“Who is the ADI’s Worst Enemy?”
This is the text of the Fourth Annual Professorial Lecture to the Joint Alumni of the DRIVER EDUCATION RESEARCH FOUNDATION (www.derf.org.uk), and the INSTITUTE of DRIVER EDUCATION & RESEARCH (www.ider.org.uk);
First published August 2014; and Copied to all ADI-NJC & IMTD Members and ADI Trainers. © August 2014
Professor Peter RUSSELL. BA; MA: D.Prof., Southampton SO18 1JB
Who is the ADI’s Worst Enemy?
In 1957, when I first started teaching drivers to pass the simple practical test of driving competency, there were very few problems: (part of my early Educational Psychological Training background made it clear there were no such things as teaching problems … they were only learning challenges – or better still – learning opportunities).
The driving test since then has been made marginally more difficult, because of various additional items to be taught, remembered and put into practice. However, it was not until the introduction of the voluntary ADI Register in October 1964; and of compulsory Registration in June 1971, that the government began to put pressure on the driver training trade to make themselves more professional. The better associations tried to drag their burgeoning businesses to become self-regulating, by gaining professional qualifications to identify cater for the rapidly approaching new century. The more ambitious of us thought in terms of the Law Society and the British Medical Association, both of whom regulated and controlled minimum standards in their respective industries.
Initially efforts to combine the individual energies of the ADI industry stalwarts, were thwarted by the determined efforts of the Ministry of Transport’s own staff, who never wanted any self-governance to be given ‘to a bunch of political pygmies’ to allow any control over their own future.
In 1974, Pat Murphy and I were initially invited to take MoT “Driving Examiner Training Courses”, on behalf of the NJC of ADI Organisations to see how the government set their own training standards needed by Driving Examiner staff. To say we were disappointed is a massive understatement. As a qualified and certificated teacher, and trainer of teachers, I was horrified to find the MoT were still using totally out-dated military style methods based on post-war Road Transport Industry (RTIB) guidelines. We also soon understood the reasons why examiners (as a whole) hated instructors had one simple reason. Examiners were on a fixed salary; whereas instructors were free to earn extra money any time they wished: simply by selling extra lessons. This attitude still lingers even now.
The driver training industry has offered to support and offer pre-L test training in schools (as part of a graduated driving licence system) since I first began in 1957. Hundreds of ADIs have trained and qualified as classroom deliverers; and have demonstrated, not only the benefits; but the road safety values of teaching safe-driving concepts as a whole life experience in spite of combined efforts by the Department for Education and Department for Transport to avoid any expansion of driver training into schools simply demonstrates government’s inability to come to terms with inevitability of driving as a life-skill. After pleading for years for ADIs to get professional accreditation in their CPD, they now say “Forget CPD it is dead: we have”.
Perhaps the most critical time in U K Driver Education really began in 1957. Prior to July 1956, driving schools were unqualified and were normally office-based in High street premises: virtually all instructors were employed, and driving lesson fees were roughly on a par with the driving test fees. The test fee in 1935 was set at seven shillings and sixpence = (85pence); a few short months later the test fee was reduced to five shillings, the same as for a driving licence: because the MoT was making too much money. Tests were abandoned during the war years of course. By the time I began, tests costs fifteen shillings and lesson fees varied enormously. One popular way for new independent ADIs was to select their ‘fair’ price by many new instructors was to charge five shillings less than the test fee. Most chose to charge ten percent less than their nearest neighbours. This was the first step towards business failure, which occurred when a new car or gearbox or crash repair costs were needed. I set my fees based around a teacher’s hourly rate plus car costs, plus business and pension/ holiday needs. Good instructors thrived; poor ones went back to a previous trade, or joined BSM or another school
The wisest instructors also chose to teach Fleer & Corporate or Advanced drivers; this was a fresh market, where clients paid a fair price to save lives and reduce road costs.
All this is all a far cry from 1st April 1990, the year DSA was formed, when Dr Woodman, the Agency’s first CEO, was sacked because, under his administration, the ‘new’ DSA went six million pounds in debt, in spite of operating a unique government monopoly with an on-going and guaranteed number of test candidates of three quarters of a million each and every year. I had accompanied Chris Chope, (Roads Minister) at the time as we arrived in style in a 1920’s Bentley officially to open the DSA’s Nottingham HQ.,. Chope told me later, we both suffered as a result. All the DSA Mandarins and minions were immediately antagonised at the prospect of any outspoken ”industry leader” having social and professional access to their political boss.
To compound Dr Woodman’s errors, when I asked Robert Key, his boss and Transport Secretary of State at the time where Woodman’s next posting would be? He astonished us both by making a few indiscreet phone calls to discover he had been transferred to the Treasury instead. When it comes to business acumen the motoring division of our government has traditionally scored a big fat zero for planning and value for money.
Another example of this was demonstrated when ADI examination fees were first determined. At that time I was a Chief Examiner (A level English) for the Associated Examining Board (AEB): which had more than satisfactorily run “A” level examinations for ADIs from 1983 until they amalgamated in 2000 with the Assessment & Qualifications Alliance (AQA). As their relatively “tame” expert on Driving, Driver Education and Road Safety generally, I was asked to advise how to make an offer to run all ADI Assessments. The AEB were astounded to discover the DSA’s costing of £50 a pop was simply for the theory test only. My bosses at the AEB were convinced they could offer all three ADI examination parts for that sort of money. This factor was surprisingly lax when they became aware that practical test candidates are required to bring, insure and pay for their own vehicles on test.
Successive Secretaries for State, Roads’ Ministers, and DSA Chief Executives became confident of the power they held over their underlings. ADIs and their learner driver clients were simply cash-cows to enable the Transport Department Mandarins to run their expensive dreams any way they wished: any DSA staff daring to voice objections are ruthlessly culled.
The last Chief Driving Examiner to be able use his power well, was undoubtedly the late, great, Bill Smith OBE, who died 23rd March, 2011. He was finally culled when he invited a few top ADIs & Association bosses to attend C.I.E.C.A, (the International Association for Chief Driving Examiners & staff). UK National Associations were able to benefit from CUECA’s experience: in fact Pieter Smirz of Vienna held a dual position as General Secretary of both Austrian National Organisations for Instructors and Examiners. Later he also became G.S. of the I.V.V.
(“The IVV was founded in 1957 and to this day is the first and only world- wide organisation representing the interests of professional driving instructors and driving schools, in Europe and the English-speaking world”).
Although I.V.V. & C.I.E.C.A still meet and exchange information and Conference speakers, the British D.V.L.A. still prefers to run its own “Agency” not only running its own driver and vehicle “industry” at whatever profit they can get away with, such as selling off precious and valuable personalised or cherished vehicle registration plates. The prices are always open to offer of course; but the business benefits are all profit to the Agency. No wonder driving instructors are way down in their pecking order.
I must declare my own personal grievance here. When I first became involved in driver education as an unqualified, driver-trainer; unqualified, nevertheless, but also holding a full teaching certificate and ten years’ experience as a classroom-trained school teacher – and later an AEB and AQA chief examiner in English – I was horrified to find there was no training programme for new entrants to the industry: even the BSM who were considered by the MoT to be “industry leaders” only paid lip-service to the idea. Their initial training (in 1956-7) lasted a week – four students plus a BSM Staff instructor in a four-seater Ford Escort – starting Sunday night at a Croydon BSM training house. It concluded Saturday lunch time – and trainees were sent to fill a vacant car in any branch.
With luck another instructor there would offer help; but mostly they guarded their own clients most carefully. The advice most often given to the ‘newbie’, was to follow an examiner round a test route as the best way to learn where to teach. Obviously this only gained the new DI a hard time. The other factor to make life difficult was their pay. They ‘earned’ three pounds ten shillings a week; and desperately needed any overtime.
It can be argued at best they learned from their pupils. Others felt they were taking money either under false pretences: or with grievous bodily harm as crashes inevitably followed (before or after pupils’ tests).
As a free-lance D.I. from my early days, I advertised “Qualified Teacher and Road Safety Award Winner offers professional Driver training” I always had waiting lists to start (one lesson a week); I chose to ask and get 50% more (22 shillings 10 pence) than the test fee (Fifteen Shillings). After helping the then Ministry of Transport and interested Members of Parliament to lay down a structured programme of ADI training, testing and assessment standards for the ADI Register. I rapidly rose through various organisations and was able to lead many better instructors down the path of gaining educational qualifications; initially Teachers of Higher and Further Education. In 1983 I was able to become part of the Diploma in Driving Instruction (Dip.D.I.) which eventually opened the Academic path for ADIs towards Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees: and ultimately to Doctorates and Professorships, all in the subject we have devoted a lifetime to. Not because of the money, nor the status; but to a devotion to saving lives – especially generations of young and new drivers.
The only factor preventing improvements in ADI Qualifications and professional competence during my whole lifetime geared to enabling novice drivers to gain the best and safest entrance to a full long driving lifetime, has been the intransigency of current and previous MPs and Transport mandarins to dare to think they could learn anything from the experience of insignificant ADIs. In almost every case I have given I have avoided saying that they have been motivated by money – or bribery. I will merely touch on the historical fact that BSM was never required to obey the basic law that ‘every new PDI needed a signature of a full ADI to be granted a licence to learn’. However I was not terribly surprised when I was head-hunted by the BSM as Training Director in 1976, to discover that ALL their trainee applications were accepted without any ADI’s signature. I was also not surprised to discover that for many, many years the BSM High Performance Fleet of cars was based in Switzerland “for holiday use by especially selected Civil Service Officers and others in the Echelons of Transport decision-makers’.
The BSM High Performance Fleet originally consisted of about twenty-five of the top-performing sports vehicles in the world, including Aston Martins, Ferraris, a Lamborghini Diablo, and most post-war desirable “motorotica”. Although they had always been a loss-leader in the BSM stable, driving instructors who wished could always take one of their three standard HP driving courses to increase their own personal skills. My own favourite HPC Fleet car was theT.R.8 a souped up version of the Triumph TR7, with a 3.5 litre Chrysler engine, and almost no body weight
Sadly, in contrast with the Doctors’ & Lawyers Registration bodies (The Law Society); and the British Medical Association, (BMA) ADI Associations have never been allowed to have any say into the professionalism of their trade. This is the shame of DfT and other government Departments over the years.
For years I believed it was because we had no consistent academic background: no historical belief in the intellect (not to say innate intelligence) of those ADIs who did care and did know enough to make a difference. Sadly like all genuine idiots, I now know that as an industry we have all been sold down the drain by the sheer ‘brazen chutzpah’ of our masters of our own little universe.
If anyone dares to doubt this, simply check recent history; forget any apparent promotions or national statements. Forget any insistence on CPD: CPD was one of the most recent and outrageous scams by the DfT.
“YOU MUST HAVE C.P.D”. they shouted at all DVSA and DSA & ADI Meetings ”GET YOUR CPD and we will SUPPORT you all the way”, they brayed. It was almost as if ‘they actually’ understood the efforts and concerns of ADIs who spent hours and years writing dissertations; and carrying out research; initially gaining academic recognition; but not by the DfT’s ‘Ever Changing Decision-makers.
These are the underlings at the DfT, who once knew how to pretend to offer support when it was needed; but with the current announcement of ditching CPD; we now know that dream is dead. So let us proclaim it at every ADI Meeting in the country.
Who then is the ADI’s Worst Enemy? (Regrettably, it is those same people who have taken our money since 1964; and have given us nothing in return: nothing except ‘pies in the sky’ and ‘broken promises’. And their thinking is surely the same as it has always been: “How dare these pygmies think we will help them achieve a professional standing?”.
For those who may find it difficult to accept this mendacity from the DVSA & DVLA, seek out how much money they make each year selling drivers’ and vehicles’ details to the parking sharks and others wanting to know your motoring details. Millions of pounds are collected from the UK’s seventy million licence holders; every year.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is an executive agency of the UK Department for Transport (DfT). It is also meant to be self-supporting. The genuine role of the Department for Transport is to deliver a fair and legitimate driver training and testing process. However, there is nothing that says these mini-mandarins should see their role to improving road safety Training or the genuine improvement of the industry where we are committed to stay for another seventy years.
Let us hear it now, all you stalwart ADIs who have struggled against every adversity and the shocking attitudes of our political masters. As we now know, the DVSA has apparently abandoned its old motto of “Safe driving for Life” and replaced it with this:
“We don’t really want better safer drivers, or better qualified trainers: we want to be left alone to make more money”
Arguments to support this view are welcomed from all i.d.e.r. & d.e.r.f. Fellows and Members; as are logical arguments against.
Peter Russell SOUTHAMPTON 10TH August 2014