With the amalgamation of the Driving Standards Agency, and the Vehicle Operator Standards Agency into the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, new thinking is afoot.
It has long been acknowledged amongst the forward-thinkers in the industry, that Approved Driving Instructor grades haven’t been made clear to the public, and known, that some schools have charged full fees for basic training with either low Grade or Provisional Driving Instructors. This new initiative aims to clarify Instructor grades, enabling learner drivers to make better judgements, and remove the possibility that a complete novice might be ‘fobbed off’ in the early stages of training with an under-qualified, or merely provisional, instructor.
The old grading system was, perhaps, somewhat forgiving; ADI Grades 6,5 and 4 were top notch to ok, 3 was iffy, 2 and 1 were, well … forget it. The new system will condense this lot to A (top notch), B (good and improving) and C (come back in 12 weeks and try again – 3 tries and you’re out).
Some ADI groups have been very grumpy about these changes, arguing that it will allow lesser mortals to sneak into the B grade (roughly equivalent to the old Grade 5), and that it’s a simple matter for the client to check the grade of their instructor before committing funds with the old system. However, as the old grading system has only come under true public scrutiny with the rise of t’internet, it became apparent that the public hadn’t the faintest idea of how the rather flexible ADI grading system worked, or what a PDI was – a Provisional Driving Instructor, i.e. not fully qualified.
Probably compounded by the fact that a fully-qualified ADI has a green badge, like a provisional driver licence, and a PDI had a pink badge, like a full driving licence! A neat recipe for confusion.
It should be noted that the new grading system hasn’t been launched in isolation; a preliminary, voluntary, scheme, named ‘Continued Professional Development’ (CPD), has been running for some time, encouraging qualified ADIs to engage with the latest discussion and thinking in teaching methods, coaching and road safety. Thereby giving dedicated, engaged Instructors a head start into the new A and B Grades.
On the whole, from the point-of-view of the paying public, these changes look like a Good Thing: expertise and adaptability in instruction is essential on today’s roads, and if the new grading systems weeds out the ‘coasters’, encouraging Instructors who have a real dedication to turning out skilled new drivers, it’s hardly a sackcloth and ashes issue for the people who pay them.
Frequently, change is unnecessary; but change with understanding, in this instance, can only be beneficial to all concerned.
Polly Bee, Editor, On Fire for Driving