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Updated: May 1, 2020

In this blog I try to answer all the questions relating to Pass Rates. The Driving & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are trying to publish pass rates, but is it as simple as that?

Along with pricing, and aside of availability this is probably the next question I'm frequently asked by potential customers.

The simple answer is - I don't have one, and I will explain why!

I feel I owe it to my clients to provide a good level of tuition, I cannot do that if I become statistically focused. I realise clients want to pass a driving test, but I also want them to become safe drivers. The test is the minimum standard required to drive unaccompanied, its my aim to reach higher than this standard.

Publishing pass rates may set the standards higher, but the downside could mean if an instructor is judged on their Pass Rate some students may find it harder to find an instructor.

I know of at least one case where a Driving School was questioned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The claim was they had an 80% First Time Pass Rate. Of course anything’s possible, but generally a first time pass rate of 80% in the driver training profession would be very hard to maintain, unless you are selective with your results. Anyone claiming a 100% Pass Rate, I would suggest finding another instructor, because if they cannot be honest with their statistics, what else are they willing to tell you, or rather not tell you!

The ASA spokesperson said: “We received a complaint about advertising on the Kelvin White Driving School website which stated ‘you will also benefit from our first time pass rate of over 80% across the whole of the driving school’.

You can read the article in the Somerset Councty Gazette, make your own minds. The claims have now been removed and the driving school use other catchy phrases and slogans to entice students into taking lessons.

How can you trust an advertised Pass Rate? If your main focus is on using the services of a driving school with a high pass rate then you need to ask that school to provide evidence of how they made that claim. Without written data, and published figures it is just a number plucked out the air. You need to know at what point the data collation started and ended. You need to know how much evidence is included in the data i.e. 1 test, 2 tests or 100 driving tests. You also need to know how many instructors are included within the statistics.

What is a realistic Pass Rate? That’s a really good question. What I notice online is that realistic Pass Rates are probably never published. The official way of checking is for a Driving Instructor to request their figures from the DVSA. This has also been brought into question, as data is taken from the Driving Instructors badge number that is shown on their licence before a test - If an instructor felt a pupil was going to struggle to pass first time, they could withhold that information. An examiner could make a mistake when noting the badge number; the information could be entered onto a computer incorrectly. So even the official route has its pitfalls.

If the National Average Pass Rate hovers just below 50% then who is bringing the rate down?

A realistic Pass Rate would be around 65%. This would mean an Instructor enjoys a few first time passes, with many students passing on the 2nd attempt, very rarely more than 3 attempts.

Why do the DVSA want to publish Pass Rates? It’s really simple. The DVSA want to improve the current pass rates. They feel that standards are too low and higher pass rates would achieve safer drivers. Governments are also renowned for following statistics and data without looking at the hard facts. Now whilst I agree in principle there are many reasons why I'm against it.

I can imagine many students who are let’s say are not natural drivers, may find it hard to find an instructor willing to teach them. This could mean anyone over the age of 30 wanting to learn to drive will struggle to find an instructor willing to risk their business. Generally the later you learn in life the harder it becomes.

The driving test focuses much more on skills, so skillful drivers will find passing a lot easier than someone who is less skillful but has a better attitude to driving and therefore safer post-test.

The national pass rate has been around 50% for as long as I can remember. Why is that so bad?

Would it really make the roads safer?​ Given what I understand about driver training and the profession in general I doubt very much a higher pass rate would make the roads safer. Currently the driving test focuses purely on 'Knowledge & Skill'. There is potential for driving instructors to teach Self Assessment and Awareness but often with the limited time we see students this can prove difficult.

Just because an instructor has a low pass rate that does not mean they are bad. If an instructor has an extremely high pass rate it does not mean they are exceptionally good. Driver training is much more than just chasing statistics.

If a student goes to school they want to learn, why is it when a student takes driving lessons their aim is to pass the test?

A better measure of an instructor’s performance would be how safe a driver is post-test, but how to you measure that!

Even with 40,000 excellent Driving Instructors, you would still have a population that has some below average, some average, and some above average students. This is where the 50% Pass Rate comes from, no matter how hard you try.

So where is the problem of the lower Pass Rates? This is where it gets controversial!

There are many schools that are test focused. They will take on anyone, anywhere and at any time. Quick Pass. Pass in one Week. Pass in 5 Days. You cannot learn a life skill in a short space of time. You understand the principles, but you cannot apply the skills required to drive safely. This obviously suits a lot of people. Very rarely does someone call and say they want to learn how to drive safely, most people want to learn quickly.

There is of course parent and student pressure. I've sat down with parents who have asked me what am I doing wrong that their daughter is not ready to take their test in 10 hours of training.

Passing the test is not about learning test routes and having a go, it’s about driving safely and without that required time can be very difficult.

Do we really want a 100% Pass Rate? Can we really afford to put 1.5million new drivers on the road every year, because that is what 100% pass rate would give us! It sounds great in theory but it would have its drawbacks. I could also see the driving test fees increase. The DVSA run as a non profit making organisation. If the Pass Rate was higher they would in effect lose repeat business.

If you don’t pass 1st time most students take further lessons. They would also gain valuable feedback from the 1st driving test, which may just highlight some areas lacking in their ability.

That’s not to say we don't all want a first time pass. As a Driving Instructor managing your diary is one of the hardest parts of your job. Fitting in extra lessons and tests is not easy and often at short notice. It’s much less stressful when one student leaves another arrives, rather than trying to juggle 2 students around the same lesson times.

What’s important is that students listen to their instructors and only take the test when they are fully prepared. We need to look deeper into putting safer drivers on the road; pass rates do not do that!

What should I look for other than Pass Rates?

Many instructors spend a lot of time and money into Continued Professional Development (CPD). This is above the standard training you receive to qualify. I believe this will make a huge difference in your future safety on the road, as new knowledge and training techniques can be passed onto students.

Look at online recommendations, and take instructors up on their offer for a reduced first lesson.

I hope you have found this blog informative.

At Target Tuition I don't publish any Pass Rates. My focus has always been to produce safe drivers. I know when talking to some instructors they are adament that a pass rate belongs to the student and the examiner.

The only real measure of how we perform is whether you become a safe driver after you pass your test.


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