News: Interview - "Insight 2 Drive"

 

To find out what it’s like to be a female driving instructor at the forefront of the industry, we spoke to Kathy at Insight 2 Drive in Merseyside.

 


 

“WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A DRIVING INSTRUCTOR?”

“I was a sales rep, selling pharmaceuticals all over the country and I was fed up working really hard for someone else to make a lot of money. I wanted to be self-employed and I wanted to do something I liked and that I could become an expert at.

I’ve always enjoyed driving and when I got pregnant I thought I’ll go for it, and the decision was made. And it is the best thing I’ve ever done up to now. It all started with me doing my advanced driving test because my Dad had said to me “Why don’t you take one of the advanced driving tests. I think you’d be really good”. I thought it was his way of telling me that I was a really bad driver and I needed extra training(!).

The institute for advanced motorists have an advanced driving test which is open for anybody to just go along and take. They look at your driving, guide you and make your driving better and eventually you take the test. So I took the advanced driving test and just got the bug for all things driving and driver training.”

“Do many people do the advanced driving now? It’s not something that you hear a lot about is it?”

“No it isn’t, unless you are interested in driving already. It’s a shame really because you can get cheaper insurance, but it gives you so much more than that. Especially for us girls.

It gives you a sense of worth and a sense of “You know what, I can drive really well!” You know the sort of press we get, I mean I get jokes sent to me all the time about women not being able to park, the ‘stereotypes’, and once you get an advanced qualification it gives you that self esteem to actually go out and drive on the roads skilfully and confidently.”

 


“WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?”

“I really don’t have a typical day. The simple reason is because I’m involved in that many different aspects of driving training. I’m an examiner now (for 2 of the advanced tests) and I teach up to the advanced tests myself. I do fleet training, driving instructor training, teaching learners and the national driving improvement scheme. So a typical day could be anything from giving a presentation in Crewe or Preston, doing some driver training with company car drivers or it could be that I’m in the local area all day doing driving instructor training. So it’s very varied really. I mean today, I did 2 hours driving instructor training, then I went to St Helens to coach on the national driving improvement scheme, which is a scheme for people who’ve had a crash and it helps them improve their driving. Then I came back home and did another 2 hours ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) training. I’ve just got home now. It’s so varied. I think that’s what I like about it, because I don’t have a typical day.”

“Do you do more with instructors than learners at the moment?”

“I would say I do more with instructors. I also do a lot with qualified drivers doing advanced training but I still take learners, I would not give up my learners completely as I enjoy it too much! I now run my own driving school which is predominantly lady instructors which is great.”

 


“CAN YOU TALK US THROUGH HOW YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?”

“Well I trained to become a driving instructor about 10 years ago. I was an ordinary instructor going along doing my own thing and I had a check test. A check test is a test of your continued ability to instruct. The people that I was franchised to, through no fault of theirs, just more or less left me to it. So when I came to take the check test I actually got a grade I didn’t want. That gave me the kick up the bum I needed. To be honest I thought; “I don’t want this, I want to be the best”. So from not getting the result I wanted, I went off and took some more training courses, then I found out about fleet driver training courses and becoming qualified for that. Then I started taking more of the advanced training.

I got the bug basically to improve myself, and it’s a bug that I haven’t got rid of. I’m doing some more training to get myself ORDIT registered in a couple of weeks. That’s the official register of driving instructor trainers, so I’ll be training for that. I’m also embarking on an NLP practitioner’s course which is going to take 10 months to complete. It’s only one weekend a month over 10 months. NLP is Neuro Linguistic Programming which is just a fancy name really for using words to communicate better with everybody. Obviously communication is a big part of our job. And I am part way though a bachelor’s degree in driver education. As a quote I once heard; “the educators should never stop being educated”.

I’ve just literally taken so many qualifications and courses. I’ve just bettered and bettered myself. Now I want to help others do the same.”

“You mentioned fleet training. Can you explain what that is?”

“Basically, under the Health and Safety at Work Act, companies who give their employees company cars or expect their employees to drive on company business should really make sure that their driving is checked by a professional. Because a car is a piece of work equipment, they need to be trained directly on that piece of work equipment. What I do is go along with a presentation. It’s normally 2 people (2 drivers and myself). I’ll give a presentation all about road safety and why we do stuff and why we shouldn’t do stuff. Because I’ve been a sales rep myself, I know exactly what it’s like out there on the road trying to do your job so I can show a bit of empathy.

We go out in the car and I assess the 2 drivers. Then I tell them how I can enhance the skills they’ve already got, where I can improve them, update them, refresh their memory on a few things and give them a really good reason why we should change a few things. Then we come back and I write a report. It’s then basically down to the 2 drivers to choose whether they take that information on board. That’s the biggest stumbling block, trying to educate drivers. For education to work, the ones being educated have to want it to work.

I could say do this that and the other and they say they will, but as soon as I leave the car park they don’t do any of it. The biggest killer on the road is attitude. My job with fleet training basically isn’t teaching people to drive; it’s selling a safe driving attitude.”

“Would you say that’s the same with learners as well?”

“With driving instruction traditionally, when we’re teaching learners a technical skill, and we’re teaching technical ability of exactly how to drive a car, that’s the easy bit. If you had an empty road, it would be really easy to teach people to drive. The hard bit and the bit that most instructors don’t get to grips with, or can’t get to grips with because of their training is attitude and dealing with other peoples’ attitude behind the wheel. A lot of learners will do exactly what you tell them and pass their driving test, but as soon as that’s over, they’re in the car, seat back, one hand on the wheel, whizzing round everywhere. Because they can. There’s nothing to stop them doing that.

There’s a lot of press at the moment about young drivers, I’m sure you’ve seen it, but I don’t believe that at all. We should be concentrating on parents because people start to learn to drive from the age of 2. They watch Mum and Dad and how Mum and Dad act in the car becomes acceptable behaviour for those children. Now when we get them at 17, and start teaching them to drive, they’ll do what we say to pass the test, but then they will go back to what they know as acceptable behaviour, which is what Mum and Dad does.”

“That’s an interesting way of looking at it.”

“All drivers need to start taking responsibility for their actions and driving and hopefully the younger generation will feel it’s not acceptable to drive round up people’s bums, speeding, showing aggression to other road users and all the stuff that we see people do every day.”

 


“YOU MENTIONED YOU NOW HAVE A DRIVING SCHOOL, WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR DRIVING SCHOOL?”

“I hate it when people ask me that question because I sound big headed.

We’re the only school I know of, where all the instructors, myself, and the lady that answers the phone for us (my sister Joan), meet up on a monthly basis to discuss anything from what would you do with this learner, how the company’s moving forward, is everybody happy, has everybody got enough work. I update them with the latest industry news and try to have some sort of training element to the meetings. So, all my instructors know each other. We’re becoming a team. We go out on social evenings and things like that. Whereas there are other driving schools that don’t, for instance, you could have 2 driving instructors working for the same driving school standing next to each other in a shop and not know each other. And all of my instructors have at some point been trained by me, I train them the way I do things and will continue to train them until they too are at the top of the industry ladder.

What I say to learners is that they are going to get a good service. My driving instructors are trained in customer service. I’m always going on about that pupil is not a pupil, they’re a paying customer and they need to be respected and treated like a paying customer. What I say to the customer is “I will put you with Charlie and if Charlie isn’t suitable for whatever reason”, I say “ring me up and we’ll swap over”. If that pupil swaps to another instructor, the instructors will talk to each other and Charlie will say he can do this part, and he can do this but he can’t do that, so therefore there’s a bit of continuity.

If a pupil does not gel with an instructor, then they are not going to learn as quick, it’s as simple as that. We can’t all gel with each other. That’s a fact of life. So if that happens with one of my instructors, the learner is at liberty to ring up and we’ll swap the instructor for them. A lot of learners are scared to change instructors because if they have a bad one and have never had a really good instructor then they will think they’re all bad. I encourage all learners, if they’re not happy for whatever reason, to get on the phone to me and I will change the instructor for them.”

“I suppose learners don’t want to have to start from the beginning and relearn everything again.”

“That’s it. But if they swap at our school, we all keep the same pupil records and the pupil records will be given to another instructor. And my instructors don’t get the huff if somebody wants to change. If people don’t gel with you, then you don’t enjoy teaching them either it’s hard for instructors to be with a pupil that they are not getting on with. Because learning to drive should be fun. No pupil should have to start again. They may have to be assessed again if they’ve come from another driving school, but certainly not taught everything again. We promise to be honest and not encourage pupils to have lessons they simply don’t need.”

 


“WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS?”

“I’m going to get all of them trained up on first aid and on helping pupils with test nerves. They will always be under my wing. I will always be improving them. I basically want to be, not the biggest, but the best driving school in Merseyside. You can grow too big too quick. I’m so involved in giving pupils quality service so they learn to drive safely and have fun, not just pass their driving test. I will always be there for my instructors to help them improve in any area they want to.”

“Are you expanding at the moment?”

“I’ve got 5 driving instructors at the moment. I am looking to expand, but it will be on a one at a time basis because that’s the other thing about my driving school, I’m not just going to take on a load of instructors and give them piecemeal work. I want my instructors to be happy so they don’t want to leave. I want to ensure that they’re really busy, so I won’t take anyone else on unless I know I can get that new instructor work as well as keeping the old instructors busy. My instructors are my customers also!”

 


“HOW DO YOU SEE THE DRIVER TRAINING INDUSTRY CHANGING IN THE FUTURE?”

“Hopefully it will change for the better because the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) are talking about making CPD (Continued Professional Development) compulsory which means all driving instructors will have to do what I have done. I’ll have to do more as well. I’m not going to get away with it just because I’ve done so much already.

We will all have to do something like one day of some form of development training every year to bring us up to date, spread over 4 years. There has been nothing decided yet.

There are a lot people out there who have qualified as a driving instructor many years ago and have not done anything else. So the DSA and the Instructors Associations are trying to get the whole profession to be more professional. We need to see ourselves as teachers of driving, not just driving instructors. We are undersold at the moment. It needs to change so that instructors become more professional. And also it will change with the onset of the European Union wanting us to start looking at attitude and trying to teach and mould the attitude of our learners and our drivers. I’m a firm believer that it’s got to start with the experienced drivers and parents before anything is going to change.”

 


“WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE OUT THERE WHO IS THINKING OF BECOMING A DRIVING INSTRUCTOR?”

“Think carefully about why you want to become a driving instructor. There are far too many adverts out there saying earn £30,000 a year with a company car and a guaranteed placement in a school. But a guaranteed placement in a school doesn’t mean guaranteed income. It just means a guaranteed placement in a school. If you’re really passionate about driving and really want to do the job then go for it, but choose carefully who you train with. You should speak to a number of people. Take your time deciding and don’t fall for the sales talk, do not sign anything on the day, take information away with you then reflect.

I do an instructor taster day where I’ll have a look at their driving and their knowledge and communication skills. I’ll let them sit in the back while I’m teaching real learners so they get a feel for what that’s like. I’ll even let them have a go themselves with a real learner so they can see what that’s like as well, and they get the whole thing before they have to part with thousands of pounds. There’s nothing to stop you from going into a local test centre and having a chat to instructors who are actually doing the job.”

“Thanks Kathy, it’s been great talking with you. I hope you’ve given people a good idea of both the challenges faced by driving instructors, and also what there is out there to achieve!”

 


 

Kathy’s website is www.kathyhigginsdipdi.co.uk and her driving school website is www.insight2drive.com and she can be contacted on 0800 077 8258.

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