As we enter 2022, it is worth reflecting on the fact that this time last year we were in a lockdown where driving lessons and tests were not permitted until mid April. This led to me having a very busy year (working 7 days a week for a long while) but it was also a very fulfilling year with a record pass rate (82% of my pupils passed their test with 76% doing so at their first attempt).
As we enter a new year, I wanted to share some news covering a few topics affecting lessons and tests in 2022 with some exciting things to look forward to in the early months:
In 10 years of being a driving instructor, I have never known such a long waiting list for practical driving tests as there is now. The earliest driving tests available at the three Nottingham test centres (Chilwell, Colwick and Watnall) are now in mid June 2022. With this in mind, it is really important that learners feel suitably prepared to take their test in order to maximise the chance of passing it first time (as it could be several months before being able to take it again). Given that practical tests can’t be booked before the theory test has been passed, I would encourage anyone who has yet to take the theory test to make that a priority in early 2022 (especially for those learners wanting to take a practical test before early July).
Driving School Car
The car I currently use for driving lessons is a Ford Focus 1.0L Ecoboost Petrol Manual (Titanium Edition). It is leased from AA Driving School under a two year contract, which is due to end in mid February 2022. After looking at a number of alternative options, I now expect to sign a two year extension to my current contract which will result in me receiving a new car in February (although there are currently delays in supplying new cars, due to a global shortage in the microchips required for cars). The new car will also be a Ford Focus 1.0L Ecoboost Petrol Manual but will have the upgraded trim of the ST Line Edition.
As an aside, while petrol, manual cars are expected to be on UK roads for many more years, all new cars in the UK are due to be electric (and, therefore, automatic) in just 8 years time. Given this, I have recently given thought to if and when I might move from training in a manual car to an automatic car. My current thinking is that I may make this transition in the spring of 2024 (with either an overlap of having a manual car and an automatic car or giving pupils 6-9 months notice of my intention, in the summer of 2023). This decision has not yet been finalised, as it partially depends on the demand for lessons in a manual car at that time, but should not affect existing pupils.
The current learner headboard on my car has become quite faded from sunlight over the years and I am currently reviewing options for a new headboard and taking the opportunity to look at a new logo/brand during 2022. In the meantime, I will start to use a simple Top Hat L Box on the car.
Following an annual pricing review, I have decided that my current pricing structure will not change with the exception that a small supplement will be applied to regular lessons on a Sunday or in the evenings. In addition, the local discount offered will now be restricted to Wollaton residents. However, this change only applies to new pupils with current pupils unaffected.
New App – Pupil Progress Records
Following the resumption of lessons after the first Covid lockdown, a decision was taken to stop handling cash payments and to remove paper records that would need to be handled by both of us in the car. All my current records are now recorded/maintained using Microsoft Office but are not designed for sharing with pupils. Given that the removal of paper pupil progress records from the car is no longer a short term measure, I have decided to trial an App designed for driving instructors that will not only enable a consolidation of my records (and reduce my paperwork) but also allow you to review your progress through shared access to the App containing your details. I am due to start the trial next week with two or three of my current pupils, with the intention of rolling it out to everyone by the end of January (if it feels like it will be a beneficial option).
The current file of road layout and manoeuvre diagrams that I use in lessons will be refreshed in 2022 with a new book containing 3D illustrations (replacing the current 2D versions). During the spring of 2022, I will be reviewing the training videos available on my website and either updating some of them or adding new ones.
Ill Health/Covid Safety Measures
Just to highlight that I do not charge pupils who cancel a lesson due to illness. Aside of not wanting to spread ANY virus in the car (and especially potential Covid cases), it is important to avoid lessons where an illness causes the driver to be unfit to drive or would affect the pupil’s ability to learn. The measures in place to reduce the risk of spreading a virus in my car (including car sanitising and ventilation, hand sanitising and mask wearing) have now become a routine process. However, the dramatic escalation in the number of positive Covid tests over the last week or two is a useful reminder not to become complacent with these measures. In addition, as not everyone experiences symptoms, I ask that every pupil performs a lateral flow test prior to their lesson. For information, I am currently performing a lateral flow test twice a week (Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings).