IF YOU cruise up behind a convoy of driving school cars in early November, don’t worry ‒ you won’t have to sit behind an interminable series of three-point turns, parallel parks and, heaven forbid, emergency stops.
Instead, the cars are taking part in a relay run around the UK in support of BBC Children in Need. Called the Big Learner Relay, the plan is for the instructors to pass a top box, the triangle that many of them have on their car’s roof, from one vehicle to the other.
It is the brainchild of Louise Walsh, 41, a driving instructor based near Lymington in Hampshire. The mother of three was inspired to do something for the BBC charity by last year’s coverage on TV.
“I saw it and thought we driving instructors should do something,” she said.
Her idea involves the top box being carried by a core team of driving instructors around the UK while they give lessons. At first Walsh thought the idea would attract about 30 instructors but within three hours 360 had promised their support. Now, 2,000 instructors have joined with an additional 147 signed up as the drivers of the lead, or relay, cars.
“So many signed up to be in the relay but we couldn’t accommodate them all, so [the additional instructors] will follow the lead cars, which are each responsible for one leg of around 40 minutes or 20 miles,” she explained.
Her only proviso was that each instructor in the relay car must be giving a lesson at the time. However, for safety reasons, and to cause as little disruption as possible, the lesson will not be a traditional one incorporating essential techniques.
“All the cars will be driven by pupils,” Walsh said. “But I wanted to show the diversity of people in our industry and the kind of lessons they give, so there will be instructors offering lessons in not only petrol and diesel cars but also automatic and electric vehicles. Others will be giving lessons to pupils with special educational needs, too.”
She added that some instructors will bring pupils who have just passed their test, and those drivers will receive sat nav or motorway tuition.
Walsh herself will join the relay in South Wales as a pupil, being given a lesson by an instructor who has an electric car, a type of vehicle she has never driven before.
Walsh says that in total, the lead drivers will cover 2,130 miles for Children in Need. At first she planned to raise £5,000 but is sure the instructors will comfortably exceed that.
“If support so far is anything to go by, I’m sure we will be very successful,” she said. “Driving instructors are good people and it’s about time we showed everyone just how good.”
For more information, or to make a donation, visit The Big Learner Relay