Tuesday, 30 January 2007

DSA quotas!

They don't frickin exist people!

I'm kinda gettin tired of sayin this, but they really don't. So stop asking!

This is the old wives tale that if your test is at the end of the day/week/month/year/financial year, then you won't pass - because the examiner will have passed his 'quota' already. (And showing what stupid thinking this is - by the same logic if they haven't passed enough people then you'd be almost bound to pass!)

They don't exist - they never have. What does exist, always has and probably always will is VARIANCES.

If you are good enough, you pass your test, but how do we know that what one examiner thinks is good enough is the same as another examiner? (I say potato, you say potahhto...) Well this is where variances are necessary - if one old git at Smotheringhouseton test centre whose divorce is going badly decides that no-one is going to pass, then he will soon find his results flagged up on the DSA computer. The other 6 examiners tend to hover around 39% at Smotheringhouseton test centre, but 'the major' has a pass rate nearer 12% - why? What happens next is that 'the major' gets a visit from their 'supervising examiner', who sits in on the back of a load of tests with him to find out why his pass rate is so low. This supervising examiner finds that this examiner has decided to fail everyone who drives at 2 mph below the 60 limit on the ring road ('because it annoys the hell out of me when I'm on my way home'). 'The major', now has to undergo some retrospective training, to ensure that his marking is in line with everyone else.

After a few weeks, 'the major's' divorce comes thru, he is relaxing into single life, he now knows that 2mph under the limit is not a fail, but could be seen as a driver fault, and is becoming all smiles again at the test centre. No longer do the local 6th Form college students dread getting him on their test, no longer do instructors roleplay the old sod on mock tests, and all of this happiness is due to variances! Hurrah.

So no, quotas don't exist, and for some of the instructors who worry about variances in the same way - stop worrying - they'll keep you safe from examiners who don't like your face. In the mean time, instead of complaining about the examiners, look to your training instead.

For all the instructor's out there - have a look at the SDEs guidelines:

It cannot be too strongly emphasised that the passing of a constant, or nearly constant, percentage of candidates by an examiner, is not evidence that he has required the same standard of competence to be shown by all; nor can the fact that a number of examiners have shown a common percentage of passes be taken as evidence that their assessment is uniform. It is true that when an examiner has conducted over 400 tests (for category ‘B’ tests only) it would be reasonable to expect little difference between the percentages of passes within a centre, but this does not mean that a similar percentage should be looked for in the daily, weekly or monthly results of tests conducted by individual examiners. However, it is the responsibility of the SDE to ensure that any unusual trends are reported to the SM and investigates the route cause of any variance.

If you want to look at the whole sleep inducing document:



Sunday, 28 January 2007

Why can't driving instructors agree?!

There are a lot of arguments going on at the moment, just look at the forums - even dtt is becoming bitchy! For some reason people can't see the wood for the trees. All of the changes to the system (most of them as yet pretty badly laid out) are making ADIs twitchy. They are looking for someone to blame.

First off they start sniping at the people around them - other ADIs, usually with the traditional dividing lines of ADI vs Trainee (pinkies), independent vs franchise. Luckily these tend just to be personality clashes, and different ways of doing stuff.

Where it gets more worrying is when they team up against the DSA. This side of things is getting very heated at the moment, and if the DSA don't start picking up on this ill will soon then they will have problems. Problems which will most likely start at the test centre - stupid ADIs taking their frustration out on the guys at the coal face. I'm gonna go out on a limb now and say DON'T TAKE THINGS OUT ON THE EXAMINERS. Barring the odd pill*ck examiners are a fine bunch, and considering what they do I reckon there's a lot less bad apples than in most industries.

The DSA do have a few things to answer for - they are slow at getting information out to us (yes, the emails help guys, but what is happening with tests - are new guidelines being issued or what?). They are also not the greatest at asking for input, every now and again I hear about a survey being done, but I don't seem to get asked anything (maybe they've got me sussed and want to steer well clear!). The main problem though doesn't lie with the DSA.

It lies with the politicians above. And are we gonna be able to change that? Not a hope in hell!

So what is the solution? Well we need to start working together a bit more, instructors with instructors, independents with franchises, and most of all - ADIs with the DSA. If the DSA have to get something done, then it will be done, but if ADIs work WITH the DSA rather than against them, we might be able to shape it into something workable and useful to our ends.

If you ask any ADI worth their salt what they want to see happening, it will include safer roads. Ask the DSA, and you'll get the same answer.

Lets try and hang together on a few of these issues guys. I know - radical 'devils advocate' thinking there, but it might just work!

Saturday, 27 January 2007

UK Driving Test Getting Harder

Yup. It's gonna happen!

Well, they've been doing it for years - take anyone who took their test more than a year ago and ask them to sit it again with no extra training - they'd be stuffed!

Our wondrous minister Mr Ladyman, has stuck his nose in again complaining that ADIs aren't teaching good attitude to their customers (good attitude - from the guy who screamed around on Top Gear and has clocked up 9 penalty points for speeding?). So he wants people to do 120 hours behind the wheel before taking their test, maybe turn the thing into a 2 stage test, and make people drive at night and on different types of road, maybe take compulsory training with an ADI, learn about driving while at school.

Fair enough, most of it, though it all depends on how they implement it, but the way it has been presented has annoyed instructors even more than normal. By suggesting that ADIs don't do their job properly he is making sure that the public think that we're just conning them. (I dread to think how they'll respond when we tell them we want them all to take more lessons before we let them go to test because they'll mess up our pass rates - oh, and because you're not ready, you'll have to pay to re-book your test! Yeah right - that's gonna work.)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6223887.stm - basic intro to the story.

http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,12389-2527212,00.html - comment at The Times.

http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?h=0&f=154&t=340548 - the pistonheads have it pretty much spot on - making the test harder is a fairly good idea, but will have no effect on safety - young lads are pretty good at upping their game for the test, but once they have that pink card in their hand.......

http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/forums/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/1596635/an/0/page/0 - some interesting comments, and some utter rubbish from the people in the know at 'horse and hound'!

http://www.beyonddriving.co.uk/2007/04/20/making-the-driving-test-harder/ - a take on this from an instructor.

http://www.theslant.co.uk/2007/01/02/driving-tests-to-get-harder/ - "instant fail upon ownership of burberry would be a start", slightly humourous take from The Slant.

Go to the forums and have a rant, or email the DSA's head of driver safety strategy direct at:

Or wind up the lovely Mr Ladyman himself:

Oh, and if you're getting worried about that driving test you've got booked - relax - this won't happen for approximately 32.367 years based on past experience of suggested changes.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Why do drivers presume a car with L-plates on is going to hold them up?

I'm gonna admit something here I shouldn't.

I get pretty p*ssed off with just about everyone else on the road some days.
Then I get therapy and chill out again - but this one annoys the sh*t out of me!

During a lesson today - my bloke had done really well on his second lesson, and I was driving him home through some hellish junctions he didn't fancy trying (we'll do em next week I promise - but think about crossing a 4 lane road after your second lesson - yep!). There were no gaps, not even cheeky ones - it was chucking out time for the schools, and the (completely pointless) 4x4's were thundering by from both directions. But, because there were L-plates on the car - the guy behind presumed we must be holding him up so he beeped at us!

Donchajustluvvem! I seriously debated stalling it then rolling back into his stupid merc (are these guys given an exemption from the highway code when they buy one?), but then realised saying 'om' would be a much more positive, enlightening, and karmic thing to do.

It doesn't matter what you do - they see the L's and just have to go for you - it's like a target to them. When younger I retaliated - I sometimes miss that, but no - my reward will come when I have shuffled off this mortal coil (preferably taking some tw*t in a range rover sport out of the game with me - did I type that or just think it? sorry). I'll have lovely worms eating me (shame I'm not religeous innit!).

Driving me mad!

Well, the guys in charge of driving instructors (the DSA) are thinking about publishing everything about us, in the same way that league tables are created for schools.

Which seems great until you work out that we can cheat the system!

The Pass Rate, which they're thinkin of publishing is one of the bluntest instruments around - it says that out of 100 tests taken by my lot, 58 of them were passes. Fair enough, a bit above the average (43 ish). Only problem is that as soon as they publish these, everyone is going to be looking for the guy who's rate is 96%.

'But don't people have 96% pass rates already - I've seen them advertised?' - NO! These are bullsh*t made up rates, which can be fixed by silly word play in the adverts, or in the way they work out 'their' pass rate.

The DSA one is the only one which will count if they do this.

'What's wrong with that then - surely the good guys will get work, the bad guys out of business - as it should be?' - But they're easy to cheat - all you do is refuse to take anyone to test until you've made them take an extra 20 lessons on top of what they need. Or dump them if they're a bit of a challenge. Or take your badge out of the window so the result doesn't go on your stats if you think that nerves are getting the better of them. Or refuse to take on people with disabilities because they're harder to teach. In fact, take the money off everyone, but only ever take the lads with mechanical skills to test - keep the others learning for ever - whoopee - probably a 85% pass rate straight off.

But a lot of conned girls, disabled people, people with language difficulties, nervous drivers, older drivers......

'Why can't you get a better pass rate with these people?' Well that's the point - you can, but it takes a hell of a lot more time - do you want to pay an extra grand for your driving lessons? I'll take it off you if you are offering it!

'How would you fix the problem of dodgy young drivers then? Come on, stop complaining and give us some solutions!' Ok then - psychometric testing for learners; a test based on assessing attitude and not skill (this might actually be happening soon!); publishing a driving instructors grade (a local official comes and watches a lesson and says how good it is - according to the DSA Freedom of Information section people can already request ADI grades); make driving instructors leave their badge in the window if they're taking them to test (come on instructors - take a bit of responsibility); start charging people involved in accidents for police time - similar to how ambulances are billed for; black boxes - if you break the speed limit - your insurance goes up! Hell - there's loads of ways of doing it, most of which don't penalise the good guys.

Please lovely people at the Driving Standards Agency - don't be bl**dy stupid, coz I'm sorry - I've got a living to make, and as much as I love my job I will need to cheat my pass rate up if you do this, and so will a lot of other guys - the phone won't ring if we don't.