Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Driving Instructor Grades - Is Asking For The Grade Of A Driving Instructor A Reliable Way Of Checking How Good They Are?

Is the grade of a driving instructor a reliable indicator of how good an instructor they are?

I've come across numerous "guides to finding a good driving instructor" which advise learner drivers to ask for the grade of a driving instructor and to only take lessons from the highest grade of instructor...is this good advice or not? I'll give you the facts about driving instructor grading and let you decide!

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) periodically check the standards of tuition given by all Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) and assign each instructor a grade which that instructor retains until it's time for their next check.

Driving instructors are graded from 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest grade possible.
That grade is based solely upon a driving examiner observing ONE HOUR of driving tuition given by an individual driving instructor every four or more YEARS.
Nothing else is taken into account when determining the grade of a driving instructor. The grade is based solely on how the examiner thinks the instructor performed in the observed driving lesson. There's no interview, written tests or other performance related reports such as the number of test passes or feedback from past or present students taken into consideration.
As of February 2009 (the most recent published figures I can track down) the percentage of driving instructors in the UK by grade was as follows;
Grade 1 - 0%
Grade 2 - 0.09%
Grade 3 - 0.76%
Grade 4 - 51.32%
Grade 5 - 31.03%
Grade 6 - 5.99%
Ungraded - 10.81% (newly qualified instructors are officially ungraded until their first DSA "check test" is done)

Any driving instructor whose grade is less than a 4 is subject to further checks by the DSA and if the standard of their tuition fails to improve within a very short period of time, they risk having their driving instructor licence withdrawn.

So, as you can see, the majority of driving instructors are graded 4 and 5.

I'll be quite honest here and say that I have some issues with the grading system.

As far as I am aware, no other fully qualified professional body is graded in this way. I have yet to read any "advice" suggesting that I ask a qualified plumber for their grade before I allow them to mend my leaking taps, or that I ask a pharmacist for their grade before I buy a packet of paracetamol to cure a headache :)

The trouble with driving instructor grading is that it's based on nothing more than a snapshot of performance. If the driving instructor is nervous during their check test (and it's human nature to be nervous when someone is watching your every move - especially when your continuing livelihood depends on the outcome), then that can affect the way they "perform" on the check lesson and may mean that what the examiner sees bears little or no resemblance to how they usually teach or interact with their students.

I know many grade 4 instructors who have a string of test passes and happy customers as long as the Great Wall Of China...and I know one or two grade 6 instructors whose communication and people skills seem alarmingly lacking...presumably they're just better at putting on a good show for the one hour every few years that an examiner observes them?

There's another problem with asking for the grade of a driving instructor which the "advice givers" conveniently overlook...and this one's a biggie!

YOU MAY NOT BE TOLD THE TRUTH! - yes folks, take it from me, there are some naughty driving instructors out there who tell porky pies when it comes to spilling the beans about their grade...and there's no way for a member of the public to check whether what they say is true, as grades are not published and the DSA will not disclose that sort of information.

As I said at the beginning of this topic...I'll let you decide whether asking the grade of a driving instructor is a reliable indicator of how good at their job they are...