Becoming a Driving InstructorUnder current UK law, anyone who wants to charge people money for driving lessons needs to apply to the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) to become an ADI (Approved Driving Instructor).
How to qualify as an ADI
In order to qualify as an ADI, you need to register with the DSA and then pass three qualifying exams.
You can apply to join the DSA’s register so long as you are aged 21 or over, and have held a full driving licence in category B (manual cars) for at least 4 of the last 6 years. You must not have been disqualified during this time.
You must also be a 'fit and proper' person, and must be able to supply details of two people who can provide a character reference on your behalf.
If your application is accepted, then the first of the exams you will need to take is a computer based exam consisting of a multiple choice theory test and a hazard perception test. This Part 1 exam is similar to the theory test taken by learner drivers, except that the multiple choice section contains 100 questions instead of the 35 used for learners and the pass mark for the hazard perception element is higher.
Once you have passed the theory test, you can apply to take the Part 2 exam, which is an advanced driving test. The test is conducted at one of the any driving test centres around the country by one of the DSA’s Supervising Examiners. It lasts for about an hour, and involves driving on a variety of roads and carrying out a number of set manoeuvres such as a turn-in-the-road and reversing round a corner. You are allowed to make a maximum of six driving faults throughout the test; any more than that and you will fail.
The final (Part 3) test is a test of your ability to give instruction. For this test, a Supervising Examiner will role play the part of a learner driver. The test lasts an hour and is split into two halves. In the first half, the examiner will assume the role of a learner who needs a lesson on a particular topic on which he has not previously received instruction. In the second half, the examiner takes on the role of a learner who is at or near test standard. He picks a different topic for the lesson and this time it will be one which he has covered before but with which he is having a few problems. The list of lesson topics to be covered in the Part 3 test are taken from a set list of Pre-Set Tests (PSTs). To pass this test, you will need to show that you can teach effectively by identifying faults and helping the “learner” put them right, whatever level of ability the “learner” has.
You must take and pass all three parts of the examination in the order shown above, and must complete all three parts within two years of passing the theory test. If you are unable to complete the examinations within this time you must start again from the beginning and pass each part once again.
You can take the theory test as many times as you wish but you are only allowed a maximum of three attempts at each of the practical tests within each two year qualification period.
Once you have passed all three tests, you will then be issued with an ADI licence badge in return for a payment of £200. The licence has to be renewed (for the same fee) every four years.
If you want to get some real-world experience before taking your Part 3 exam, then (subject to certain requirements) you can apply to the DSA for a PDI (Potential Driving Instructor) licence. This allows you to give, and charge for, lessons before you take your Part 3 test.
As an ADI you will be required to undergo regular check tests, in which a Supervising Examiner will sit in on one of your lessons and grade you according to the quality of your instruction. If your grade is too low, you run the risk of having your ADI licence revoked.
Where to get training
There are a number of large national companies who undertake ADI training. They generally operate on a lump-sum payment basis, whereby you pay a single fee at the beginning of your course and in return you get as much training as you need to pass all three parts of the ADI exam. Typically, fees for such course range from £2000 to £3000.
The advantage of this type of arrangement is that your costs are fixed from the start, and no matter how long it takes you to qualify, your training costs are fixed.
However, if you are a quick learner, you may well end up paying more than you need by paying a one-size-fits-all amount for your training.
If you do opt to take your ADI training with one of these big national companies, make sure you do some research beforehand to try to find out what sort of reputation the training establishment has. Even within the big ADI training companies, there can be big variations in perceived quality between different branches throughout the country. Try to talk to current and former students and see what they thought of their training. In particular, try to find out how easy it was for them to get extra tuition if they failed a particular test at the first attempt.
Rather than go to a big national company, you could look for a local training company or an independent ADI who provides ADI training. This will usually involve paying by the hour, which may work out cheaper if you are a quick learner.
What will you earn?
If you read some of the adverts from companies that train ADIs, it is easy to believe that being a driving instructor is a licence to print money. However, that is not always the case and, whilst it may be possible to earn up to £800 a week as an ADI, few people will do as well as this initially, if at all.
Nearly all ADIs, including those who represent big schools like the AA and BSM, are self-employed. They either work independently or operate as a franchisee of an established driving school.
Therefore, any training company that claims to guarantee you a job at the end of your training is not really making a very great claim. All they are promising is that they will find someone to let you work with them on a franchise basis – that’s not quite the same as guaranteeing you full time employment with a regular pay cheque.
Most newly qualified ADIs tend to go down the franchise route, signing up with either a national franchise like BSM or the AA Driving School, or with a local driving school.
Some franchises supply you with a car and a number of students. Some supply just the students whilst you supply your own car. Others will supply the car and then let you choose how many students they will supply and how many you will find for yourself. Depending on what type of arrangement you opt for, franchise fees typically range from £50 to £200+ per week.
Fans of the franchise system like the fact that they have the advertising and marketing backup of a big company, and can leave a lot of the administration tasks, phone answering, and diary management to someone else.
After a few years working with a franchise, many ADIs will look to branch out on their own and set up as an independent driving school. By this stage they are likely to be generating a lot of their new enquiries themselves, via referrals and other word of mouth advertising.
Some newly qualified ADIs start working independently straightaway. Whilst this is unusual, it is by no means a bad idea, so long as you know how to market yourself and feel you have sufficient time and resources to build up a business from scratch whilst at the same time putting your ADI training into practice for the first time.
With franchise fees as high as £200 per week in some areas, what you earn will clearly depend to a large extent on whether you work as a franchisee or as an independent ADI.
As an example, let’s assume you work independently and teach for 30 hours a week and charge £20 per hour. From your weekly income of £600 you need to deduct costs for your car (say £80 per week), fuel (£50 per week), phone calls / advertising / stationery (£10), insurance (£7), ADI licence (£1), and road tax (£3). This leaves you with £449 per week before tax and that’s before you allow for other nice-to-have items like a pension or income protection insurance. Assume you take four weeks off per year, and you are left with a pre-tax income of around £21,500 per annum.
To see what you might earn working through a franchise, try this calculator provided on the AA's website.
A good place to find out more about becoming a driving instructor is the UK Driving Instructor Confederation. Their website at www.ukdic.com has a wealth of information, along with an active discussion forum frequented by both qualified and trainee driving instructors.
Application forms to join the ADI Register can be obtained from the Driving Standards Agency at www.dsa.gov.uk.
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