Substandard driving instructors to be exposed in Ofsted-style league table

Substandard driving instructors to be exposed in Ofsted-style league table

Government plans to charge drivers who fail have been scrapped

OFSTED-STYLE ratings for driving instructors will be published amid concerns that too many learners are being forced to sit their test repeatedly because of substandard tuition.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is threatening to release rankings for Britain’s 40,000 driving instructors for the first time to steer novices away from poor-quality lessons.

It follows the publication of figures showing that less than half of tests are passed, with learner drivers taking up to 39 attempts to gain their licence – leading to long waiting lists in some areas.

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However the agency revealed that alternative plans mooted by the government over a year ago to introduce financial penalties to prevent badly prepared drivers from taking their test too soon had been scrapped.

The Conservatives announced that a deposit would be added to the £62 test fee, with only successful candidates getting some of their money back. It was designed to force learners to delay taking the practical exam.

However Gareth Llewellyn, the DVSA’s chief executive, said that the proposals had been badly planned and could hit the poorest people hardest.

He also said there were concerns that it could lead to a rise in the number of violent attacks on examiners from frustrated motorists who lost their deposits, with 236 verbal and 13 physical attacks already being logged in 2016.

Last year a 38-year-old man from Liverpool passed his driving test on the 39th attempt

Speaking to The Times, he said the agency would instead focus on driving up standards of lessons to improve learners’ chances of passing first time.

Instructors are subjected to regular checks by the DVSA but only 30% achieve the highest ranking, grade A. Almost 69% are rated as merely satisfactory. Last year 682 instructors were struck off after failing to reach minimum standards.

There is no requirement for instructors to make public their rating, and only 3% do so voluntarily. Mr Llewellyn said ratings would be published in the next few years if instructors failed to volunteer the information.

Figures from last year showed that a 38-year-old man from Liverpool passed his driving test on the 39th attempt. At least two others from Sutton Coldfield and Weston-super-Mare passed on their 36th attempts. In all, 48.6% of practical tests were passed in the last three months of 2016, down by 0.4% on the previous year.

Mr Llewellyn said: “We are encouraging driving instructors to publish their rating. If they don’t do that, then at some point we will compel them to do that. We will put out information into the public domain so that parents can choose a good driving instructor.”

Graeme Paton

This article first published in The Times