Tag Archives: drive ahead

10 years as a driving instructor!

Today, 12th September 2015, marks 10 years to the day of me giving my first lesson as a driving instructor. I can’t remember the actual date that I qualified, I think it was about the 25th August 2005, but I remember both the preparation and trepidation of being ready for that first lesson. When I first started, I worked for a local school called Wheels Driver Training. Jim Rowley was the owner, and he helped me so much in those early days. From showing me local routes (my knowledge of the Stoke on Trent area was limited), to helping with questions I had about teaching, if it wasn’t for Jim I doubt I’d still be a driving instructor today. Jim was a very laid back character, much like myself, and a lot of what he did in his business has transferred to how I run mine today.

Typically car insurance gets cheaper on your 25th birthday, and I was not 25 for another 5 days, so Jim kindly let me teach in his Vauxhall Corsa for the first week so that I didn’t have to pay over the odds for my first years insurance. My first driving lesson was with a lad called Brett. The lesson went ok, I think I was as nervous as my pupil was, but we managed to get most of the things done you’d expect on a first lesson. Over the course of the week I gradually gained confidence in my teaching and started to settle in to being a driving instructor. On Saturday 17th September 2005, I was finally insured on my brand new Mini and started my lessons the following week with great excitement. The Mini was a great teaching car, and really good for business. Almost every learner that rang Wheels was asking for lessons in a Mini which helped me to have a really busy start to this new career.

After a couple of years of working 60 hour weeks, I wasn’t sure if being a driving instructor was something I wanted to do long term. So I studied from home to qualify as a mortgage advisor – just as the recession started – good timing eh! I left Wheels as I was now generating enough work to keep going on my own, alongside working part time with Butters John Bee as a mortgage and insurance advisor. Due to the recession, the time needed to make the transition into financial services a full time job after 18 months of trying, and with 2 young children, I had to make the decision to stick with being a driving instructor.

During that period my Dad had also qualified as a driving instructor and was working independently, so we decided to work together and ‘Learn with DAD’ was born. Not the greatest of names, it actually stood for ‘Learn with Dave and Dave’ (if you haven’t guessed, my Dad and I share the same name). After a couple of years we were both really busy. I made the decision that I wanted to grow the driving school and take on other instructors on a franchise basis. ‘Learn with DAD’ wasn’t going to be a name that would be attractive to the wider market so I embarked on finding a new name. I asked pupils, friends and family for suggestions and then picked a shortlist of 5 names which I asked my learners to vote on. The winner was ‘Drive Ahead School of Motoring’ which was the name my wife came up with (she still reminds me of this to this day). So in August 2010 Drive Ahead School of Motoring was born and we launched the website www.driveahead.co.uk. In the early days I wasn’t too sure as to what I was doing, I learned to code and created my initial websites from scratch which was very time consuming, but also very satisfying. I’d never run a business before so many things were guesswork. Things like advertising on Google was done by trial and error, and admittedly there was probably a lot of money wasted in those early days.

In the April of 2012 I took on my first paying franchisee, Martin Molyneux. Martin joined me from Red Driving School, and I’m pleased to say is still with Drive Ahead today. Over the next few years, the business slowly grew and I continued to learn more and more about how to run a successful business.

In February 2013 I attended the Fresh Start conference run by Marc Ford. I saw several great speakers that day, the most memorable being Dr Julia Malkin. If you ever get to meet Julia, or get the opportunity to listen to her as a speaker, then make sure you take it. The work she has done for the driving school industry is astounding, and her knowledge of learning difficulties is absolutely amazing.

Later that year, I decided I wanted to take my business to the next level so I contacted David Holland from www.resultsrulesok.com. For those that don’t know David, he’s a very successful business coach who works with multi national companies and is much too expensive for me – his words not mine. He gave me some great advice and some recommended reading to get me started, and advised that I get in touch with Marc Ford. At this point Marc had just started to hold quarterly business meetings called Fresh Plans which I began to attend. I’ve been attending these meetings ever since, and I also work with Marc on a 1 to 1 basis on all aspects of my business.

So here we are on September 12th 2015, working with Marc has made my business more profitable and I don’t work weekends anymore, so I’m not sharing my 10th anniversary with my learners. Instead I’m spending quality time with my family, which I’ve been able to do much more of lately. Drive Ahead has now grown to 6 instructors, with another currently in training, and I’m still looking for more instructors. There’s so much more to tell, so many more details in between, but I haven’t got all day to write it (and I’m sure you don’t want to spend all day reading it). I want to thank everyone who has been part of my journey so far, and I’m looking forward to the next 10 years with the exciting challenges it may bring…

Driving Test Passes – February 2014

Another brilliant month for driving test passes here at Drive Ahead. A massive well done for everyone who has passed their driving test this month after taking driving lesson with us. If you’d like to join our ever-growing list of successful test passes then give us a call today on 01782 906010 or why not book online?

Pete – 3rd February 2014 – A great start to the month when Pete passed his driving test in Newcastle under Lyme with our driving instructor Mark Lawton.
Pete passed in Newcastle

6th February 2014 – Charlotte Walker – Charlotte came to Drive Ahead after her friend had passed with us a couple of years ago. Charlotte took her driving lessons with our instructor Dave and passed in Stoke on Trent.
Charlotte passed in Stoke on Trent

7th February 2014 – Zara Azam-Rajabian – Zara took lessons with Drive Ahead after her brother passed his driving test with us. Zara started to learn whilst at university in Leicester but came to Drive Ahead when she moved back home to Stoke on Trent.
Zara passed with our driving instructor Dave

18th February 2014 – Jessica – Jessica took her driving lessons in Stoke on Trent with our driving instructor Sarah, before passing her test at the Cobridge test centre
Jessica passed her driving test

20th February 2014 – Katrina – Katrina passed her driving test in Newcastle under Lyme with our driving instructor Sarah Alcock
Another pass in Newcastle under Lyme

21st February 2014 – Rhiannon Bedford – Rhiannon passed her driving test 1st time with our driving instructor John. Rhiannon took her driving lessons in Stoke on Trent before passing at the Cobridge driving test centre
Rhiannon Bedford passed in Stoke on Trent

25th February 2014 – CharlotteCharlotte passed her driving test 1st time with just 1 minor fault! Charlotte completed a great month of passes for our driving instructor Sarah. Well done Charlotte
Charlotte passed in Newcastle

26th February 2014 – Kayleigh Duffield – Kayleigh was our final pass of the month in February. She took her lessons with our driving instructor John Johnson before passing her driving test at the Newcastle driving test centre
Kayleigh's driving lessons in Newcastle

Q. Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washers and wipers

Are you looking for a driving school in Stoke on Trent to help with your Show Me Tell Me Questions?

Answer

Firstly, you will need to turn on the ignition so the washers/wipers have power. The controls will vary from car to car, but the car I give driving lessons in, which is the one in the video above, is a Ford Fiesta. To wash the front windscreen, push the end of the right control stalk in for a few seconds until there’s enough water on the window. The wipers will continue to wipe several times before stopping on their own. The rear window can be washed by pulling the stalk and holding it towards you for a few seconds. Once you’ve applied enough water, you will need to push the stalk away from you to turn the wipers off, otherwise they will continue to wipe intermittently.

Why is it important to know how to do this?

The windows may need be cleaned at any time throughout the year, not just during the winter, therefore it is important to know how to use all of your ancillary controls. Imagine driving down a fast moving road, your window gets dirty from the spray of another vehicle and you don’t know how to wash your windows. In just a few seconds the effects of not seeing clearly could be fatal.

Looking for an expert driving school in Stoke on Trent or Newcastle?

Look no further, our driving instructors are the experts. With many years of driving experience, and a commitment to continuous personal development, our driving school will provide you with an excellent route to your driving test.

When you are taking your driving lessons in Stoke on Trent, your driving instructor will show you how to complete the show me tell me questions. Drive Ahead School of Motoring can provide you with excellent driving lessons, tailored to your driving needs. To book a driving lesson, call us today on 01782 906010 or visit our homepage www.driveahead.co.uk

Q. Show Me how you would check the horn is working (off road only)

Answer: how to check the horn is working

To check the horn, all you need to do is press it and listen to make sure it works. With certain makes of cars, you may need to turn the ignition on first. If you are taking your driving test at a test centre without a car park, and are parked on the road, you may be asked to just point to where you would press to make the horn work. The reason for this is that the horn should only be used as a warning, and if you were to use it on the road, you may confuse other road users.

Why should this check be done?

The horn is a safety feature of the car, and needs to be checked periodically to ensure it is working. Imagine you arrive at a situation where the horn may be needed and it doesn’t function. The result may be that you weren’t able to warn other road users of the potential danger.

How often should I check my horn?

As I guide, I would recommend to check your handbrake at least monthly, but really you could be checking it on a weekly basis, as you never know when the need to use your horn may arise.

Are you looking for driving lessons in Stoke on Trent?

When learning to drive in Stoke on Trent or Newcastle, your driving instructor will help you to prepare for the Show Me Tell Me questions. To book a driving lesson with Drive Ahead please call today on 01782 906010 or visit our website www.driveahead.co.uk

Independent Driving on your Driving Test in Stoke on Trent

What is independent driving?

Independent Driving was introduced to the UK driving test in October 2010.  It is a 10 minute section of the driving test, where the driver is expected to follow a series of directions, roadsigns, or a combination of both.  For example, the examiner may say, at the end of the road turn left, then at the roundabout follow the road ahead, then take the next right.  If required, the examiner may also show a diagram to support the instructions (see below).  Alternatively, the examiner may ask the driver to follow road signs, or may give a combination of both.  For example, the examiner may say “At the end of the road turn left, then follow the signs to Stoke on Trent”.

Independent Driving Stoke on Trent

Why is there a need for independent driving?

Independent driving was introduced to ensure that drivers presented for the driving test were able to drive independently, without having to be directed for each individual junction.  The reason behind this was that learners could easily fall into the habit of using directions as a prompt.  What I mean by this is, traditionally learners are taught the MSM routine – Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre (further broken down to PSL – Position, Speed, and Look).  They then get into the habit of whenever their driving instructor gives them a direction, they then see this as a prompt to start doing the MSM routine.  The problem with this, is that once the learner has passed their driving test, although they may know when to turn left or right, without the direction (prompt) from the driving instructor, the new driver may forget to use the MSM routine.

Also, up until independent driving was introduced, drivers were not required to read directional road signs.  Again, once the driver has passed their driving test, they may not have been able to read roadsigns, causing great difficulties, especially when the driver visits an area they are unfamiliar with.

So, what problems may that cause?

The MSM routine is used to assess the traffic situation behind you, signal your intention to other road users, before completing the manoeuvre itself.  If just 1 element is missing from this approach, the driver may be creating a dangerous situations.  For example, when making a left turn, if the driver doesn’t check their mirrors, they will not be aware if a car behind is following too closely.  If the subsequent signal is also missing, the following car will not be aware of the drivers intention to turn, and then may be taken by surprise when the driver brakes to slow down for the junction, potentially leading the following driver to crash into the back of the leading car.

In relation to roadsigns, if a driver was unable to read the directions given on signs, they may get lost, causing stress to the driver, or they may suddenly change direction when they realise they are going the wrong way causing dangers to other road users.

How does independent driving help?

Independent driving promotes thinking on behalf of the driver.  Although the examiner may still give directions, they are usually given in groups of three.  The junctions may be quite close together, or they may be far away from each other.  This means that the driver needs to think about where the junction is, or to read a sign and decide on the direction to be taken, then plan how they are going to approach it on their own, without the usual prompt of an instruction.

But what if I take the wrong turning, miss a turn, or don’t see the signs?

Providing you drive safely YOU WILL NOT have a fault marked on your driving test report!  The aim of independent driving is that you demonstrate how to drive safely on your own, and it is not there to test your ability to follow instructions.  An example of this would be, the examiner has asked you to take the second road on the left, and you mistakenly take the first turn on the left.  Providing you approached using the correct MSM routine then you will not be marked down.  If the examiner can see that you are going to turn the wrong way, and it may take you a long way from the set route, they may remind you of the direction required to try and encourage you to go in the correct way.  And again, providing you do everything safely, you will not normally be marked down for this.  If you have taken a wrong turning, the examiner will tell you so, and then either give you directions to get back onto the same route, or change the route slightly.

Finally, what if I forget where I’m supposed to be going?

Just ask!  There will be no problem if you ask the examiner to repeat his instructions, it’s better to do that than just carry on driving aimlessly.  What you would be penalised for though, is if you just arrive at a junction, with no signals, and no idea where you are going, because you will not have given traffic around you any indication as to where you are going.  If you get to a junction and you are not sure where to go, it is much better to choose a direction, follow your instinct and make a safe turning.

Do you want to start, or are you already taking driving lessons in Stoke on Trent?

Why not give us a call and speak to one of our highly experienced driving instructors about how we can help you to pass your driving test.  Our driving lessons are taught using the most modern techniques and we have a great reputation in Stoke on Trent.  For more details, please visit our website www.driveahead.co.uk or give us a call on 01782 906010

Why is CPD important to a driving instructor?

As a driving instructor in Stoke on Trent I wanted to share with you my thoughts about the need for CPD and how easy it easy to go about it.

For people not associated with the driving instructor profession, most have no idea about the training involved in becoming a driving instructor or the necessary continuous professional development (CPD) that is required to stay at the top of the game. I say necessary CPD as its’s not compulsory. In my opinion CPD should stand for Compulsory Professional Development!

At present, once qualified, a driving instructor may never do any more training for the rest of their life! How crazy is that? Can you think of any other job or profession that once you’ve started on day 1, you never have to train again? I do admit that to become a driving instructor in the first place requires a lot of work, studying, practice, and dedication, but I qualified at 24 and may do this job until I retire at maybe 65-70 years of age. That’s 40 years or more, and at the moment there’s nothing in place to say that I have to become a better instructor or improve my skills during this time.

But what about the check test?

Approximately every 2-5 years every driving instructor that wishes to remain on the DSA’s register of approved driving instructors must complete a check test. This is a normal 1 hour lesson which a senior examiner sits in the back, watches the lesson, and gives feedback at the end, along with a grading for the instructor. The grading scale is from 1-6. If you are given a 1,2 or 3 then this is below the accepted standard and a further test will be carried out within a couple of months. If you are given a 4,5 or 6 then you may remain on the register. The higher your grade, the better the standard of the lesson you gave, and the longer the gap will be until the next check test.

The DSA however has finally realised that the way that driving lessons were taught in the 20th Century are maybe now a little dated and improvements now need to be made in the way that driving lessons are delivered. At the time of writing I am led to believe that proposed check test changes are to be implemented in April 2014, leading to a more client centred learning style of teaching. From what I’ve already read and from meetings I’ve attended, big changes are coming and there is only going to be one way to adapt to these changes and that is CPD!

So, what is CPD for Driving Instructors?

CPD is anything that can help you to learn or broaden your mind. It may be reading a blog like this, attending a local driving instructors meeting, reading newsletters or articles, or even attending courses and workshops. In Stoke on Trent we have an excellent local Driving Instructors Association (NSDIA) which holds monthly meetings to discuss a range of topics and has some great guest speakers. This meeting takes up just 2 hours of our time on one evening a month, but if you were to turn up for every meeting in the year, you would easily amass 24 hours of CPD, which is approximately 3 days worth, and it’s free of charge!

You may decide to go out and get a book about instruction, I’m currently reading ‘can drivers really teach themselves’ by Ian Edwards, which is a great book about coaching and CCL techniques. It cost about a tenner, and has given me loads of food for thought. Again, reading (and probably re-reading) this book is easily going to add up the hours on your CPD journey. I’ve read about half of this book and started to implement some of his thoughts into my own teaching, but I know I still have a lot of changes to make.

You may decide to go on a course, some can be free and some can be very expensive, but you’ll be going to listen to professionals help you to become a better driving instructor.

So is Driving Instructor CPD really necessary?

Last week I had my check test and got a grade 5, which I was really happy with. My previous 2 have been grade 4’s. I feel that this was down to my new ‘coaching’ approach and the result of around 10 days of CPD over the past 12 months. Could I have achieved this result without any CPD? No, I don’t think I could, and I know though that I must continue to work and refine my teaching so that next time I can hopefully get a grade 6!

So what I’m trying to say is no matter how great a driving instructor you are (or think you are), there’s always room for improvement, and it’s really easy to build up your knowledge, and it doesn’t have to cost the Earth! By continuing to better yourself, and the instruction that you give in the long run will provide better results for your pupils, and hopefully better recommendation rates, and even better – increased lesson prices – and who doesn’t want that?

Please feel free to leave any comments you might have about this post and why not subscribe to my blog for further posts? My next blog will be about how I prepared for my check test

Driving Instructor Stoke on Trent

Dave Shannon – Driving Instructor in Stoke on Trent

My name’s Dave Shannon and I’m a driving instructor in Stoke on Trent where I run a small school with 3 driving instructors – www.driveahead.co.uk