There is going to be a fifth SEISS grant. A couple of weeks ago, HMRC sent out an email explaining how it would work this time.
Bear in mind that the SEISS is not – absolutely not – just for driving instructors. That important distinction makes how you interpret the email rather important.
The email makes it clear that the fifth SEISS will be granted depending on how much your 2020/21 turnover has reduced compared to previously. It also makes it crystal clear that you do not have to have submitted a return for 2020/21 (not due until the end of January 2022 at the latest) in order to make a claim.
It states clearly that your 2020/21 turnover needs to have been reduced compared to previous years in order to be eligible for the grant. If you haven’t yet submitted your 2020/21 return, an honest estimate is acceptable, and HMRC will determine how much you get based on the difference between 20201/21 and the previous year(s). Just be aware that your ‘honest estimate’ for 2020/21 is inevitably going to be what you eventually do submit, so be careful if lying comes naturally to you.
HMRC website makes it clear that if you are down by 30% or more, you will get 80% of three months’ trading profits (maximum £7,500), and if you’re down by less than 30% then it will be 30% of three months’ trading profits (maximum £2,850). This is because – as I mentioned – the SEISS is not just for driving instructors. It’s for plumbers, electricians, cleaners, nail bar owners, and all kinds of other self-employed people, etc., as well as instructors. Some of those will have legitimately traded while, ADIs ought not to have been.
I am confident that having only worked for about six weeks at a very reduced rate last summer, I will be eligible for the higher award. My turnover was down by more than 90%. However, if I’d pretended everyone was a ‘key worker’ and crammed in a lot of work I really shouldn’t have been doing last year (whilst claiming ‘hoax’, and boasting about not wearing a mask), then I’d have been at the lower rate – if I was eligible at all. If anyone out there did that, then I wish them well in their dilemma over what to do next – and I’d love to be a fly on the wall watching them complete their 2020/21 self assessment.
But for me, I have no such dilemma. My reduced workload is absolutely transparent. I typically do around 1,100 hours of lesson in a year, but in 2020/21 it was down to about 70 hours – a 95% reduction. And all as a result of following advice, taking this seriously, and not trying to be a smart ass.
All was going well. Then, last Monday, a pupil texted me to say he’d had to go into isolation because someone had tested positive at work. He actually had COVID last year. Then, the following day, I gave a lesson to a pupil who had been to watch one of the Euro 2021 matches at a pub with work colleagues (in spite of my warnings about the risk). He tested negative for the next three days, then last Friday informed me he was now positive.
I shit myself, and have been frantically doing lateral flow tests everyday since. He is unwell with it, and he’s now informed me his missus is also COVID positive.
Then, last Saturday I turned up to a lesson and the pupil didn’t come out as he usually does. I texted, and he immediately replied he’d just found out a family member was positive, and the whole family had to isolate. The same day, another pupil who I was planning on visiting to help with her theory test texted me to say she’s had to cancel the test because her year has been sent into isolation at school because someone tested positive.
Then, yesterday, a pupil who had a lesson booked for tomorrow texted me to tell me he’s tested positive. He questioned why I said next week’s lesson would be off, too (he didn’t have a clue about quarantine periods, and the timeline prognosis if symptoms develop). Also, the first pupil contacted me to inform me that his last day of quarantine is the same day of his driving test this coming week (which was a moved test anyway, since he had COVID last year when it was originally scheduled for), so we’ve had to cancel it again, and unless we find another cancellation somewhere, he’ll have to do his theory test again, because the nearest dates are the end of December.
And finally, I turned up for a lesson today. I’d just stopped outside the house when the phone rang, and he told me he’d been pinged by the NHS app and had to isolate (and he had another lesson tomorrow). Yet more confusion, because he said it’s ‘two days’, and apart from the fact I wasn’t aware of anything under ten days being a quarantine period, there’s no way he’s getting in my car unless I’m sure he’s negative.
And to add insult to injury, two more cancelled lessons for today claiming feeling unwell. Funny how the nice weather does that to people (it always has done, so I’m wise to it) – but now I can’t take the chance and pick them up over it, any more than I can moan at them not telling me sooner (though the two who did that say they’d only just found out).
So the old diary has taken a beating for the next week.
This one involves a van driver, so not so much an ‘arrogant’ tosser as a borderline human. More of an above average monkey, I guess.
Driving through Mapperley on a lesson, and this dickhead emerged from The Wells Road into traffic from both directions. It was a Specially Fittted Transit, registration MV62 VUG.
Nothing annoys me more than people cutting in, and all the more so when they are doing it purely to gain advantage by using the wrong lane, speeding, and putting people at risk.
The Junction with Wilford Lane off Loughborough Road is a common location for these arrogant prats. This one was a black Lexus NX 300H, registration number FN67 EDK.
Recently, I mentioned that when the face mask rules were due to be scrapped on 19 July, I hadn’t yet decided how I was likely to proceed.
Since writing that, I did decide how I was going to proceed based on one of my pupils coming down with COVID, and three others having to isolate, all in the space of a few days. I have been making it clear to all of mine that I will still expect them to wear face masks.
On my last lesson today, after relating all this to a pupil, I explained that me wearing a mask gives him at least a very small amount of extra protection if I am carrying the virus, and him wearing one gives me the same small amount of extra protection if he is. And any extra protection is better than none at all. He wholeheartedly agreed, as have all the others – even the one whose mother is a complete nutjob anti-vaxxer.
But when I got home and checked the latest news, I saw that face masks will still be advised in indoor settings and enclosed spaces in a U-turn by the government.
There are quite a few driving instructors out there who are as intelligent as a Gumby, and who have spent the whole of the last 15 months or so assuming the pose in the picture above and boasting that they’re working during lockdown, not wearing masks, not asking pupils to wear masks, and doing bad sums along the lines of half an orange plus three quarters of a lemon is equal to six onions (because they saw it on a nutjob channel on YouTube or Facebook and liked the sound of it). The previous news that face mask rules would be lifted provided them with an opportunity to go all Gumby, and tell everyone pointlessly yet again that they’d never worn them.
So I guess they will still continue to break the rules and show how unprofessional (and stupid) they are.
The same Gumbys are also on a rant right now about how car parks at many DVSA test centres have alternate bays coned off as part of social distancing measures. Does that mean cars can catch COVID, they ask, as they push the warped agenda they’ve tried to disseminate for the last year.
The spacing is so that those getting into and out of the cars remain distanced from each other. You have to be really stupid not to realise that. But as I say, these are driving instructors with issues we’re dealing with.
It was announced today that from 16 August, those who have had both COVID vaccinations will not have to isolate if they come into contact with an infected person.
I notice that social media is still fairly overflowing with flat-earthers in the allegedly ‘professional’ ADI community proudly trumpeting that they’ve never worn a mask, and nor have any of their pupils, so the change in rules in a couple of weeks about masks won’t affect them. In case you forgot, let me just remind you what I’ve said before. That they are complete twats.
I wonder how these same specimens will do – due to their similarly stupid conspiracist views about the vaccines and whether COVID even exists – if they subsequently are supposed to isolate after 16 August? If they don’t, they’ll be breaking the Law, and if they insist on bigging themselves up on social media every five minutes (as is their wont), the Registrar might take a very dim view of their status on the Register. Frankly, if they did fall foul of that, my feelings would be along the lines of ‘serves you right, and good riddance’. After all, they are almost certainly a part of the reason all of this has gone on quite as long as it has (they’ve helped spread it, for a start).
Strong evidence is mounting that the vaccines are preventing deaths. Last year, with three noticeable spikes in infections, the death rate increased approximately 3-4 weeks later. That was when we had no vaccines. However, during this latest spike in infections, the level at which an increase in deaths subsequently occurred last year was surpassed right at the start of June. And death rates have not risen significantly at all after five weeks (fingers crossed they don’t, even though today’s figure is a little worrying). The only difference is the vaccine.
As for masks, I find it incredible that there are still people out there who believe the mask protects the wearer. It doesn’t, and never has. The mask is for the benefit of others.
I haven’t decided yet how I am going to deal with masks when the requirement for them ends in a couple of weeks. I am doubly-vaccinated and careful, of course. However, my pupils collectively (on average) go to school and go out and get pissed whenever they feel like it. Some of them have flat earth mothers who ‘don’t believe in’ the virus, or who are anti-vax/zero knowledge. So the risk to me is still there. I might decide that I still need protecting from them – it depends on how the numbers go over the next fortnight.
One asked me today what I would do. I explained what I just said, and she agreed. And another one later also fully understood. Any who don’t can find another instructor.
A reader contacted me recently and asked for advice on a particular mini-roundabout. It’s shown in the photo above and – when there aren’t roadworks in place – there are two lanes on the approach.
Have you ever seen such a stupidly misplaced circle?
This is in Southampton. There is absolutely no way anyone in the right-hand lane can treat it as a roundabout and make any attempt to go around it the correct way without risking a scrape with someone in the left-hand lane not swinging out wide. The only really safe way is to effectively go round it the wrong way (which is probably what most people do).
I thought some of ours were badly painted, but this one takes the biscuit. It needs fixing as soon as possible. There is no way the single lane on the opposite side needs such width – if it does, then the kerb needs altering that side to create a pocket. That circle should be slightly to the right of centre of the right hand lane for the car park.
Instructors have recently been off on one again about how much you can earn as an ADI.
This time, the argument revolves around the latest advertising strapline from a training company that you can ‘earn £50k and work hours to suit yourself’ as an ADI.
I have explained how a driving instructor’s finances work many times. In a nutshell, your earnings (gross profit or wages) are however much money you take for lessons in a whole year (your turnover) minus however much money you spend in order to deliver them (your expenses or overheads) in the same period. That’s it. No other combination of kiddie maths has any relevance whatsoever. You do not take tax and National Insurance off, since those are likely to be different for everyone.
As a rough guide, the expenses figure for a typical ADI is likely to be around £10,000 per year. The real problem is that many instructors seem to spend the better part of their time trying to convince themselves and everyone else that their expense figure is much lower – usually to try and ‘prove’ that franchises are bad. But they are either lying, or just extremely clueless. However, if we ignore the lies, in order to earn an actual wage of £50,000, you would need to have a turnover of £60,000 per year. If you charge £30 per hour for lessons, that would equate to 60,000 divided by 30 = 2,000 hours of lessons per year.
And 2,000 divided by 52 weeks = 38.5 hours of lessons per week.
If you charge £25 per hour, it would equate to 2,400 hours a year, and 46 hours a week.
Reality Check #1
If you can charge £30 or more per hour, that’s fine. However, the vast majority of ADIs cannot. Most are in the £25-£30 range, and some can barely get away with that. A few – very few – instructors in wealthy southern areas can apparently charge up to £40, but they are not the norm by any stretch of the imagination. Christ! I am in a relatively affluent zone, and my hourly rate is £30 (the high end), but I am not so stupid as to believe people in Liverpool or Birmingham could charge that, anymore than I am stupid enough to believe I would survive if I started quoting £40.
I actually wrote about this just over a month ago when the same argument kicked off in a slightly different guise. In spite of the usual nonsense being claimed across social media, only a handful areas can command hourly rates above £30. And even those are often heavily discounted by block bookings to well under £30.
Those who are fortunate enough to be able to charge above-average hourly rates seem to think everyone else could, too. That is complete bollocks. If everyone in an area is charging £25, if you up your prices to £35-£40 then you may as well give up this job now. I didn’t work out a ‘national average’ from the survey I did in the link, above, but looking at the figures it is clearly below £30 and nowhere near £40.
In the example calculation I gave, for every £1 below £30 you charge, you need to work an average of approximately one extra hour per week on top of the 38.5 needed for a £30 lesson rate in order to turn over £60,000.
Reality Check #2
You cannot rely on getting 38.5 hours of work every week – and that is true no matter how much you charge. Anywhere near 40 hours is a nice-to-have, but it isn’t a take-it-whenever-you-want-it option. This job doesn’t work like that.
If you target 38.5 hours hard, weekly variation in your diary means that sometime you’ll only manage maybe 25-30 hours, whereas other might be as high as 50. And 50s are a killer, believe me. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
If you are normal, you will take a holiday at some point, and you will want Christmas off. Even if you consider yourself to be in Superman territory and forego holidays, and work over Christmas, you will not get 38.5 hours during holiday seasons, because pupils will want the time off. Assuming you take 4 weeks off in the year (and that includes if it is spread out over the whole year into an hour here and and hour there), that will mean you have to achieve an average of nearly 42 hours every other week if you charge £30. If you’re charging £28, you’d be aiming for 45 hour weeks. And if you’re charging £25, you’ll be targeting close to 50 hours a week.
Reality Check #3
Shit happens. Learners get ill. You get ill. Learners have family problems. You have family problems. So learners cancel lessons – as you may have to. Every cancelled lesson you don’t fill – and you won’t be able to fill all of them – will have to be added on somewhere if you want to clear £60k. So the average weekly hours you need to work will have to rise still further.
Reality Check #4
Doing 38.5 hours a week in an office is not the same as delivering 38.5 hours of driving lessons (with travelling time in between). In an office, you’re in there for about 7.5 hours a day Monday-Friday. As an instructor, delivering 7.5 hours of lessons Monday-Friday would keep you away from home for 10 or more hours a day. An office job is not the same as being a driving instructor. With knobs on. And then some.
Reality Check #5
There is absolutely no way you can work a 38.5 hour week – every week – as an instructor without running the risk of making yourself ill, or at least becoming tired and risking delivering below-par lessons. As I said, I’ve done it, and it’s fine for a while – until it catches up with you. I was aiming for 40 hours, and I was sometimes hitting 50. But after six months I noticed I was getting tired, and it was getting in the way of my life outside work (my music concerts, etc). I deliberately pulled back. If you have a family to look after, you have no chance.
Being an ADI is inherently a lazy job – you’re sitting down all day. Don’t kid yourself that walking to the bank at lunchtime is ‘exercise’. It’s better than nothing, but it isn’t much after all is said and done. But if you’re desperately trying to get around 40 hours, you simply won’t have the time to exercise. Even if you try, you’ll be rushed and stressed – which cancels out the ‘exercise’ part.
When I do a 40+ week now, it is just for a short time, and not by design. And I schedule an hour and a half in the gym three times a week regardless. It’s in my diary, and is not bookable for lessons. Frankly – and arguably – I should have done that when I started out in this job. At the very least, I should have started sooner. The COVID lockdown made the decision for me – and I am grateful to it for that.
Reality Check #6
Many things in life are hypothetically possible, but that does not mean they are also practically probable. I mean, if you worked 18 hour days and charged £40 an hour, all your pupils lived within 15 minutes of each other, and you didn’t take holidays, then you’d turn over something like £200k a year, leaving you with a wage of around £180k. I can assure you that you won’t find (m)any ADIs who have achieved that just by giving normal lessons, and even fewer who do it year after year.
There’s no absolute physical barrier to doing that, of course. It’s not illegal, and in terms of time and sleep it doesn’t break any universal laws of physics. Hence, it is hypothetically possible. But there are so many other much more likely factors involved that is is virtually impossible in the practical sense. You will get tired. Even exhausted. And that really would impact your health. Trust me, it would.
The situation with 40 hours weeks is the same. It just takes a bit longer to hit that ceiling.
Reality Check #7
You are not ‘working hours to suit yourself’ in the sense the advertising strapline intends it if you are doing anywhere near 40 hour weeks. The purpose of that claim is to imply you can have weekends and/or evenings off. It doesn’t tell you that if you do reduce your hours to fit your family or social life, your earnings take a hit, and that the more you ‘suit yourself’ the less you will earn relative to that ‘up to £50,000’ part.
A 40 hour week for an ADI is not the same as one for an office worker is. An office worker is in the office for 40 hours, and does whatever it is they do, much of which is office chit-chat. They go home at 5pm, and switch off until 9am the next day. They are off at weekends. If they don’t finish something one day, they pick up where they left off the next day.
A 40 hour week to an ADI means 40 hours of lessons. If the ADI works seven days a week, that means he or she will have to do 6 hours of lessons each day (or 8 hours if they keep weekends free). Some instructors claim all their pupils live near each other, so there is negligible travelling time involved between lessons. In my case, I allow between 30 minutes and 60 minutes to allow for traffic hold-ups and other issues. Sometimes, consecutive lessons will start from the same address, so there really is no travelling time – but it still takes up to 15 minutes to switch over unless I am being a total arsehole with a stopwatch to time lessons. Most lessons do require travelling time, and I am pretty certain that this applies to the vast majority.
If you have a 30 minute travel time, 6 hours of lessons will keep you out of the house for more than 9 hours (a 66-hour week). Doing 8 hour days will keep you out for over 12 hours (a 62-hour week). Yes, I know that looks odd, but it’s correct – just think ‘60 hour week’.
You would simply not have any appreciable time off with a 60 hour week.
But my overheads are less than £10,000 per year
This crops up time and again. It is invariably driven by the belief that since a certain ADI owns their car outright (and it is possibly quite old) it costs ‘nothing’. It is completely false to say this.
Even the most clapped-out ten-year old banger you have owned from new has a residual annual cost of at least £1,000-£1,500, and the vast majority of ADIs are not driving ten-year old clapped out bangers. However much you originally spent to buy the car has to be spread across the period of time you own it. If you paid £10,000 for it ten years ago, it is costing £1,000 a year to keep (just under £20 a week). And it has to be replaced sooner or later.
Most ADIs doing 40 hour weeks will have newer cars than that. They will be spending at least £5,000 a year on fuel (probably more), and at least £4,000 on their car (probably more). Those spending less because they have a clapped-out 10 -year old Corsa are not typical.
I’m turning work away
Yes. You are right now as a result of COVID. But you almost certainly weren’t before it hit in early 2020. And it will return to the same level at some point. The current demand is not a reliable indicator of the job. And that assumes no more lockdowns. It is utter stupidity to recommend this career based on the current demand for lessons.
I can charge £35 an hour
Good for you. But Liverpool (for example) is not the same as Hampshire (for example), and it cannot charge those prices. If you are suggesting Liverpool ADIs charge Hampshire prices then you are an idiot. They could not do it, and would go out of business if they tried.
40 hour weeks are no problem
For the vast majority – the vast majority – they would be if they were doing them all the time. I know this from experience – 40 hours is no problem to start with, but it catches up on you if it stays that way. And that’s the same for you, too. You just don’t realise it.
Once you learn to understand, the best part of being an ADI is that weekly hours fluctuate. Some weeks might be 40+ hours, but the ones that fall to 25 save your health.
In reality, you simply cannot work unlimited hours without it leading to problems. Not understanding or realising this is a problem in itself – especially if you like offering ‘advice’ to others.
Me, me, me – buy my coaching course
From what I have seen, a significant number of those advising Liverpool and Birmingham instructors that they can charge Hampshire prices also sell coaching courses. They’re the kind of people who see a sale in every question any ADI has, but since they are ADIs themselves, they’re not good sales people. They’re just ADIs who think they are good sales people.
You cannot raise your prices if you’re in an average £25 area to £35 overnight and expect to stay in business. You absolutely cannot.
Ever since I became an instructor I’ve managed to get through a lot of notebooks. Anyone who does this job will know that you have to sketch a lot of things when you’re explaining stuff to pupils.
I started off buying notepads, but realised that was quite expensive – especially if you wanted the larger sizes. Then I turned to making my own, by ring-binding punched copier paper and using that. I discovered that normal two- or four-hole punching was no good, because the sheets could easily get torn with all the handling and jolting they get in the car, so I turned to spiral binding. That served me well for many years – but I was starting to feel my conscience nagging me over the amount of paper I was getting through.
A few years ago now, I tried using my laptop. It’s a Surface Book Pro with a detachable screen so it can be used as a tablet. With a simple sketching app, it was fine – but there was still the hassle of getting it out, booting up, then detaching the screen, then reattaching it and powering down when I’d finished. There’s no way I wanted my Surface loose in the car while it was moving and quite frankly – in some of the places you have to cover – waving a two and a half grand laptop around is not the smartest thing you can do.
Then I had one of my thoughts. It occurred to me that there must be something out there that could just be used as a drawing board, but which didn’t involve dirty rags covered in black marker from the dry-wipe boards some people use. That was when I came across LCD drawing pads. At the time I first tried them, they were usually 6 inch or 9 inch screens. I found a 10 inch one and it worked great. I still have it, in fact. But a couple of years ago, while still looking for something better, I came across DoogleBooks.
It is powered by – believe it or not – a standard watch battery, which lasts ages (I’m still on the original after nearly two years). That’s because the device is not illuminated in any way, so doesn’t draw much power.
You ‘turn it on’ with a very small switch on the back, though this is a ‘lock’ function rather than a power button as far as I can tell. The stylus clips neatly into the frame (come to think of it, it was because the clip on the cheap one I bought snapped which got me looking again) and has a nice long lanyard so you don’t lose it.
Once powered/unlocked you just write or draw whatever you want. The width of the stroke is governed by pressure and angle of the stylus nib, so you can get thin lines or thicker ones as needed. If you want to start again, you just press the button on the left in the picture above with the trash can symbol twice, and the screen is cleared. The double-press is a safety feature so you don’t erase by mistake – see the next bit for why.
If you make a minor mistake, you can erase just part of whatever you’ve drawn or written. Press the other button until the red LED comes on, then use either the small rubber eraser on the other end of the stylus, or the larger rectangular one which is supplied – just like you would with pencil on paper. Once you’ve erased whatever you want, press that button again until the LED goes out and you’re back in drawing mode. Due to the proximity of the buttons, you can see why complete erase needs two presses. This selective erase does work, but be aware it does leave slight smudges behind – again, like you’d get with a pencil on paper.
It is not a computer. Anything you write or draw exists only on the screen for as long as it’s there. You cannot transfer it to a computer, since it is not a digital image – it is exactly the same as a pen or pencil drawing. If you write ‘CAT’, that’s just some shapes and lines – the tablet doesn’t know what you’ve written. If you erase something by mistake, it’s gone forever – there’s no undo feature. If you want to save anything, you can take a picture – pupils often take a shot of things I draw so they can look at them later, just like they used to when I drew on paper.
The device I used previously had a much fainter screen, and this meant that on evening lessons it could be difficult to see what you’d drawn. As I explained earlier, there are no backlights on these things, and they are literally the same as pen and paper – you can’t see drawings made using those in the dark, either. However, DoogleBooks has a much brighter screen contrast and you can see your drawings clearly with the interior light on. The photo above was taken at dusk with no lighting, and that’s the contrast you get.
It’s been one of the best things I’ve bought in a long while. I actually have a spare in reserve, which came about because the original Amazon order never arrived, and the owner of the British company which sells them sent out a replacement. Several weeks later, the other one arrived – God knows where it had been – and when I offered to return it the owner said to keep it as a gesture of goodwill!
They now do several different models, mainly aimed at kids, with different screen colours. And whereas the only frame colour available when I bought mine was cyan (which is actually my least favourite colour in the whole world), they now do them in a range of colours. Just be careful to choose the ‘’partial erasure’ one unless you want to save a couple of quid and lose a bit of functionality.
It’s infinitely better than using a dry wipe board. There’s no mess, and it is ready to use the instant you take it out of its case. Unlike dry wipe systems, when you erase, you erase – no ink getting stuck in scratches, which always happens with dry wipe markers. And the stylus lasts oodles longer than a marker pen. And there’s no thick pads of drawings to dispose of when you’ve filled up a notepad.
Many moons ago, I wrote an article coining the term ‘the Audi lane’. It went semi-viral at the time. Here is a perfect demonstration (for Audi drivers) of how to use it.
I was on my way to pick up a pupil and was driving along Wilford Lane. The speed limit is 30mph there, but as we all know, speed limits are only ‘advisory’ for Audi drivers. The black Audi (registration number SAZ 2723) was in the right-hand lane (which is a right-turn only lane) at significantly more than 30mph. And it was raining heavily.
He (or she) stayed in the right-hand lane on the roundabout, and then – without any use of indicators whatsoever – turned left off the roundabout into the estate (which is straight ahead, and requires the left-hand lane on approach if you’re doing it even close to properly).
This is absolutely the correct way to use lanes and roundabouts if you are an Audi driver.