A Driving Instructor's Blog

DSA

It was announced last summer that the DSA would merge with VOSA to create a single body. As of Wednesday, 2 April 2014, this change took effect and the combined body is now known as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

There’s no information yet about when – and if – there will be a specific logo for the new body. The number of hits I’ve been getting on the blog asking suggests that this is important to a lot of ADIs for reasons which are unclear. Far more important is the financial impact – good, bad, or remaining the same – on those who use it.

For anyone who needs to contact what used to be VOSA or DSA, just use the same numbers and addresses you always did until new ones are announced. Outwardly, there is no real change at the moment.

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The driving test turned 80 years old yesterday. It came in as part of the Road Traffic Act of 1934.

Back then, there were almost 7,500 deaths each year on the roads. The figure is around 1,750 today. The only major changes since 1934 have been the mandatory use of speedometers and safety glass (1937) and compulsory seatbelts (1983). In 1990 it became Law that supervising drivers must be 21 or older and have held a full licence for three years, and this apparently resulted in a major fall in accidents. A written theory test was introduced in 1996, and the Hazard Perception Test in 2002.

One comment in this news source intrigued me:

…the fatality figure last year stood at 1,754, and although there is still some way to go before we see an end to deaths on our roads, the figure proves that legislation works.

So it appears that someone somewhere is expecting – in all seriousness – that road casualties will eventually reach 0%. People really do talk nonsense sometimes. I’ve got more chance of winning the Lottery every week from now until the day I die than that has of happening. It’s a totally unrealistic target. Someone needs to look up the meaning of the word “accident”.

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As was reported in October last year, the option to take theory or practical tests in languages other than English or Welsh will no longer be available from 7 April 2014. This means that theory tests will not have voiceovers, and practical tests will not be conducted with interpreters. English and Welsh theory test voiceovers for special needs candidates will still be available, and it will still be possible to use a BSL interpreter if you require it.

The DSA has sent out a reminder that the deadline date is fast approaching.

Just to emphasise. At the moment you can have the theory test in the following languages:

  • Albanian
  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Cantonese
  • Dari
  • English
  • Farsi
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Kashmiri
  • Kurdish
  • Mirpuri
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Punjabi
  • Pushto
  • Spanish
  • Tamil
  • Turkish
  • Urdu
  • Welsh

From 7 April 2014 the list will look like this:

  • English
  • Welsh

And from 7 April you will only be allowed to have a BSL interpreter. No other interpreter will be allowed.

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This is some good news for anyone with a driving test booked. From 1 April 2014 you will not lose your test fee if you have to cancel at short notice due to:

  • a medically certified illness
  • a bereavement
  • school exams

You will still need to apply a little common sense and expect to have to provide proof of whatever your cancellation reason is, but this is definitely a change for the better.


I suppose it was only to be expected that the vultures would find something wrong with this. The very same people who have, for years, been been whining about their little darlings losing test fees appear now to have issues with this show of humanity from the DSA (or DVSA as it will officially be known in a few weeks time).

Driving instructors should concentrate on their own jobs – not the DVSA’s. Who gives a shit why the DVSA is allowing school exams to be a reason for not losing your fee if you cancel. As I said above, you’re probably going to have to provide some proof and if it is clear that you knew about the exam 6 months ago then you might end up losing your fee after all.

The change is for the benefit of genuine people with genuine excuses who would previously have lost their test fee. Lying weasels will probably still be in for a bit of a shock if they try it on.

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This is an old post. As of 2017/18 they have been using the new check sheet, and Part 3 is now carried out using the single assessment sheet (no more PSTs).


A while ago the DSA circulated a Quick Guide to the new Standards Check that will replace the Check Test from 7 April 2014.

PDF logo - download 2014 Standards Check sheetWithin the guide is a link to a PDF file showing what the new Standards Check Marking Sheet will look like from April onwards. I’ve included a link to it here (click the image on the left) in case you can’t access it on the GOV.UK site.

A reader also commented to me recently that the DSA had “taken down” the PST sheets from their website. I wasn’t aware that they had them there, but if they ever did – and it would be great IF they did – I would imagine that these will have to change at some point to keep in line with the Standards Check/CCL approach.

The PST Sheets can be downloaded from the blog here. I stress that I can only vouch for these up until 7 April 2014.


They’re still valid as of June 2014. I should also point out that I have never said that they HAD changed, or that they WILL change – I am merely surmising that they will have to at some point. This simple logic seems to be beyond certain specimens out there.

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The DSA (soon to be known as the DVSA) has sent out an email announcing that from 7 April 2014, the date from which the new Standards Check will replace the original Check Test, a new grading structure will be in place for ADIs.

The current scoring system has grade 4 (satisfactory), grade 5 (good), and grade 6 (excellent). Grades 1-3 are below standard or “fails”. The new system will simply have three grades: grade A (good), grade B (satisfactory), and Fail.

In all the years I have been doing this job I honestly can’t remember having been asked once what my grade is. Even when the topic has arisen later on during lessons, no one has shown any real interest in the grades. The only person who DOES have in interest is me – in the early days I wanted to improve, and in the present I want to maintain my standards. My grade was a good way of monitoring that.

I don’t have any issues with the new grading system from a practical perspective. It won’t alter the way I do my job, or affect my earnings, and unless I suddenly start being a crap instructor the chances are I’ll just end up with an A (even a B wouldn’t matter, except to my ego). Politically, though, the change is pointless. No matter what the DSA/DVSA says, parents and learners don’t give a toss about grades, and combining the original grades 5 and 6 into a single grade A hardly helps instructors “promote themselves” in any useful way. All most learners are interested in initially is passing for the least cost, then – after many have been bitten by cheapos delivering poor instruction because they’ve cut their overheads to minimise the effect of cutting their prices – a damage limitation exercise with a decent instructor charging decent prices.A monkey could do this job - and they often do!

Mind you, it remains to be seen whether or not the new Standards Check actually fails more instructors than the previous system. The DSA/DVSA’s preoccupation with “sub-standard instruction” that it never actually attacks head-on might come to something then.

Recently, I’ve picked up a handful of pupils from other instructors, and given the number of hours they’ve had in lessons – bearing in mind that they have now had one or two sessions with me, and I’ve been able to assess their capabilities – their lack of progress towards the test is shocking. They’re far more able than their progress suggests.

One pupil commented that she’d had over 50 hours and “couldn’t understand the stickers” in her school car because they “didn’t line up” the way her instructor kept saying. I’ve written about these bloody stickers before. They don’t work.

And another immediately stalled my car because she’d been taught in a diesel and her jackass of an instructor had taught her not to use gas (presumably, just to save him a few tenths of a penny in imagined fuel costs). I’ve written about that before, too. It happens a lot. How can you call yourself a driving instructor if your pupils can’t drive in any car other than yours if they manage to scrape a pass?

A monkey could do this bloody job – and unfortunately, they often do. Even worse, they sometimes manage to do it for years, putting on a brilliant show for the periodic check test which doesn’t pick this sort of nonsense up.

Will the new Standards Check get these kind of people off the Register? I doubt it – but until it does, any grading system will remain meaningless.


The story has been picked up in certain corners of the media. This article says:

Becoming a driving instructor has become a popular way for people to boost their income in recent years, and the authority, formerly known as the DSA, is concerned that standards in tuition are slipping.

Although I agree with them, that isn’t what the DSA/DVSA is saying at all. It might be thinking it – but it isn’t saying it. The article also says:

Learner drivers are urged to check that their driving instructor is fully qualified, by looking for a green DVSA certificate, which should be displayed in their car’s windscreen. A pink certificate indicates that the instructor is a trainee who is gaining experience as part of the qualification process.

I can see where they are coming from, but they could have worded it better and less ambiguously. Although I never had a pink licence myself, the “pinkie” remains a common route to becoming a fully qualified ADI. It is wrong to denigrate it without some sort of clarification.

If someone is hiding their pink badge, or if they lie about their status, then you should definitely dump them and look elsewhere. However, people who are openly using the pink licence for its intended purpose (and who are not charging full lesson prices) should not be dismissed outright as potentially suitable instructors.


How often is the Standards Check carried out?

It’s supposed to be once in any 4-year period. However, if you get a poor result (i.e. if you fail a check) then you’ll be tested again much sooner than that.

The Standards Check was only introduced in April 2014, and it is too soon to say whether or not DVSA will adhere to this 4-year time period. With the old Check Test, if you believe what some people say, they weren’t tested for 6 or 7 years or more sometimes. Yet it was supposed to be done within similar time periods.

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This story certainly goes against the grain of comments I’ve made in the past. While the old Chalfont Drive test centre was operating, I made a point of the fact that the pass rates both there and at Colwick were about the same – with Colwick being very slightly higher (about 0.2% higher when I commented in 2011).

That has all changed. The Nottingham Evening Post reports that Colwick currently has a pass rate around 46.4%, whereas Beeston’s is a whopping 55.1%. Clifton has a much lower rate of 36.3%.

It makes it difficult for me to continue to argue that if someone is ready for their test then it doesn’t matter where they take it. Having said that, I do more than 90% of my tests at Colwick and my overall pass rate last year was well over 60%. I’ve only ever had two tests at Clifton, with one pass and one (recent) fail – the fail was for a very specific and correct reason. All my tests except one this year have been at Colwick, and my overall pass rate at the moment is 50%.

I still maintain that if someone is ready for their test then it doesn’t matter where they take it. However, there is now no way of avoiding the argument that someone who is less test-ready than someone else would stand a better chance of passing at Beeston, and a greater chance of failing at Clifton. Bugger.

In the article, a local instructor suggests that the extensive tram works in that area means that test candidates spend more time stopped or driving slowly, and this gives them more time to think and plan ahead. I’d agree with that. Mind you, whenever I travel over that side, the variable road layouts (they change from one day to the next without warning) have always struck me as a major risk factor. But in my experience of Beeston tests (I had a run of them last year), examiners avoid the Nottingham side somewhat and direct tests away from the road works. Comments by a typical learner are worrying:

The higher pass rate does make me more hopeful on what will be my first time.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the tram works finally end and tests can be conducted on more routes on the Beeston side.

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A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the irresponsible advice being given to candidates (and likely to be taken up by any ADI who is a sandwich short of a picnic) to covertly record their driving tests. For anyone who has trouble with big words, in this context “covertly” means doing things in secret or without the knowledge of others.

Most Test Centres have a clearly placed notice warning that recording of driving tests is not allowed. If recording is found to be taking place, there will be an initial request to switch it off. If this is refused, or if suspicions are still aroused, then the test will be terminated and the candidate will lose their fee.Dashcam on windscreen

For the record, the DSA is not impressed that they were misrepresented in Fleet News as a direct result of Policewitness.com’s blatant attempts to sell more of its dashcams by urging people to behave dishonestly, and the suggestion that tests are completed according to some sort of agenda. The DSA has also pointed out that they do not allow recording of tests because a single (or even dual) camera cannot provide an accurate record of what was happening all around. They point out that the most common cause of test failure is poor observations, and that a single, forward-pointing camera (or even a dual, rear-pointing one) could not pick this up anymore than it could pick up what was happening either side of the vehicle. They also point out that they have no problem with cameras being fitted – they provide useful training opportunities for pupils on lessons – but they must be switched off during tests.

A normal human being would have no trouble accepting this. But of course, not all ADIs are normal people, and many believe that just because they have a spanking new cheapo camera off eBay then they should be allowed to use it on tests. I recently heard several comments about how the DSA shouldn’t be worried “unless it has something to hide”. This is precisely why cameras must not be allowed – the people saying this kind of thing already believe the DSA does have something to hide, and they’re itching to take issue and show how clever they are.

An example. Last week I had someone fail his test. On his lessons he had already shown a tendency to react to a red light above all else – even if the directional lights applying to him were on green (he had done it three times over two months of lessons). Well, he only got a couple of faults on his test, but one of them was a serious for response to traffic lights. When I questioned the examiner (ours are very helpful), it turned out he stopped at a notorious set of directional lights which were on green for the direction he was heading.

On the way home, he said “I knew you would make an issue out of that, but it definitely wasn’t what you think. I just stopped for a bit too long and she said it was too long”. However, at the risk of disagreeing with him (and annoying him – he has a short fuse in this respect) I pointed out that on the route he had taken there was no scenario where the lights for him would be on red as he rounded the corner, and therefore there would normally be no one stopped at the lights, which meant that there would be no reason for him to stop. By the time I dropped him off, he had partly confessed that he might have momentarily hit the brakes for the wrong red light.

But better still, we had a lesson recently and I took him along the same route. I knew what he had really done on that test, and stood my ground each time he tried to argue around it (it’s amazing how many different and completely unrelated excuses he can come up with for a single mistake). As we came round the corner – our lights on green arrow, but the right-turn ones on red – he slammed on his brakes to stop. I told him in no uncertain terms that that was almost certainly what he’d done on his test. And just to put the icing on the cake, we ran the same route two more times – the first of these he slammed the brakes on again, just as hard, and the second time he went for them and slowed down dramatically before realising. He has a deeply ingrained habit – the result of being self-taught – which he has almost no conscious control over. But during the after-test drive home it was the examiner’s fault…

My point is that if I was one of those dimwits who sees themselves as being at odds with the DSA over every possible aspect of driving, I could really have taken issue over the test fail based on what he told me. But DSA examiners are so reliable that I do not have to assume that every fail is some sort of scheme on their part, or that I need a camera to protect myself. I don’t.


As of September 2014 there are rumours that the DVSA has reviewed its stance on cameras (though NOT to allow tests to be recorded). I haven’t seen anything official and will hold off commenting until I do.


I have written an update as the DVSA has now amended its policy. You still cannot record tests, although insurance cameras are allowed.

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OLD ARTICLE – possibly out of date now.

This article was originally written in July 2011. However, there has been a run of hits on it recently, so I’ve updated it (2014).

It’s getting another run of hits (2020). It’s quite amusing looking back, because ten years after the original article, nothing has actually changed! Apart from DSA becoming DVSA.


The BBC reported back in 2011 that the government [was] to review the trainee driving instructor (pink badge) system. As of 2014, nothing has changed and everything is still up in the air, although the proposals are still current. If nothing else, the time scale involved so far should provide a vivid illustration of how long it takes for anything to happen. Personally, I’d be in favour of a revamp for the simple reason that the vast majority of PDIs never become ADIs, yet they are still allowed to teach learners if they opt for the trainee licence route. ADI Badge (green) and Trainee Badge (pink)

The trainee licence is often referred to as a “pink”  or “pinkie”, by virtue of the colour of the badge that is issued by the DSA (now known as DVSA). A full ADI licence gets a green badge with an octagon on it, and the trainee one is pink with a triangle. The pink badge provides a means for PDIs who have passed their Part 1 and Part 2 tests to gain experience training real pupils while preparing for the Part 3 test of instructional ability.

The argument that practice makes perfect is quite logical on paper. However, there is no evidence that PDIs who have taken the pink route have higher pass rates at Part 3 than those who didn’t. More on that later.

A PDI who wants to use the pink route has to apply to the DVSA. The pink licence is valid for 6 months and can only be extended at the DVSA’s discretion. The full conditions of the trainee licence are given here. Here’s part of the text:

3. Rules for using your trainee licence

You must:

  • be a ‘fit and proper’ person
  • get the required amount of supervision or extra training while your licence is still valid
  • make sure your advertising doesn’t make it seem like you’re a fully qualified instructor

Displaying your licence

You must display your trainee licence on the nearside edge of the front windscreen of your car while you give driving lessons.

Where you work

Your trainee licence shows the name and address of your training establishment. You can only give instruction from there, so you can’t work independently, eg by setting up your own school.

Changing your driving school

You must apply for a new trainee licence if you leave a driving school and join a new one. There’s no fee for doing this.

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) will send you a new licence showing the details of your new school. You should send your old licence to DSA as soon as you get the new one.

You can still give driving lessons while you wait for your new licence.

When trainee licences can be taken away

The ADI registrar can take your trainee licence away before it runs out if:

  • you break any of the rules for having a trainee licence
  • the licence was issued by mistake or gained by fraud
  • you fail 3 attempts at the ADI part 3 test

Not using your trainee licence

You should return your trainee licence to DSA if you aren’t using it, eg because of a long period of illness.

You won’t get a refund, but DSA will know that you haven’t had full use of the licence. This will be a factor in deciding whether to give you another licence in future.

There is more,  but this is the main gist. There is no mention of how much a trainee can charge because lesson prices are not part of the DVSA’s remit. Interestingly, when The AA took over BSM they made it clear that they were going to introduce differential pricing for PDIs. It is stated in black and white in the news release to BSM franchisees released in February 2011. My understanding is that BSM PDIs now charge £15 per hour for lessons (the actual price may be region dependent), although it is hard to find any of this in writing.

The overall trainee licence conditions are very restrictive… if they’re adhered to. Many PDIs circumvent the issue of not advertising themselves as ADIs by not mentioning their status at all. It’s advertising by implication, since if you don’t explicitly state that you are a trainee, people will simply assume that you are an ADI (no one has ever asked me). These same PDIs advertise freely, sometimes with websites furnished by their trainers, and carefully avoiding any mention that they are only trainees. Others advertise on their own, knowing full well that unless someone reports them, the DSA is unlikely to find out and take their badge away.  Many don’t display their badge openly – it will be behind the tax disc or sun visor, or in the glove box (this is sometimes given as specific advice by certain training schools). And in all honesty, the only contact most PDIs have with any “supervisor” is in the classroom. There is virtually no “supervision” while they hold the pink licence or during their in-car lessons. The PDI’s objective is simply to earn money, and their learners are almost always completely unaware of all this.

Both PDIs and training companies are implicated in these shenanigans. It’s a carefully crafted game of chess, designed to bend the rules of the pink licence as far as they will go without actually breaking them, though as I’ve said some people do break them knowing that they’re unlikely to get caught.

PDIs often ask for advice on forums about where to lease cars from, and querying what expenses are tax deductible. Given that it costs upwards of £70 a week to lease a tuition vehicle – plus the fact it takes time to build up a pupil base even for a qualified ADI – a PDI with household bills to pay will be looking way beyond just gaining experience for their Part 3 test. This perhaps explains why the pink route doesn’t seem to improve Part 3 pass rates. Very few people are using it to gain experience or improve their skills – they’re using it to make money as if they were qualified instructors.

If the terms of the trainee licence were enforced, would the pink badge be a good thing? Personally, I believe it would. However, even though many current ADIs used the pink route to get their green badges, they are often staunchly anti-pink now. I know of at least one very frequent and opinionated contributor to several forums who advertised himself clearly as though he were an ADI while he was on a pink. His training school provided website facilities identical to those used by qualified ADIs in order for him to do it. And yet he is against the pink system. It seems that once they become “fit & proper” ADIs they start to vehemently oppose anyone doing precisely what they themselves did.

Another factor driving this anger is that the trainee licence is traditionally associated with larger driving schools such as RED or BSM – reviled by the ignorant masses, and blamed for flooding the market with new ADIs – and (horror of horrors) schools which offer franchises. It is that which the naysayers are opposing, not the pink badge itself.

The original BBC article reports that RED believes trainees should be licensed, because it “brings regulation into an unregulated industry.” RED says clearly that it believes trainees must receive expert training if road safety isn’t to be put at risk.

The DIA reckons that it is wrong for trainees to charge normal lesson rates because they are “less experienced”. I agree, but I would just remind anyone reading this that charging full rate has always been normal practice. Furthermore, no one at the DIA seems to be concerned with the fact that a PDI who hasn’t taken the pink route can pass Part 3 one day, and be out a couple of weeks later giving lessons without ever having done so before.

A driving instructor from Kent – who was on pink – says of his trainer (a large school):

If I needed advice from someone I could always ring up and get that advice but there was no actual supervision or follow-up calls or anything like that,” he said.

The quality of instruction isn’t so good, they may not be in full control of the pupil like a fully qualified instructor would be and some charge the same price for a lesser job.

You can see what I mean about people changing their colours once they become ADIs, can’t you? It worked for him, and he was happy to qualify, but is now critical of his trainers’ methods. This is typical of what happens to many people two seconds after they get their Part 3 pass.

The ADINJC makes the comment in the article:

Someone on a pink licence can actually fail the last part of their assessment to become a fully qualified instructor and on the same day go out and teach learners by themselves.

Yes. It’s always been like that. Nothing has changed. Nothing has degraded. Nothing has got worse. So why say it? What the ADINJC fails to explain is that a PDI has three chances to pass the Part 3 test, and failing one attempt while on the trainee licence doesn’t necessarily mean they are poor instructors, nor does it mean they are any worse than they were before they took the test. They are simply doing what the system allows them to – and always has. It’s what the pink system is.

The ADINJC’s comments also fail to address what I said above – that someone with absolutely no experience teaching real learners can pass Part 3 and be out teaching for real a week or two later, no questions asked! And to really set the cat among the pigeons, people who ultimately turn out to be appalling instructors can still sail through Part 3. There is a lot more that needs to change than just the PDI trainee licence. Poor instruction isn’t confined to PDIs.

As Trevor Wedge [former Chief Driving Examiner] says:

The trainee licence system has been set up to allow trainee driver instructors to gain some practice as they are preparing for the final part of their examination process.

They are encouraged to work very closely with a supervising instructor.

The fact that many trainees don’t work closely with a supervisor isn’t a fault of the system itself. It’s a fault with those who use and abuse the system. The terms of the licence are very specific, and breaching any of those terms is always a deliberate act – even if it is down to plain ignorance.

How do I know what colour badge my instructor has?

Someone found the blog on that precise term.

Simple answer. If his badge in stuck on the windscreen in full view, it’s probably green. If it is nowhere to be seen, it’s probably pink.

Ask him to show it to you. If he won’t, he either hasn’t got one, or it’s pink and he’s claiming otherwise. There is absolutely no reason for an instructor not to show you their badge unless they’re hiding something.

Can a PDI set up their own website?

There’s nothing that specifically says they can’t, but they must not pretend they are fully-qualified ADIs. However, you cannot do it if you are not part of a school – you can’t do it on your own.

It’s a really murky area, because you can argue that not making any claim at all means you’re not saying you are an ADI. However, you could be said to be implying it unless you state categorically that you are a trainee. The Pink Badge is supposed to be a training tool, and you can only advertise as part of your training establishment or school.

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