Category Archives: Driving Instructor Blog

Follow my posts on my experiences as a driving instructor, and my journey as a driving instructor implementing Client Centred Learning into my business.

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 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 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…

What’s the difference between a pint of Peroni and a driving instructor?

It’s been said many times that if you were to line up 5 driving instructors and ask a learner to choose, how would they know the difference between them? In the end, we all do the same job. We take a nervous 17 year old who has limited driving knowledge and experience, and we train/instruct/coach them to be a competent driver who we hope will be safe on our roads. How the heck are they supposed to choose and know the difference between us?

What’s normally the first question you get when you answer the phone with an enquiry about driving lessons? – How much are the lessons? – If you’re charging above the average rate, I can hear your sighs now. For those who are charging the industry bottom prices (I heard of someone recently charging £14 for a driving lesson!) you’ll be rubbing your hands together when the price question rears its head – yeah well done, you got them. You won them over by being cheaper than everybody else – well done you – how many hundred hours a week do you work?

For those of us that charge a higher rate, you know the phone call is generally only going one way.

So how do you go about justifying charging more for driving lessons?

Now, this might sound like an odd analogy, but it came to me one night whilst in a hotel, the night before going on holiday. A driving instructor is like a pint of beer – told you it was an odd analogy! I enjoy a beer, a lager to be more precise, and I’m quite picky, I like a nice quality lager. At my local pub I often enjoy a nice cold pint of Peroni, it’s pricey at £4.20 a pint, but I enjoy it, and I enjoy the atmosphere of the pub. I’m sure I could get it cheaper at the local Weatherspoons, but it doesn’t have the ambience I’m looking for, and certainly isn’t a place I’d go to for a nice drink with my family. Last night, in the hotel bar, I was pleased to see they served Peroni, so I went ahead and ordered one. The Peroni there cost £5.10, roughly 20% more than I’d pay in my local pub.

So why does it cost more?

It’s still the same amber liquid I could purchase from many establishments across the UK. The difference is the package. At my local, my Peroni would sometimes come in the custom glass the brewery made for the drink. Sometimes, if all the good ones had been stolen, I’d get it served in a generic glass, which although it still tastes the same, it’s just nicer in a proper glass. Sometimes I’d be served by the landlord who’s quite chatty, other times it might be the new girl who couldn’t care less. At the hotel, the barmaid was professional and courteous, the hotel bar was spotless, there were free nuts poured fresh if you wanted them (not the same pot everyone’s had their dirty hands in), and the furnishing was comfortable and modern as you’d expect from a nice hotel.

So what’s my point? If you put a pint of Peroni from Weatherspoons, my local, and a nice hotel all side by side, they’d all look and taste the same. The reason the prices are different is because of the service that is offered around the pint. As a driving instructor you are the pint of beer, to the untrained eye you’re no different from the rest of us. The potential learner generally doesn’t know about the ADI grading system. Your driving school is the establishment – your package – and this is the key to unlocking your earning potential. Do you want to be Weatherspoon’s School of Motoring charging £14 an hour, or do you want to be the Nice Hotel School of Motoring charging £30+ an hour?

I know which one I’d prefer to be, and I’m working hard to achieve it so that I, and the other instructors that are with my franchise can earn a decent living. How you go about becoming the top class school is entirely up to you, but think outside the box, think about how you can add value to your lessons, and about how you can exceed your learners expectations – give them an experience they can’t forget!

I wish you all the best with your business, but I challenge you to be the best!

Dave Shannon

Don’t get caught out when booking driving tests online!

When you’re learning to drive there will come a time when you need to book your theory test and driving test.  In this modern world, most people will choose to do this online.  The official government websites for booking the test are as follows:

To book a theory test –

To book a driving test –

These websites work really well, and the booking system is really easy to follow.  Unfortunately many people don’t use the correct website.  This tends to be down to Google.  Instead of finding the correct website, many people simply search ‘book theory test’ or ‘book driving test’ and the first results that come up are the sponsored adverts.  Within these sponsored adverts appear a number of websites that are not associated with the DVSA (the official government department for driving tests).  These websites offer promises of free retests if you fail your test, even though you will pay a premium for the privilege.

The problem with these websites is not many people read the small print.  The lure of a retest, for what seems quite a reasonable price, draws many people into just booking without giving much though into what they’re actually going to get.  I’ve looked at the small print on several sites, and the terms and conditions on all sites related to theory state that if you don’t pass because you failed the hazard perception section of your test then they will not rebook and you will lose out.  You also have to have failed the multiple choice questions by only 2 marks, if you’ve failed by more than that, then yet again they won’t rebook you test for you and you will lose out.

So, if we look at the possible outcomes of using these sites:

You pass first time – You will lose out as you’ve paid more than correct rate in the first place

You pass the multiple choice section, but fail the hazard perception – You will lose out

You fail the multiple choice section by scoring less than 41 out of 50 – You will lose out

You fail the multiple choice section by scoring either 41 or 42 out of 50 and you pass your hazard perception – You will get your free retest and will have benefited from the offer

So, taking all of these outcomes into consideration, although the initial offer looks good, it’s more than likely you’re going to lose out.  If the offer was as good as it seems then the companies making these websites wouldn’t make any money.

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail

My advice would also be to use the official sites I posted at the top of this blog, and make sure you’re prepared for your test so there’s a limited chance that you’ll fail in the first place.  There’s loads of great resources for you to use, and all of our learners get free access to Theory Test Pro.  For more information just give us a call on 01782 906010

Driving Test Passes – December 2013

Congratulations to all of our pupils that passed their driving tests in December 2013. If you’d like to be next then why not book online today!

2nd December 2013 – Lizzie Horden – Lizzie passed with our driving instructor Dave Shannon (snr) at the Cobridge test centre in Stoke on Trent. Well done Lizzie!

Lizzie had driving lessons in Stoke on Trent

3rd December 2013 – Josh Page – Josh took his driving lessons with our newest driving instructor Mark Lawton.  He passed his test at Newcastle test centre.  Well done Josh!

Driving Lessons Newcastle under Lyme

4th December 2013 – Sophie – Sophie began learning to drive when she lived at home in Birmingham.  Part way through her learning she moved to Shelton to study at Staffordshire University, and needed a local driving school to continue her driving lessons.  Sophie was recommended to us by a number of her friends who had already passed their tests with Drive Ahead.  Well done Sophie, from your driving instructor Dave Shannon!

Sophie passed in Newcastle

10th December 2013 – Fang Chen – Fang was recommended to us by one of her friends who had recently taken driving lessons with us.  She had been learning with another driving instructor and had failed her test several times so decided it was time for a change.  After taking lessons with us she managed to pass on her first time at the Cobridge test centre – Well done Fang!

Fang passed in Stoke on Trent

12th December 2013 – Kim Pidgeon – Kim had driven in the past, but after a break of several years and with a new baby she decided it was time to start again.  After just a handful of lesson Kim was back up to standard and past with us first time!

Kim passed in Newcastle

17th December 2013 – Matt “Rug” Pennington – “Rug” passed his driving test with our instructor Mark Lawton at the Newcastle.

19th December 2013 – Josh Dale – Josh passed his driving test with our instructor Martin Molyneux – Well done Josh!

Driving test in Newcastle

19th December 2013 – Jodie Howard – Jodie passed her driving test 1st time with our driving instructor John Johnson at the Newcastle test centre

31st December 2013 – Mark Carr – Mark came to us after seeing one of his old school mates’ photos on our website.  His friend had passed with us a few weeks before.  Mark runs his own business delivering leaflets and really needs a car to get around, and he’ll now have the flexibility to travel more for his work

Mark passed his test in Stoke

Well done to all of our ‘passed’ learners – a great result all round!

If you’d like to take driving lessons with Drive Ahead then call us today on 01782 906010 or why not book online

Driving Lessons in Stoke – How do I prepare?

Driving Lessons in Stoke on Trent

So then, you’ve decided that you want to learn to drive, but you’re not sure what you need to do to get ready for your driving lessons.  This blog post gives you a guide about what documents you will need and how to get them, as well as what to expect on your first driving lesson, along with useful website and contact details.

How old must I be to learn to drive?

You can drive from your 17th birthday.  However, you can apply for your provisional driving licence up to 3 months before your 17th birthday.  If you’d like a driving lesson on your 17th birthday then I’d advise you to start applying for your licence at the earliest opportunity.

Driving Lessons from 17

How to get your provisional driving licence

Before you even think about getting in a car to drive you must have a provisional driving licence.   There are 2 ways to obtain your driving licence. Firstly you can pick up an application form from the Post Office, fill it in, then post it off to the DVLA.  Secondly, you can apply online at, this is much easier and quicker, and once you’ve completed your application you’ll normally receive your driving licence within 1 week.  The cost of the driving licence is currently £50 and you must also provide passport photos (although if you have a passport already and apply online then they will use the same photo that was used for your passport).

When you receive your driving licence your photo card will be attached to a paper counterpart.  It is important to keep both parts of your driving licence safe, you will need to show them to your driving instructor on your first driving lesson, and they need to be taken with you when you take your driving test.

If at any time your driving licence is lost or damaged then you can apply for a replacement.  The easiest way to do this is online at  This currently costs £20.

You’ve got you licence, you’re now ready to book your driving lessons?

As long as you have your licence and either it’s approaching your 17th Birthday or your 17 or older already you can now go ahead and book your driving lessons.  At present Drive Ahead School of Motoring offer driving lessons in Stoke on Trent, Newcastle under Lyme, and all surrounding areas.  When booking your driving lessons you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to learn in a manual or automatic car.  To book a driving lesson call us today on 01782 906010

Manual or Automatic – What’s the difference?

The majority of cars have a manual gearbox, although there is growing number of automatic cars around due to the increase in hybrid and electric cars being used.  If you decide to learn in a manual car this means that you’ll need to change the gears, and use the clutch to control the car.  In an automatic car you don’t need to change through the gears, the car ‘automatically’ does it for you.  If you pass your test in a manual car then you are also permitted to drive an automatic, however if you pass in an automatic car and later decide you’d like to drive a manual car, you will need to retake your driving test in a manual car.

You’ve booked your driving lesson, what can you expect?

Your driving instructor will arrive at the location you arranged when booking your driving lessons.  This might be your home, college, a place of work or any other prearranged location.  You will be required to bring your driving licence with you on your first lesson.  Also, if you’ve been told you require glasses for driving then you must bring them with you to all of your driving lessons.  By law you are required to read a new style car number plate from 20 metres away.  You will be asked to do this before you drive on your first lesson.  If you cannot read the number plate, or you don’t bring your glasses with you, then you will not be permitted to drive.


When you are picked up for your first lesson, your driving instructor will normally drive you to a suitable location to start your learning.  When taking driving lessons in Stoke there’s loads of great places to get you started.  This will normally be a quiet housing or industrial estate where the amount of hazards are minimal, and the roads are suitable for you to start your learning.  You will normally start off by learning about the cockpit drill.  The cockpit drill is 5 checks that make sure you are sitting in the correct position, can reach all of the controls properly and can see everything you need to see.  The instructor will find your knowledge of the  controls of the car and how they work, but don’t worry, if there’s anything you don’t know or are not sure off then your instructor will help out.

Once you’ve got a basic understanding of the car and it’s controls you will then look at how to get the car moving, travel a short distance, then bring the car to a stop in a safe location.   Your instructor will always make sure you are safe and if needed can help you out by using their dual controls.  If you’ve taken a 1 hour lesson then your first lesson will probably end at this point.  The driving instructor may drive you home dependant on the progress made.

We always recommend a 2 hour lesson for your first driving lesson to give you the most benefit when starting out.  This means that you may move on to dealing with basic junctions, looking at how to make left and right turns.

It’s important to remember that every person learns at a different rate, and what one person does in one hour, may take another several hours.  Your driving instructor will guide you throughout the learning process, but if at any point you feel you don’t understand the subject and would like the instructor to slow things down a bit then just tell them.  Also, if you feel you should be making more progress then also speak to your instructor, they’ll be more than happy to discuss it with you.

At the end of the lesson your instructor will give you a debrief about the learning that you’ve done, as well as setting an agenda for the next lesson with you.

If you’ve got any further questions or would like to book a driving lesson in Stoke then call us today on 01782 906010

Stoke on Trent Test Centre

If you’re taking driving lessons in Stoke on Trent then you’re probably wondering where you’ll need to go for your theory test and practical test. Well don’t worry, below is a comprehensive guide as to where you’ll need to go for your tests along with how to book them.

Stoke on Trent  Test Centre address is

Unit 8A,
Whittle Court,
Town Road,
Stoke on Trent,

There is no direct phone number for the theory test centre and you cannot book the test by going to the centre. To book a theory test you need to either call 0300 200 1122 (which is only available Mon to Fri, 8am-12pm) so you’re best booking online at

The theory test centre is all on the ground floor so is accessible for the disabled and it also has toilet facilities. When you go for you theory test you’ll need to take your provisional licence, both the photo card and the paper counterpart. If you have an old style paper licence then you’ll also need to take your passport. You should arrive at the test centre 15 minutes before your test. Failure to take the correct documents or if you arrive late will mean that your test will be cancelled and you will lose your fee.

Where will I take my practical test in Stoke?

If you live in, and are taking your driving lessons in Stoke on Trent, then it most likely you will take your driving test at the Stoke on Trent driving test centre in Cobridge.

The Stoke practical test centre is in the Cobridge area of the city.

8 Elder Road
Stoke On Trent

Again there is no direct phone number to the test centre. To book your driving test you can either call 0300 200 1122 (Mon to Fri, 8am-12pm) or book online at
The driving test centre is all on the ground floor so is accessible for the disabled and it has toilet facilities.

There is no car park at the Cobridge test centre so you must park on the road. There are several marked short stay parking spaces directly outside the test centre. During busy times these spaces may be full so you’ll need to park on one of the nearby roads.

You should arrive about 15 minutes before your test start time. You will need to bring your driving licence, both the photo card and paper counterpart, along with your theory certificate. If you’re taking your driving test with a driving instructor they will make sure their car is ready for the test.

If you’re not taking your driving test with a driving instructor then you must do all of the following:
Ensure your car is roadworthy – the examiner will check the condition of:

  • The tyres and may check the lights work properly.
  • The car must be insured for your use for the purpose of a test – not all insurance policies cover this.
  • The car must have L plates clearly displayed front and back.
  • You should have an additional mirror on the passenger side for the examiner. These are available from most car accessory shops.Failure to supply any of the required documents or if any of the vehicle requirements are not met may mean that your test will not go ahead and you will lose you driving test fee.

Female Driving Instructor in Newcastle under Lyme

Female Driving Instructor in Newcastle Under Lyme

Female Driving Instructor in Newcastle under Lyme

We’re pleased to welcome Sarah Alcock as Drive Ahead’s first female driving instructor.  Sarah has around 7 years of driving instructor experience, and has passed the BTEC level 4 Professional Award in Coaching For Driver Development making her one of the most qualified driving instructors in the area.   Sarah will primarily cover the Newcastle under Lyme area, but will also cover certain areas around Stoke on Trent. Continue reading