Why the Trainee Driving Instructor Licence (Pink Badge) is not fit-for-purpose and how to change it for the better.

The trainee licence, commonly called the pink badge, is now a vital part of a potential driving instructor’s (PDI) path to qualifying as an approved driving instructor. Gaining teaching experience with real pupils, allied to extra tuition from an experienced ORDIT* trainer, is the best and most common-sense way of achieving a first-time pass on the part three test.

The trainee licence option, as it is currently comprised, is fundamentally flawed for three reasons, which DVSA need to fix:

  1. The licence only lasts for six months with a second licence only issued in exceptional circumstances; it needs to be longer.
  2. The extra twenty hours of training, required to comply with the terms of the licence, now have to be completed BEFORE applying for the part three test; this is ridiculous and impractical.
  3. The instructor declaration forms, ADI 21T and ADI 21AT, which “prove” the requisite training has been completed are irrelevant and do not meet the requirements of the National Standards (NSDRT**); DVSA need to update these forms urgently.

Six-month Trainee Licence

The trainee licence should be extended from six months to one year. This would help PDIs, as follows:

  • It would allow more time to gain the experience needed to prepare properly for the part three test. At present, PDIs are well advised to take their part three at the three to four month point of the licence so that if they fail it, they can at least fit another attempt in before the licence expires. Extending the licence to a year would allow time to be prepared fully for the test knowing that if it doesn’t go well at the first attempt, there is plenty of time to take extra training and carry out more on-the-job practice to pass at the next attempt.
  • Life events (illness, redundancy etc.) occur at the most inappropriate time for PDIs on a trainee licence. Having only six months in which to gain the requisite skills and experience to pass part three does not factor in the possibility of real-life events intervening.
  • Most trainees are not working full time as instructors at this stage, and many teach driving lessons around another job. Trying to gain enough experience in such a short timeframe (six months) applies unnecessary pressure and the whole experience becomes rushed and self-defeating. PDIs need time to develop their skills in the early months of teaching and a one-year trainee licence would help hugely.

Extra 20 hours of training

There are two options available to PDIs to ensure continuous professional development when they start working on a trainee licence – supervision or extra training. Both options require an extra twenty hours of “guidance” from a trainer. Most PDIs choose extra training because the supervision option is impractical (supervised for one in every five driving lessons given).

Whoever at DVSA thought that the twenty hours of training had to be completed BEFORE applying for the part three test doesn’t work in the real world! The extra twenty hours are an important part of the learning process to allow time for training, advice, feedback and practice.

Waiting times for part three tests have increased to several months (COVID, examiner shortages etc.) so it is imperative that an application for a part three test is submitted at the beginning of the trainee licence period to allow time for a minimum of two attempts (if needed) during the six months. Trying to squeeze in twenty hours of training before the test application is madness. The twenty hours need to be spread over several months to allow PDIs to reflect on trainer feedback and time to develop their teaching skills when delivering driver training.

Trainee Licence Record Forms – ADI 21T and ADI 21AT

ADI trainers have to complete the above forms, as “so-called” records of their trainees’ training, knowing that they are not fit-for purpose. They must go through this out-dated paper exercise anyway to comply with legal requirements.

The National Standards lay out the skills, knowledge and understanding that new instructors should be able to demonstrate to teach effectively and pass part three.

Unfortunately, the above forms do not reflect the National Standards and haven’t done for four years (and counting!). Many of the subjects listed on the forms are old-fashioned and redundant.

New forms are long overdue. DVSA enforcement officers, who conduct part three tests and ORDIT assessments, criticise (sometimes unfairly) the training records made available by test candidates, whilst conveniently overlooking the poor-quality record forms DVSA requires PDIs and their trainers to complete.

Summary

DVSA are prophesying that they are trying to raise the standards of driving test candidates, PDIs, ADIs and those instructors wishing to join the ORDIT Register.

Without getting too political, Brexit and COVID have led to many problems for our industry (extended test waiting times, HGV driver shortages etc.). However, Brexit and COVID cannot be blamed for an ineffectual and inflexible trainee licence system.

As a matter of urgency, trainee licences need to be lengthened to one year, the extra twenty hours training/supervision should be spread throughout the first three months and record forms (ADI 21T and 21AT) updated to reflect the National Standards.

Raising the standards of all those in the driver training industry is fine but DVSA are also accountable and need to get their house in order regarding trainee licences. Giving PDIs and their trainers more time to prepare, more time to train and practice, and record forms which are fit for purpose would be a great start.

Phil Hirst
ORDIT Trainer

ORDIT* – Official Register of Driving Instructor Training
NSDRT** – National Standards for Driver and Rider Training

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