teacher is saying. A driving lesson is a 1:1 learning environment, it can be, and should be, a much more personalised learning experience. Typical questions that might be asked of you in a driving lesson will include:

  • Did you get anything out of your last driving lesson? What do you remember went well?
  • What are you wanting to cover today in your driving lesson?
  • Where was the car positioned in the road, as you approached that last roundabout?
  • Do you have a preference of 3rd or 4th gear at 30 mph?
  • How does that noise the engine makes when you move off make you feel?


It is perfectly ok to answer those questions with the following responses:

  • Can’t remember actually, oh I’m so tired, I was up until 2am last night – I can’t even remember my last driving lesson.
  • No idea, whatever you want.
  • Search me, to the left I think, may have been to the right.
  • *Yawn* No, I’ll just put it in the gear you tell me to.
  • *Glazed eye stare* No response

As you can see, there is a certain degree of self-responsibility that comes with maximising your learning experience. This is unlikely to appeal to everyone. Some people literally do like to just do what a Driving Instructor says, not have to think very much about answering questions, or learning why they are being encouraged to do something, their attitude is….. what will be, will be. The degree of self-involvement is a personal thing.

Grace is a pupil of BIG TOM Driving School and recently started driving lessons in Bourne having not had any previous driving experience at all. After having done 4 driving lessons she asked if her friend could accompany us in the car, this is what Grace had to say after that driving lesson:

“When I got in the car with Tom and my friend I was anxious at first because I thought I might mess up but when in the car, myself and my friend came up with an idea to have her direct me around Bourne. At the end of the driving lesson I felt so much more at ease and comforted by the fact my friend was with me. She gave me the confidence I needed, I didn’t feel like I needed to impress her at all. She made me feel so proud of myself after. After the lesson my friend said how safe she felt with me and how proud she was of me, it really made me feel as if I’d accomplished something”.

What price would anyone put on receiving those benefits Grace speaks of? You can choose to have no involvement at all on how you learn to drive, or you can choose to take some responsibility for what happens and as Grace shows here, the benefits to you will be clear to see.


BIG TOM Driving School     Bookings: 0800 689 4174


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Driving Instructor Training


Before committing yourself to any particular provider of driving instructor training, find out first of all if this is something that really appeals to you. This BIG TOM Driving School (0800 689 4174) blog will help you to discover if you should start putting this thought that has been in the back of your head for some time… into reality.

At a recent Driving Instructor CPD event that I attended, Mark Magee the DVSA Registrar provided the latest statistics for ADI’s (Approved Driving Instructor) on the register. It is currently at an industry low at 40,150 – only 5 years ago it was in the region of 46,000 and this is despite the upward trend of PDI’s (Potential Driving Instructor) who are applying to become Driving Instructors. There is no shortage of PDI’s who are coming into the industry with their hopes and aspirations, but these are being dashed in the qualifying process as Mark Magee explained. There are 3 tests that need to be passed in order to qualify as an ADI, and typically the pass rates are as follows:

  • Part 1 – 56.7%
  • Part 2 – 54.4%
  • Part 3 – 32.1%       [Source: MSA Newslink Issue 278]

With that kind of pass rate of the Part 3, anyone considering even registering as a PDI with the DVSA would do well to make sure they enter the process with their eyes fully open. It is also worth mentioning that whilst the qualifying process of the 3 tests is assessing your ability to add value when you provide driving training, the tests do not cover how to run the business of a driving school, as such, many national driving instructor training providers are likewise restricted in the scope of their training. There is nothing more disheartening than to pause for thought for the thousands of PDI’s who eventually qualify to become ADI’s after much financial outlay and effort, only to then cease trading as a Driving Instructor through lack of business acumen.

Consequently, it is very common for recently qualified ADI’s to succumb to the obstacles that arise in attempting to make a successful and profitable driving school on their own, and they concede to joining an established and successful driving school for a monthly fee. But do beware, in the 6 years I have been in this industry, 2 such national driving schools have gone bust and been taken over.

Mark Magee from the DVSA did mention that proposals are being considered to change the qualifying test that has the lowest pass rate (the Part 3 test) by synchronising with the method of assessment that is already established which all ADI’s have to periodically undertake – this checks that learning is taking place with a pupil, and value is indeed being added.   Here at BIG TOM Driving School, this proposal is being eagerly anticipated. It has long been the view here that the role play undertaken by Examiners in the Part 3 test bears little resemblance to testing the necessary skillsets required when working with Learners. [UPDATE: This change is being introduced at the end of 2017]

One option that you have when considering if this job is for you, is to try out this short 20 minute questionnaire

Another option is to read this Case Study and as it is based on real life, you can perhaps balance the theory of the qualifying process with the reality of the day to day work.

This blog has attempted to provide some clarity and light regarding the real prospects of succeeding in training to become a Driving Instructor and the proposals being considered to alter the qualifying process.


BIG TOM Driving School – Bookings: 0800 689 4174


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Driving School in Bourne – weekly update 14/11/15

Your local driving school in Bourne (01778 309773) gives you all the motoring info around your area…


  • The driver who was seriously injured in a crash involving a 97 yr old driving the wrong way up a Peterborough dual-carraigeway is likely to remain in hospital over Christmas. A friend has opened a fund to help the injured lady who has 2 young children of 7 and 4 years of age.
  • Thurlby Parish Council are requesting that the LCC Highways traffic survey scheduled in the Spring 2016 of the A15 Horseshoe and Waterside junctions be brought forward.
  • New parking provisions and updates to pedestrian crossings costing £400,000 have been completed in Central Avenue, Dogsthorpe, Peterborough.
  • A 20 yr old male driver from Surfleet was given a 12 week jail term, 150 hours unpaid work community order, banned from driving for 2 yrs, £165 fine and an extended driving test order from Boston Magistrates Court. He caused a head on crash while dangerously overtaking a bus on London Road, Boston.
  • A lorry overturned on Saturday 7/11/15 on the Fletton Parkway, Peterborough near the Hampton turning.
  • A car was set ablaze in the early hours of 8/11/15 in Benland, Bretton, Peterborough, and a scooter was set alight on Tuesday just after mid-night in Fulbridge Road, Peterborough.
  • Yesterday a driver from Whittlesey was handed a 20 month driving ban at Peterborough Magistrates Court after driving into a ditch and being found to be over twice the drink drive limit. Fined £785.
  • In 2014, a record 40,000 tonnes of grit were used to treat Lincolnshire roads.
  • BIG TOM Driving School in Bourne are offering interested parties in becoming driving instructors to come forward. LINK HERE.
  • The new red “ER” signs being seen cropping up on the A52, A17, A16 and A151 at Grantham, Bourne, Spalding, Grantham, Long Sutton are flood evacuation route signs. Due to the 2013 floods, LCC emergency planners have identified the best roads to use in the event of evacuating homes, and erected these distinctive red signs at a cost of £105,000.
  • On Tuesday 10/11/15 2 women were injured after a 2 car crash on A607 nr Peashill Lane, Harlaxton.
  • Pip Dunn arranged an enormous DAF truck to be parked at Ayscoughfee Hall School for Yr 6 children to appreciate the size of a bike in comparison to it for their Bikeability training.


BIG TOM Driving School in Bourne   Bookings: 01778 309 773


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First time pass rates

£100 offThe DVSA is actively looking at ways of increasing the first time pass rates for driving tests. The current “first time pass rate” figure is 21% [Source: ADI NJC] as shown in the November BIG TOM Learner blog update HERE. More people fail their first driving test, than pass it.

As previously reported on this blog, official preliminary findings of the new driving test trials that are being undertaken across the UK now and in 2016 suggest that the new driving test has got a 10% higher pass rate than the current test.

But the DVSA are looking to do more.

They are proposing to offer a cashback of some of the driving test fee (£62 Mon-Fri, £75 Saturdays), should the candidate pass the driving test first time. It is intended to be an incentive to encourage Learners to gain driving experience and only attempt the driving test when they are properly ready to realistically pass it. The current evidence suggests, as is being stated by the DVSA, that the majority of people who currently are going for the driving test, are not ready to pass it.

Remember that in this country, the public are allowed to go to test at any time they choose – they can go to test in their own car, without having had any formal driving lessons with a driving instructor at all. As a result of this fact, the DVSA are limited in how they can control and monitor the responsibility of when a driving instructor advises a customer to go to test. Even if Learners do use a driving instructor for formal driving lessons, they can choose to ignore the advice of a driving instructor when it comes to the timing of taking the driving test, because they have every right to simply take the test in their own car if one is available.

At BIG TOM Driving School our current first time pass rates are 87% for customer who take the traditional pay as you go driving lessons. For our intensive driving course customers, that first time pass rate is 64% – these are both significantly higher than the average rates published by the DVSA for the whole of the country.

In our experience, one of the primary causes for low pass rates is when Learners only focus on the standard expected, and content of the driving test only. Rather than attempting to build up a bank of driving experience that will make them feel confident and able to drive in the variety of driving conditions and roads that will be presented after passing the test, many Learners fall into the natural and understandable trap of only considering what happens on the actual driving test. This has many flaws; driving tests are not undertaken in the dark, they are not undertaken in adverse weather, they do not include motorways, the difficulty of the test is determined by the location of the test centre (hence the huge variety of test pass statistics across the country).

In effect, many Learners are limiting the extent of their driving training because they enter the learning process with a pre-determined, conscious, limiting mindset based on the standard of the driving test only, and that will subsequently lower the outcome i.e. the standard of driving once the perceived goal has been reached. It is due to this fact, that BIG TOM Driving School has significant reservations for the preliminary findings of the new driving test trials. Without any additional training, no requirement for added driving time for increasing driving experience, and with the same quality of driving instructors, the pass rate of the new driving test appears (currently) to be producing a higher pass rate. If that means that the driving test standard is actually lowering, then when Learners who enter the process of learning to drive only with achieving that standard in mind, our concern is that the driving training industry is actually lowering standards. Whilst it remains in this country that a driving instructor is not given the responsibility by being provided with the ability to control the standard of candidate going to test, there is no possibility of raising standards.

The right to learn to drive has never been about intellect or affordability. The DVSA throughout history has attempted to ensure that all members of the public with no discrimination, is afforded the possibility to benefit from being a full licence holder. Even in this DVSA video, you will hear how they are attempting to appeal to Learners to gain more driving experience before going to test, but adding how that does not necessarily have to result in more driving lessons with a driving instructor – they are keen to give a message that more driving experience does not have to mean higher costs to the consumer. However, not all Learners have the opportunity to practise outside of their driving lessons with a driving instructor. Whilst this proposal doesn’t at this stage give an amount for the cashback being provided for a first time test pass, with average hourly driving lessons costing around £25 it is open to debate how effective will be this “cashback” incentive.

The official DVSA video HERE will provide you with the links available to offer your opinion of this proposal.


BIG TOM Driving School   Bookings: 0800 689 4174


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BIG TOM Driving School Case Study #1

BIG TOM Driving School (0800 689 4174) is expanding, and actively looking for people who might be interested in joining the world of driving training which is often very rewarding and can be rather challenging.

One of the key benefits of becoming a sole trader, is that as the owner of the business, you can choose your work conditions.  At BIG TOM Driving School we offer Driving Instructors the option of choosing the duration and period in the day that works for their personal circumstances.  The benefits that I can provide is in the advice, support and experience being offered having been in the industry for 7 years, and by being able to provide the level of workload that meets your needs – so there is no marketing experience required on your part at all.  This will significantly increase the chances of your new business not failing in the first 2 years of trading.

However, I am very much aware that before embarking on the effort required to re-train, it would be beneficial to have some kind of insight into the life of a Driving Instructor.  There is much to be gained from getting a sense of the actual work that goes on behind the scenes and in the car when providing driving lessons.  Without this insight, how would you really be able to assess if this is the kind of job that will appeal to you?  This blog is the first case study to provide you with precisely that insight.  It is current and it is real; whilst the identity of the individual concerned remains anonymous he had provided his consent for me to publish this case study, and for that I am very grateful.  I do not offer this as an opportunity for other professionals in the industry to cast judgement on either me personally or my driving school – I am running a very successful, profitable driving school.  It is however offered as an opportunity for “would be” candidates who are considering joining the BIG TOM team, to get a flavour of how things are done.  It will go into detail, that’s where the devil is apparently, and in my experience it is precisely this point that can make the difference.

When I talk of making the difference, it is worth considering for a moment what I am actually referring to there.  Mums and Dads across the UK can take out their young ones for driving lessons, there is nothing legally stopping them, but the crucial difference is that they are not demanding money in return for the experience.  Unlike us, they are relying on good will between them and their son/daughter, trying to remember good driving techniques, and a little bit of luck that nothing untoward happens along the way.  In the 7 years my driving school has been in business, I have not had one single accident/collision incurring any injury or damage at all – there is no luck involved in that.  A Parent will try their utmost to ensure that nothing awful happens when they take their young one on a driving lesson – they will rightfully EXPECT nothing awful to happen when their young one goes on a driving lesson with a Driving Instructor.  But more than that, this is the world of learning, education, personal development, training, however you like to phrase it.  When we are paid for our service we should be making sure that progress, confidence, achievement, ability, competence, experience are all being attained in a positive, upward trend, because if not, far from assisting our customer, we are in fact putting obstacles in the way to their personal development. So, whatever happens, it is good to keep in mind what our goal as a professional Driving Instructor actually is – our goal is a satisfied customer.  Customers come in all shapes and sizes, with varying emotional baggage, physical and mental ability, influences and attitudes to learning – it matters not, it matters not one iota, what DOES matter is that in the process of providing our service, we satisfy our customer.

I offer the following Case Study as an opportunity to raise awareness of the life of a Driving Instructor, and provide some basis to consider what skills and mindset is expected.


Case Study #1 – Jo

Jo is a 17 yr old male from a mid-sized town of about 40,000 population.  He lives with his Mum who is divorced from her husband.  Next door to him live his Grandparents, his role model in life is his Grandad who he respects dearly.  He has an elder brother who is 20 and lives with his Dad.  He did have another older brother who unfortunately died in a road traffic accident 8 years ago at the age of 16.  Jo had previously boxed to a high standard, boxing was in his blood and in the history of his family background.

It was his Mum who contacted BIG TOM Driving School after she searched Google online and could see lots of results for BIG TOM.  Once arrangements had been made I was then told to call Jo’s Dad for payment of the course which came in total to £1335, which he did on the same day without any delay.

On the 1st day of his driving course, Jo informed me how close he had been to passing his theory test, but as we travelled around that day (4 hours), it was very apparent to me that he actually had very little theory knowledge at all.  There appeared to be a large disconnect between what Jo was telling me and what I was witnessing.  He clearly had previous driving experience, and when I gave him a tip of how to control the car from rolling back when waiting to emerge from a T junction with a hill, he picked it up immediately.  However, whenever I attempted to engage in conversation about his goals for learning to drive, enquiring about his attitude to learning in general and his learning preferences he was completely switched off.  I attempted to outline how we can monitor his progress as he goes along, giving him different options for the level of engagement and ownership.  There was very little eye contact, he was visibly agitated, we had yawning, we had non-committal answers, we even had “I don’t know, whatever you think”.  As such, it was obvious to me from the very start that Jo was taking on no responsibility as to how he learnt, or how he intended to gauge the effectiveness of his learning.  It actually went further than that, when I asked Jo what his objective was he said “To pass the test as soon as I can”, nothing particularly unusual in that response.  When I asked if he could foresee any barriers that would prevent that from happening, he rather worryingly quipped “No, I actually NEED to drive Tom, if I don’t pass the test, I’m going to drive anyway with or without a licence”.  People will sometimes say things they don’t mean, but sometimes they will say it and mean it.  Always reminds me of a young female pupil in Peterborough many years ago, who gave the most honest and interesting answer to one of my questions I have ever experienced.  When we pulled up in Morrisons Car Park, and sensing that the learning curve was pretty flat at that moment, and wondering why that might be, the answer I got back while the pupil looked me straight in the eyes ….. “apathy”.  I don’t think I will ever forget that one word answer for as long as I live.

I left the first session reflecting on what I had just observed.  I saw confidence, arguably, over-confidence bordering on arrogance, I saw a young, happy go lucky male who could already “drive” but was most certainly not engaging his brain while he was driving, and was getting his lefts and rights mixed up.  The co-ordination of hands and feet was there, he was bright, a quick learner, but he had a very short attention span, any more than 30 minutes he started to get restless – but we had already agreed a coping mechanism for that eventuality.  At this point, when asked if there was any trauma he had witnessed in a vehicle, or any problems of any nature that might affect his learning, he declined to give any details.  This is an important question to ask early on.  With the best will in the world, it can be extremely difficult as a Driving Instructor to deal with obstacles to learning, if you aren’t actually aware of their existence, nature, or root cause.  There can be many reasons why pupils and family of pupils decide to withhold this information, but nevertheless, in my experience, the question should be asked, and asked really early on.  The relationship between pupil and Driving Instructor should be built around mutual respect, trust, honesty and open communications.  As I reflected on my way home after that initial session, I had concerns about certain aspects of our relationship.  And if that wasn’t enough, I was acutely aware there was not a mutual understanding and acknowledgement of the responsibilities to be shared between us for effective learning, and certainly no existence of a self-need to continue learning after the test had been passed.  One of the vibes that I had picked up in our conversations on that first day was that money appeared to be no object for this young man; if he could buy a driving licence, that is exactly what he would have done, but in the absence of being able to do that, he would settle for his Dad buying my time, and that in itself would result in the same outcome of getting a driving licence.  The bit in the middle of his Dad and me, namely Jo, was conveniently being parked outside of the equation for reasons which I knew I needed to get to understand.

On the 2nd day, Jo was only able to attend for 2 hours rather than the planned 4 due to a hospital appointment.  There was some improvement in goal setting though.  Jo wanted to know more about the manoeuvres, unfortunately for me, he was only referring to them as “the test manoeuvres” which told me his head was still in test mode. But we agreed a plan of how he was going to achieve that goal, and there was some sense of normality when we were able to bring some semblance of structure to the driving session that included some reflection and feedback that turned Jo’s thoughts into his feelings of his actual v intended ability.  However, what had begun to creep into Jo’s driving style was body language of a driver that we tend to associate has been driving for many years.  The left hand was barely in contact with the steering wheel, the right hand was positioned at 12 o/c on the steering wheel, with the wrist being the only point of contact with the steering wheel and his fingers tapping away at the dashboard.  Never mind any consideration of how this would be interpreted on a driving test, these are the actions of a driver who has little regard for safety or proper control of a motor vehicle.  As a Driving Instructor we are constantly observing driving actions, assessing what are the consequences if a driver were to habitually drive in a certain manner. It is very easy to fall into a trap of expecting rigid compliance of driving actions from a pupil, thinking that we are doing them good by insisting how they steer, or how they do observations, and often all this actually does is ensure that these instructions that the pupil has had to comply with for the last 30-40 hours of driving training, and the driving test, are completely ignored once the test has been passed; purely and simply because the pupil was never given the opportunity to consider why a driving action needs to happen and what are the options available to achieve that aim.  However, steering a car using the underside of the wrist only does not fall into this list of options!  But it masks a more important issue, the brain.  What this driving action told me about Jo’s attitude to learning to drive.  On a driving test, the Examiners do not concern themselves with any level of interrogation when they see a driving action – it is graded instantly there and then with the outcome, and that is the end of the matter.  But we as driving trainers as opposed to assessors, have the opportunity to delve into the mind, understand why a driving action occurred.  It may be due to tiredness, nerves, deliberate non-compliance, a momentary lapse of attention, a distraction, a lack of perceived importance, fear, a sensory failing, overloading on the brain.  We get the opportunity to root cause why something occurs, whether to place priority on it or not, to choose if this is something that is deserving of more time and attention.  But all the time remembering that the manner in which we analyse must strive to be effective for the particular pupil, and if there IS a need for a change, then the change must be meaningful for the pupil – if the desired behavioural change is not meaningful to the pupil, we are achieving nothing other than lightly tapping the head of our own perceived self-importance.  The “value” we bring to the table is in relation to the long-term improvement of the pupils driving self-awareness, confidence and ability – it has nothing to do with sleeping soundly after insisting on strict compliance to 10 blind spot checks in a 1 hour driving lesson.  And the gap that we can often witness between a pupil’s perceived behaviour and their actual behaviour is very much reflected in real life after the driving test.  There are a bunch of reasons why someone will text while driving, or park outside a school on yellow zig-zags, or tailgate, or speed but as Driving Instructors if we can tap into their inner conscience, and help them to become aware of what they actually do rather than what they think they do, then we are in effect transferring that responsibility of considering the consequences of how they drive over to their shoulders, rather than allowing that label of responsibility to leave the car, once the pupil passes the test and drives unsupervised.

I like to keep in touch with Parents, particularly when training a young adult of 17.  In the main, Parents very much appreciate being kept in the loop, they are very grateful for keeping communication channels open – we are after all training their beloved in a life skill that can have fatal consequences if they are not trained well, and the Parents are often paying for the service.  Whilst our concern of the relationship between pupil and Driving Instructor is valid and necessary to consider, how pupils and Parents communicate is clearly not in our control.  The next day Jo was present for just 2 hours, due to not feeling well.  He asked to do some driving on country roads, and in particular bends, the actual reason for this request was going to surface a couple of days later.  But I was happy to assist with working on “limit points” to judge the severity of bends and get the correct speed and gear on the approach.  His learning was quick, he picked it up fast when he applied himself.  He openly mentioned about being dyslexic in this session which was easily remedied with a coping mechanism that we actioned immediately.  He was acting in a different manner from the carefree (some might say reckless) mode of driving; paying little attention to speed signs, traffic lights, proper handling of the steering wheel, all of this was out, in was a conscientious, thoughtful driver.  Clearly, the intervention of his Dad had an effect.  But he could not do more than 2 hours.  On reflection after that session, I had visions of a caged animal that was desperate to be freed.

The next day was a “no show” for Jo due to illness.  I managed to speak to his Mum in person who was indicating that his illness was mysterious but nonetheless apparently genuine.

On the next day, Jo arrived rather sheepishly in the car, saying he was still not feeling very well, but would try to do 2 hours instead of the planned 4 hours.  However, when he got in the passenger seat, after just a few minutes of me driving away, the pungent smell of alcohol was overbearing and Jo was swiftly returned to his home, telling me he had only had “a couple” of drinks the day before.

This was undeniably a ‘low’ for me, it was disappointing, and not a little insulting – and resulted in another phone call to the Father who understandably was getting infuriatingly frustrated.

The next day I made further attempts to keep the training relevant to Jo.  He asked to do more training on the reverse parallel park, in particular controlling the speed so as to control the position.  Jo achieved this goal, within a short period of time to his satisfaction.  On one of his intervals, we spoke about role models, and Jo spoke of the respect he has for his Grandad.  I relayed my concerns to Jo not about passing a driving test, he would breeze a driving test, but more about the safety of him and others once he passes his test.  We talked about the factors of road safety, what Jo can control and what he can’t.  We spoke of coping mechanisms for the factors that he has no control of.  He openly informed me of the nature of the death of his 16 yr old brother 8 years ago, who had been driving and slid off a country road bend in to a tree and died.  We spoke of my role in his driving training, what my job entailed, and what value would I be able to provide to him as a Driving Instructor above and beyond what a member of his family could provide if teaching him how to drive.   We spoke about the legal aspects to driving, and whilst he had good knowledge of the system of points being totted up on his driving licence, and how that differed to someone who had been qualified for a longer period of time, he openly acknowledged he had very little knowledge of actual driving offences.  He had little regard for the law.  He stated that he will very likely be driving all over the UK once he has passed his driving test, but he realises he has little knowledge about the Highway Code.  He informed me that he had booked up his 2nd attempt at the theory test, and that he had more time to do study.  I started to discuss with Jo about the need to “own” the learning process – gather the elements that were meaningful to him such as responsibility for safety, learning the law, monitoring his progress in a truthful, honest way – and not be shy to acknowledge and deal with any shortfalls.  I drew an analogy with his boxing experience and offered him to open up about how boxing training conditions a fighter to be absolutely focussed and confident in their ability.  He described it as “isolated” which was exactly how I felt his driving training was going.  We had time to review what he felt went well for him, and what could have been better.  He then independently set up the agenda for the next days training.

This is a “moment in time” snapshot of my opinion, as a Driving Instructor, of my work with a pupil.  Obviously, our pupils do have their own opinion which can and often will be very different to our own.  Their preferred style of learning is much more important than our preferred style of teaching; everything must be done to try and identify with pupils needs and accommodate them to their satisfaction.  There are a variety of reference material that I would bring to your attention. Just click on the links:


BIG TOM Driving School Customer Charter

National Standard for Driver & Rider Training

Guidance for Driving Examiners Carrying Out Driving Tests

Guidance for Driving Examiners carrying out Instructor Tests

The GDE Matrix (download)


If you are interested in this Case Study, and feel that you would like to find out more about training to be a Driving Instructor with BIG TOM Driving School.  Get in touch.  Here are details of our current campaign that closes 31/1/16.

UPDATE (1/2/2016): Our recruitment campaign has now formally closed – thank you. Tom Ingram (Owner)


BIG TOM Driving School   FREEPHONE: 0800 689 4174


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BIG TOM Driving School – Learner information November 2015

Driving Test Pass Rates

The latest DVSA driving test pass rates that they publicly publish (29/9/15) indicate that the overall UK pass rate is 46.7%   Grantham is 52.3% and Peterborough 45.2%. Their latest stats on how many candidates pass their driving test on the first attempt is 21% [Source: ADI NJC]. Here at BIG TOM Driving School we publish our first time pass rates on the Facebook pages for our Intensive courses – 64% and our traditional ‘pay as you go’ driving lessons – 87%. As can be seen, both of these first time pass rates are significantly higher than the “average” performance in the industry. Not all driving instructors are the same, there is a reason why some provide cheap driving lessons.


Test Confirmation Emails

When our customers make use of our popular test booking service, we will automatically forward you the email confirmation of the test. Please read the email, it has important information about the location of the test centre, the time to arrive, what to bring with you.


New Driving Test

The new driving test trials are continuing, and there are more driving test centres being added to the original trial list. We heard at a recent CPD event for Driving Instructors that preliminary findings suggest that the new driving test results are producing a 10% increase in the pass rates when compared to the current test pass rates. We will continue to monitor the situation for our customers and keep them up to date with the very latest information. Just so that our customers are aware, BIG TOM Driving School uses Peterborough, Grantham and Boston Driving Test Centres, none of which are in the trials – if any had been, we would have requested to also be part of the trials.



BIG TOM Driving School has an extensive range of driving publications that customers can get free access to. We have Theory Test books and DVD’s, Roadcraft, Essential Driving Skills, The Highway Code, Know Your Traffic Signs + many more. We ask for a small deposit that is returned to you on the safe return of the publication. If there is any resource that you have discovered that is not in our library, do let us know. We will happily purchase copies and make them immediately available for our customers.

Do let us know of any subject you would like us to cover on our monthly Learner update.


BIG TOM Driving School   FREEPHONE: 0800 689 4174


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