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Tim bucks the “driving test fail” trend

tim pass

Big congrats go to Tim for passing his driving test in Grantham today!

This photo shows Tim immediately after passing his driving test in Grantham today. When he came to “BIG TOM” he had already had two driving test fails with a previous driving instructor. So we worked really hard with Tim to buck that trend. And Tim showed a lot of perseverance, and courage as he still went to test, despite suffering 3 failed mock tests too. But his determination paid dividends, especially when he heard those magical words from the Examiner “I’m pleased to say that you have passed your test”.

Tim mentioned how beneficial he found it to go through the process of doing the mock tests in Grantham, so as to raise his general standard of driving. He overcame issues relating to identifying hazards early and anticipating how they might develop, selecting the correct speed and gear on approach to junctions, doing effective observations when reversing, and adapting his driving to reflect differing conditions.

A massive well done to Tim, we wish you happy and safe driving!



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Smiles through the bad weather in Grantham

tom pass

Tom passes his driving test with adverse weather in Grantham.

Despite some appalling weather in Grantham this morning, Tom passed his driving test on his first attempt. I observed his test from the back of the driving school car, and there were some really tricky additional hazards that the heavy rain brings. The spray from the vehicles in front, and from the sides of lorries often produces a momentary problem with vision due to the volume of water on the front windscreen. The BIG TOM Driving School car does have some nice features like cruise control, automatic lights and also, crucially today, automatic adjustment of the speed of the windscreen wipers. This feature really does come into its own in heavy rain as it takes that additional action needed away from the driver who let’s face it, does have enough to think about in adverse weather.

Other consequences this morning included the need to increase the separation gap between us and the vehicle in front. In dry conditions, that gap should be at least 2 seconds on the faster moving roads of 50, 60, 70 mph, and no less than 4 seconds in rain. Flash flooding will produce very large pools of water on the side of the road, and if the drains and verge cannot absorb that water, it tends to create a hazard which if possible is best avoided to drive through. Not only do you not know how deep it is, and what is concealed under the pool of water, but also, at faster speeds, driving through those pools of water can affect stability and traction of the car on the road. Early spotting of them is really key, so that an assessment can be made if it is safe to manoeuvre away from the pool of water without adversely affecting other road users. Aquaplaning occurs when the cushion of water between road surface and tyre, momentarily affects steering and braking. The best advice is to spot the potential, ensure both hands maintain control of the steering wheel, check the central mirror to see how close any following vehicles are, and come off the gas.

Tom also had a few instances this morning in the middle of Grantham, where pedestrians and cyclists, who were getting thoroughly drenched, tend to take actions with a bit more urgency than normal. So being aware of sudden changes in their direction proved good, and also being aware someone may cross in front of the car, that they would not normally do in fair weather.

This short video HERE gives more practical tips about driving in heavy rain.

Big congratulations go to Tom for a job well done. As you can see by his smile, he was very pleased to pass first time – it opens up great opportunities in his work life, not to mention the new found freedom it provides.



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Passing her driving test in Peterborough “I did it! I DID IT!”

tina pass

Tina is a very, very happy lady!

Here is Tina having just passed her driving test in Peterborough this morning. She passed on her first attempt and is over the moon. Her initial contact with me sparked me into providing a blog for Learners about how to ensure that the driving instructor that you intend to have driving lessons with is a registered driving instructor with the DVSA. The blog is HERE and gives some helpful tips and hints that could save you a fortune. Remember that in this country is it illegal to charge for driving lessons if NOT registered with the DVSA.

However, Tina has today converted that negative experience and become a full licence holder where she can now enjoy the freedom and independence that being able to drive where she likes, when she likes, brings to her life. Her very kind feedback about BIG TOM Driving School is…

“Thanks Tom… .it’s coz I had a great driving instructor that I would highly recommend to anyone as he’s great”.



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I’ve Passed My Driving Test in Peterborough

John pass

Congratulations to John for passing his driving test first time!

Here is John, immediately after passing his driving test in Peterborough this morning. He has every right to be pleased with himself. At the age of 64 he has come to driving a little later than many, but was very keen to share the burden of driving with his Wife when they go on long journeys.

Although John would be first to say that he never looked forward as such to his driving lessons, he always felt comfortable in the car, and did the vast majority of his sessions in 2 hour blocks. This is what John had to say about his driving lessons last year:

“As a 63 year old who had never had a driving lesson I feel very lucky that I found Tom Ingram through the Directory. He is very patient and has a clear sense of how progress is made; he also has the ability to communicate that sense. He also has an excellent sense of humour and is open to the learner’s suggestions. All of which means that the lessons are enjoyable even for someone who still finds driving often intimidating.”

Big congratulations to John for passing his driving test in Peterborough on the first attempt and many happy years of safe, enjoyable driving with your Wife.



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Guaranteed pass on Intensive Driving Course

car side

Have you heard? Guaranteed pass on intensive driving course, yes you heard right, “you are guaranteed to pass your driving test on an intensive driving course”.

You know when things sound too good to be true, they usually are? Well, yes, the same applies above.

I feel the need to dispel a myth or 2 about intensive driving courses. I should firstly state my own experience in this subject. I have been providing intensive driving courses in Peterborough and Grantham for 5 years now, and they can be extremely effective. Only this week, a pupil of mine who did a 30 hour course in February, passed her driving test first time, some 2 months later; the only reason for the delay was due to poor weather resulting in a cancellation of her original test date. But, and it’s a big but, she did a 30 hour intensive driving course, and all of the negativity that I hear surrounding intensive driving courses appears to be coming from the 5 day 20 hour courses. For the record, I provide a choice of courses with different durations dependent on previous experience and ability, but not all providers do the same; some ONLY provide 20 hour courses.

I am increasingly hearing from very disgruntled parents and pupils who were under the impression that these courses provide a “guaranteed pass” – and I use those 2 words deliberately, it appears to be at the root of all the bitterness. But the fact of the matter is that often, not only do they not guarantee a pass at the test, they don’t even guarantee that having completed the course, you will be authorised to even do the test. One such Father, Mr Davis, contacted me very recently, and was very annoyed that he paid £899 for his Son to have a 5 day, 20 hour course with a provider in Peterborough, and not only did his Son get refused the opportunity to take the driving test having completed the course, but he would then have to pay for further driving lessons that could not be started for a further 3 weeks time!

And this appears to be at the heart of the issue. An intensive driving course is an accelerated learning programme and no provider can guarantee how much progress a pupil will make when they attend a course. The actual benefit, rather than being anything to do with how you progress, is actually that you are being given the opportunity to learn in a much shorter timescale than is the norm. How many hours one Learner requires can differ considerably to another, it is a complex mix of ingredients that include the learning style preferred by the pupil, the teaching style of the instructor, the environment which includes the comfort in the car and how the time is managed, and it also includes what other influences there are on the pupil eg peer pressure, attitudes to driving from friends/family, and previous experiences.   When you start to actually consider what might AFFECT the rate at which someone learns to drive, you begin to realise how silly it is to think that everyone can learn in a set time of 20 hours.

On BIG TOM Intensive Driving Courses, we pay attention to the detail. We treat our pupils as individuals not numbers, and we make every effort to create positive outcomes in ability and attitude that will help to create a safe, efficient driver for years to come.

My ending piece of advice is to not take anything on face value with any advertisement you see, question every aspect of the course, here are just 5 questions that I would recommend you ask all providers:

  1. If I am not ready to take the driving test after my course, what support would I then be entitled to eg how soon do I get more training, will it be with the same instructor in the same car and at what cost?
  2. Can you give me a breakdown of ALL the costs that I will need to pay to attend the course and use your driving school car for the driving test.
  3. How will I know if I am on track on your course, and what assistance do you give if I start to fall behind within the course itself?
  4. How do I know if my personal circumstances are suitable to attend your course? Do you adapt your courses to suit certain needs about how I like to learn?
  5. If I have absolutely no previous driving experience at all, is it realistic for me to attend your course, immediately take the test and pass it?

The answers that you receive to these questions will help you to decide whether an intensive driving course with that provider is good for you.

I hope this blog helps to erase some of the myths about intensive driving courses. Only today, Richard from Peterborough contacted us at BIG TOM and initially spoke of this “guaranteed pass”. Here is what he had to say after speaking with us:

“Hmmm, yes I see there are a lot of loopholes that most people would not see. I’m well and truly put off of the idea for sure, thank you for your wisdom, you may have stopped me from a possible bad choice.” Richard Lock

As we all know, there are very few guarantees in life, and it is utter nonsense to think that every single person can attend a 5 day, 20 hour course and have some kind of guaranteed pass on an intensive driving course. There is not even a guarantee that you will be ready to TAKE the driving test, let alone pass it.

For more details of BIG TOM Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough and Grantham, just click HERE.



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Help! I keep failing the driving test.

road closed

A Mum rang me today “Can you help please. My Son keeps failing the driving test”.

It turns out that her Son has now had 4 attempts at the driving test, and keeps failing for completely different reasons eg the Police were searching someone on the road and it put him off, on another test he drove the wrong way up a one way street. The relationship between her Son and the Driving Instructor had now broken down. But her Son has another driving test in 4 days time and she wanted to know could I assist?

At one point she said “It’s crazy, it seems to me that whether anyone passes the test or not is completely down to luck, depending on what else is going on”.

I can entirely see where she is coming from….. but would not agree.

I recounted to her the incident that happened very recently on a driving test in Grantham, whereby the Examiner said in Signal Road “At the end of the road, turn left please”.   I was in the back of the car observing the test, and saw that when we got to the end of the road, there was a long stretch of road works where half the road that we were turning into, was coned off. So now, there was only one lane of traffic in the road we needed to turn left into, but traffic could come from either left or right. Temporary traffic lights were at either end of the road works. We could just about see the end of the road works to our right, but it was blind to our left.

What to do? There were no traffic lights in Signal Road. Would you just emerge left and hope for the best?

My pupil looked right again, and saw that there was a car stopped by the temporary traffic lights. She waited for that car to eventually move towards us and THEN, she emerged left. Clever stuff. Thinking on her feet. She had correctly deduced that when that car to her right started to move, the traffic lights there would have turned green, and as such, the traffic lights controlling traffic to our left, would have turned red so she could move off. Turned out that she was correct. There were 4 cars being held on the other red traffic light when we passed them. The Examiner did not intervene once, and no mention was made of it in the de-brief either.

But consider for a moment how differently that COULD have gone if turning left too soon had been met by those 4 cars coming the other way! Who would be to blame? Would it be the fault of the people doing the road works for not including traffic lights in Signal Road? Would it be the fault of the Examiner for choosing a test route that had road works on it? Would it be the fault of the Driving Instructor for not preparing the pupil properly for such eventualities? Would it be put down to “test nerves”?

It is very easy to blame driving test fails on Driving Instructors, Examiners, other road users etc if you keep failing the driving test, but ultimately there is no substitute for driving experience. The ethos of BIG TOM Driving School is “Drive more, to experience more, to learn more”.   It is a winning concept, that truly gets results. If you keep failing the driving test, call us now on 0800 689 4174 or fill this very short form out and we guarantee to get back to you….. no excuses!



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Our 5 Day Intensive Driving Course in Grantham gets results!

kelly pass

This is Kelly who recently passed her driving test after doing the BIG TOM 5 day Intensive Driving Course in Grantham for £597.

She has a big smile on her face as she really, really needed to pass her test before she flew off for a year abroad! Time was very tight for Kelly! Her Examiner was the Test Centre Manager at Grantham Driving Test Centre who she said made her feel very calm, and helped by having a relaxed manner.   She was one of the first to pass her driving test at the newly located Test Centre on the A52, and she had no complaints at all with the new set up. Having passed her test first time with less than 5 driving faults she was very complimentary about the time she spent with BIG TOM Driving School on her 5 day Intensive Driving Course in Grantham.

“Great guy who knows what he is doing, I would definitely recommend” – Kelly

Thank you Kelly for your feedback, and have a really great time abroad!



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Grantham Driving Test Centre – New Location

grantham zebra 3

Grantham Test Centre


The location for Grantham Driving Test Centre has changed in March 2015. It can now be found HERE. This is a fabulous change for people taking their driving test at Grantham, and a large improvement on the previous small test centre in a dense residential area.

It is a former HGV check point and as such still has a very large outbuilding which is not used for the purpose of car driving tests. The large car park is controlled with a max speed limit of 10 mph and it also has strict lane segregation for staff, through traffic, visitor parking etc. One of the lanes that is used on the driving test at Grantham has a solid stop line which must be adhered to.

There are several parking bays that are used in a different area of the car park for the purpose of the reverse bay park, should that be your manoeuvre to do on the driving test. They are only on the right side however, so there is no option for performing a left reverse bay park. Having said that, the space available to do the manoeuvre is very large, much larger than the previous Grantham Driving Test Centre.

One of the other significant differences is that as you come out of the car park, you are now emerging on to the A52 which will have traffic travelling on it up to 60 mph. Again, this is quite different to the previous set up, that was located within 30 mph restrictions.

At the time of writing (09/04/2015), all driving tests undertaken under the BIG TOM Driving School have resulted in first time passes, so not only does this location represent a significant improvement in terms of the location, but as yet, we have yet to have a test fail.

And long may it continue…



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Take the correct documents on your theory test in Peterborough

Theory TestTake the correct documents on your theory test in Peterborough, the test centre is just here .  You will need to take both parts of your provisional licence.

It is incredibly easy to forget this detail, because most of the time, if any person has cause to ask you to confirm your age, showing them the plastic card of your provisional licence will normally be good enough i/d for them.  But not so when you take your theory or practical tests!  You MUST take the plastic card as well as the paper form.  One of the reasons for this is to do with fraud.  There are fake documents around (you might spot a member of staff flashing over a ultra-violet light above the documents) and also, when you are asked to sign the forms presented to you, not only will the member of staff be able to check your photo i/d, but they will check to see the signatures match up.

Should you be asked for your driving licence by a Police Officer, then the same rule applies, they simply will not accept seeing one of the 2 documents.  Most people are understandably quite reluctant to leave both parts of their driving licence in a bag or the glove box of the car for safety reasons, in case of theft, and the Police do recognise this as being a legitimate reason, hence the fact they give you 7 days to take both of them to a Police Station.

Recently, one of my pupils made the mistake of taking just the plastic card to a theory test in Peterborough and the staff very kindly extended the test time to an hour later to accommodate a quick dash home to retrieve the paper part of the licence – may have cost £14 in a taxi there and back but proved to be worthwhile as the result was a pass!  Better to have paid the taxi ride than lose the £31 test fee.  (By the way, I think the understanding from the staff that day was pretty exceptional, whilst it was very kind of them, I don’t think you would be able to insist on that level of generosity).

While I’m on the subject of test fees, a customer recently called me for some driving training prior to his practical test that he had booked up online, paying £87.  When I pointed out that the fee is actually £62, he was adamant that he had been charged £87.  I rather suspect that he had perhaps used the services of a third party organisation that had booked up the test on his behalf, after he gave them all of his details.  Apart from the obvious security issue here (your driving licence details are personal to you), there really is no need to be paying any organisation £25 for doing a task that is quite straight forward.  I have blogged before on how to book your tests, but in any case the link is hereAs you will see, there is no need to pay more than the £62 test fee when booking up your test.


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Driving Lesson In Bourne

“Legally, what do you need to have in the boot of your car?”

warning shotOne of my pupils, who is Lithuanian asked me this question yesterday on a driving lesson in Bourne and the short is answer is “nothing”. You do not legally have to carry a spare wheel or it even be legal in terms of pressure and tread, contrary to what many people think. However, if you do need to use that spare wheel, it does need to be legally fit for use. This video gives an overview of my recommendation.

Here is a printable list of what I would consider essentials to carry round with you in the car:

•  First Aid Kit
•  Spare Wheel and accompanying jack equipment (check it is all there!)
•  Breakdown triangle
•  Fuel
•  Jump leads
•  Water
•  Money (in hidden place if needed)
•  Thermal blanket
•  Operators manual (tyre pressures, emergency breakdown contact number, insurance details, jack points)
•  Jackets (preferably fluorescent)
•  Basic set of tools
•  Torches
•  Mat to kneel on if changing wheel
•  Pair of gloves (hands can get greasy/dirty changing a wheel)
•  Phone re-charger
•  A-Z map
•  Rags

Whilst this might seem a lot at first glance, many of these items can be purchased for less than £10. I would strongly advise that you aim to gradually obtain these items as not only are you preparing yourself should an emergency arise, you can often assist others in need too.


Driving Lesson Bourne

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