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Post lockdown driving training

We have now completed four weeks of driving training since being given permission to start post-lockdown, how has it been?

Since Super Saturday (04/07/2020), we have been providing driving training for our customers and it has gone very well so far.  All customers have been engaging in the Covid safe practices that enable us to resume training while minimising risks.  Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG  TOM) would like to say “Thank you” to everyone involved so far.

While the training continues the DVSA is committed to clearing the 210,000 driving tests nationwide backlog.  It is unclear as to how long it will take them to clear those tests, but until that date, we ask all customers to remain patient.  We have also been grateful to customers who have been flexible with the schedule to allow others to take emergency driving tests as and when required.  It will be beneficial to everyone to be flexible in these trying times.  Continue to monitor our twitter account  for the latest DVSA announcements.

We ask all customers to remain vigilant with monitoring their health for symptoms of the virus and contact BIG TOM Admin the moment they have any raised concerns.  This will enable us to keep things safe for everyone and keep disruption to training to a minimum.

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Five driving test facts

Make the most of your driving test slot – don’t get caught out and lose your test.  Look at these five things that you will need to have covered before your test starts

  1.  The inside of the car must be clean – if you take your driving test with BIG TOM this WILL be the case
  2. Don’t get to the test centre more than 5 minutes before it is due to start.  No-one goes inside the buildings any more (unless you want the toilets).
  3. Wear a face mask unless you have a good reason not to. This includes if:
    • you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
    • putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
    • you need to remove it during your test to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to you or others
    You must have told BIG TOM Admin if you have a good reason not to wear a face covering when they booked a test for you.
    It’s important that you have practised driving wearing a face covering before your test.
    If you have a problem with your face covering during the test, your driving examiner will ask you to stop so you can adjust it. The driving examiner will end the test early if it becomes a safety issue.
  4. Are you self-isolating? You must not come to the driving test if:
    • you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms
    • you’ve been told by the NHS Test and Trace service that you’ve been in contact with a person who has coronavirus
    • you have returned to the UK in the last 14 days (conditional on location)
  5. Big driving faults.  Should a serious or dangerous driving fault crop up, the examiner will direct you back to the driving test centre so as to minimise exposure time in the car.

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Staying Covid 19 Secure in 2020

This blog explains to customers the actions being taken by BIG TOM Driving School to mitigate risk of infection.

The notice (shown right) is displayed in the driving school car as a reminder to pupils, driving examiners and the public of our commitment to Covid safe practices.

BIG TOM Admin will have undertaken a risk assessment 24 hours prior to the driving training taking place having consulted with our customer regarding health screening questions.

The responsibility for open, honest and accurate communication of risk factors rests with us all.  No cancellations that result from increased risk of infection result in financial penalty – alternative dates will always be found.

Our working environment involves less than the 2 metre distance recommendation, and the following risk mitigations are in place:

increased frequency of handwashing pre/post in-car training, and sanitiser use in-car

facing forwards as much as is practicable that still maintains road safety

provision of sanitiser, face masks/coverings, tissues, disposable bags, disinfectant, anti-bacterial wipes

hourly pauses to allow for full ventilation and to disinfect car controls

rear windows open at all times, no air conditioning

minimising face to face discussions in-car

session briefings/de-briefings to be conducted outside the car

non-contactless forehead temperature reading for instructor & pupil

no exchanging of items in-car between instructor & pupil

suitable clothing/footwear to minimise exposed skin as is practicable

We ask all customers to ensure they contact BIG TOM Admin before a session is due to start, should there be ANY change in answers to the health screening questions.

The BIG TOM Covid-19 Driving Training Strategy has been developed after careful consideration of guidance from the National Associations Strategic Partnership.  Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram, has completed the DIA Academy ‘Covid-19 Infection Control and Safe Training Protocols Course’ on 28/06/2020.

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Review covid safe practices

Learner drivers and driving instructors have had a week of implementing covid safe practices.

Tomorrow will be one week on from driving training resuming in the UK. Owner of BIG TOM, Tom Ingram gives his thoughts on the changes that now occur:

“The first thing I would say is how pleasing it is to be able to get going again and helping customers. They’ve had a long wait and were really keen to start driving lessons.
So the balancing act that we are attempting to do here at BIG TOM is resume training as soon as able, as there is an incredible demand, but also do the training in as safe a way as possible. What I’ve been most impressed with so far is how willing and open our customers have been with our new protocols. And that is an absolutely crucial point about minimising risk; it does require honesty and open communications between instructor and pupil.
We are trying to streamline the processes, so as not to unnecessarily inconvenience our customers. One of the advantages of how BIG TOM operates is that it is in our culture to ask for feedback and make changes based on it.
I’m pleased to say that it is all going well at the moment. We’ve been finding theory test slots for customers without any problems, the in-car training has been really great, and I really hope that can continue as move on.”

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Superb customer experience

BIG TOM customers who reserve an intensive driving course are often surprised at the superb customer experience.

Georgia recently purchased a BIG TOM course.  She had a go at a driving test a few years ago.  Within 24 hours of bagging her course, she started to receive the benefits that come as standard in the package.  She said:

Awesome thank you, yeah I had used the resource last night so I’ll just keep practicing and I’ll have a proper look at everything you’ve sent me! Thank you! I didn’t get any of this stuff from my last instructor! 

This is a typical response that we get from our customers.  They are not used to the support and high quality resources that they receive.  And it is immediate, as soon as the course is reserved, the benefits begin.  Her theory test was booked by BIG TOM Admin within 24 hours of her enrolling with us.  Come and enjoy a higher class of customer experience.

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We make learning easier

BIG TOM has been making learning easier for customers since 2009.  It is what makes us tick.

This is what a few have said over the years:

He always had such positive things to say with the feedback.

…he has a wonderful ability to put you at ease and he really let me take control of my own learning

‘Will’ was at ease with you, he felt relaxed and liked the way you taught him.

Even when you make mistakes, BIG TOM remains very calm, cool and collected, which made the experience very comfortable for me as a pupil.

I’ve had many driving instructions over the years and I can safely say that Tom is the best I’ve found.

He created an engaging, student-led learning environment in which I felt comfortable talking about any problems openly and guided the direction of the sessions to best address my needs.

I can promise you if he can help you he will.

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Theory test pass for Molly

The good news is that things are getting back to normal again – Molly sets the standard with a first time theory test pass this morning in Peterborough.

She made use of the online resource that BIG TOM provides intensive driving course customers, as well as the online theory study support.  In fact, yesterday, she had a 1:1 focussed theory study with Tom on video call.  They used the data from the theory study resource to work on the topics that she was slightly weaker.  It turned out to be a winning strategy where Molly’s hard work studying has paid off.

Molly said this of the re-organised test procedure:

“We had to wait outside, and then when they unlocked the door we all walked in one at a time.  We had to put our licence in a box for them to check.  Then there was seats in the waiting room away from other people.  They did the turning out of pockets, rolling up of sleeves and show behind my ears to make sure nothing was tucked in with my face mask…. but all done at the correct distance away.  All the computers in the big room were spaced apart, so you’re not sat next to anyone.  It was quite busy, there was a group of men doing another test.”

Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM) says:

“It’s good to see some normality coming back.  Molly did well here by passing on her first attempt as the early signs are that test slots in general are going to be harder to come by than pre-lockdown.  But as she shows, if you engage with the resources here at BIG TOM, it’s well achievable and will save you a great deal of time, not having to wait for other attempts. I think that would be my general advice to BIG TOM customers, if you are serious about wanting to get your licence quicker, engage in our resources and strive to pass the theory and practical on the first attempt.  Well done Molly and thank you for giving us your feedback.”

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Guidance for taking tests

The DVSA have given some guidance to assist/reassure people when they go to take a theory or practical test.

Theory tests

There will be 2 metre distances for floor markings, workstations and chairs

Wearing of face covering if able*

There will be extra cleaning at test centres; workstations, computers, headphones

Use of protective transparent screens at the reception desk

Cancelling theory tests within 3 days*** is not financially penalised

Hand sanitiser available

Arrival in to the centre alone

* Do not use a face covering if you may find it difficult to manage, for example, you have a respiratory condition.

(The proposed changes to the theory test that were due to start on 14/04/2020 are not currently being implemented)

Practical tests

There is the following stipulation regarding test and trace:

Candidate participation in the NHS Test & Trace initiative is a
requirement for taking a practical test.  The examiner will ask the candidate;  “Can you confirm that you are taking part in the Government test and trace or similar national initiative and that you are happy for your details to be passed to the relevant tracing authority if needed for Covid-19 tracing purposes.”
Should the candidate not be taking part in the test and trace
initiative the test cannot go ahead.

Wearing of face covering if able** (need to notify DVSA if not able when the test is initially booked)

Only arrive 5 minutes before test

Any serious/dangerous fault on test results in returning to test centre

Cancelling practical tests within 3 days*** is not financially penalised

** you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering OR

putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress OR

you need to remove it during your test to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others

*** you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms OR

you’ve been told by the NHS Test and Trace service that you’ve been in contact with a person who has coronavirus OR

you have entered or returned to the UK in the last 14 days, except in very limited situations

You have to stay at home (self-isolate).  Change your theory/driving test appointment if you need to self-isolate on the day of your theory/driving test.

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Pay as you go driving lessons

BIG TOM is pleased to be providing customers with options.  For those not wanting intensive, pay…. as you go.

Availability for driving lessons is Monday to Friday from 6am – 9pm (we know how busy you all are).  These are paid online at £42/hr.  Weekends are also available at a slightly increased rate at £48/hr.

The aim has always been to give customers options about how they prefer to learn to drive.  People have got very busy schedules and sometimes can only fit in a driving lesson here and there – we get that.

Flexibility is the key, and BIG TOM is doing all we can to help.

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Covid 19 Safe Training Protocols Course

The owner of BIG TOM Driving School has successfully completed a course provided by The DIA Academy: COVID-19 Infection Control and Safe Training Protocols Course.

Customers should be assured that BIG TOM Admin will be utilising key systems as detailed in documents within the methodical strategy being adopted to ensure safety for all concerned while providing in-car driving training.  These include a Risk Assessment Framework Matrix & Checksheet, a Protocols Notification Form and this will inevitably have an impact on the manner in which we provide our service.  While we can reassure our customers that every effort is being made as a service provider to maintain the highest standards possible, we do ask our customers to  be as open and honest as possible with regards to informing us of any change in their personal or family home/friend network circumstances that may conflict with our goals.  We can assure all customers that if training does need to be postponed due to an unexpected safety risk, there will be no financial penalty due to cancellations, no matter how late they arise.

If you have any queries or would like details of the BIG TOM Driving School COVID-19 Driving Training Strategy, please get in touch with us: admin@BIGTOM.org.uk

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