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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Making the conduct expected of driving instructors clearer

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Driving instructors

ADI driving whilst sat next to DVSA ADI examiner during a standards check
Today (17 February 2018), we’ve published a new version of the approved driving instructor (ADI) register guide. It explains what’s involved in being an ADI - it’s vital reading, whether you’re just starting out, or have been qualified for years.

We've improved the guide to include everything you need to know about qualifying and being an ADI. It should make faster to find what you need.

I’ve taken this opportunity to review the ‘fit and proper’ criteria for ADIs, which is now part of the guide. In this post, I want to explain some more about inappropriate behaviour and how we’ll deal with it.

Protecting and improving the reputation of the ADI profession

I have 3 goals as the ADI Registrar:

  • to make sure every ADI maintains and improves their instructional ability
  • to make sure every ADI is a fit and proper person
  • to protect and improve the reputation of the ADI register - and every ADI who meets the standards

ADIs are in a position of considerable trust. I know the vast majority of you have the highest of respect for that trust and conduct yourselves with the utmost professionalism.

However, there are some people who don’t have that same level of respect. They cause the public to question the professionalism of instructors and threaten to damage the reputation of the profession. They perpetuate outdated stereotypes and caricatures.

You’ve worked hard to qualify as an ADI and be on the register. I won’t let people threaten to undermine that achievement by bringing the ADI register into disrepute.

Dealing with inappropriate conduct

As ADI Registrar, I can remove an instructor’s name from the register if they stop being a ‘fit and proper’ person. The ADI register guide sets out what’s meant by this, and the process for removing someone from the register.

I want to give some examples of how certain types of inappropriate conduct might be investigated and dealt with.

1. Contractual issues

Most reports we get are about contractual issues, such as:

  • lessons that are shorter than agreed
  • the instructor arriving late
  • the instructor cancelling lessons
  • failing to provide lessons the pupil has paid for in advance

With the learner driver's permission, we will pass the report to the instructor and invite their response.

We’ll keep a record on the instructor’s file, and if a pattern emerges, we’ll start the process to remove them from the register - we won’t just rely on a criminal conviction or caution.

2. Mobile phone use

A mobile phone in a glove compartment.
The THINK! campaign recommends making the glove compartment the phone compartment.

We do get reports about instructors using mobile phones to text and call other customers during lessons.

Using a hand-held mobile phone while carrying out instruction is illegal. As the accompanying driver, the instructor should be in control of the vehicle at all times.

Anyone convicted will receive 6 penalty points, and at that point, I can consider removing their name from the register.

As it’s illegal, doing this is also setting a terrible example to the drivers of tomorrow.

It is also poor customer service to a learner who is paying for an instructor’s time.

The same rules apply to using a tablet to record a pupils’ progress or to show a diagram or video. However, it’s legal to use a tablet when the car is safely parked and the engine is off.

3. Disrespectful behaviour

Cover and inside of the national standard for driver and rider training
The national standard sets out the skills you need.

You’ll be disappointed to know we do have to deal with reports of instructors being impatient or shouting and swearing at pupils.

This type of behaviour is unnecessary, disrespectful and extremely unprofessional.

Experiencing something like this can destroy someone’s confidence, put them off wanting to drive, and make it hard for them to trust any future instructor. It’s something we take very seriously.

The national standard for driver and rider training describes the skills you need to make sure pupils engage with the process of learning to drive.

4. Serious inappropriate behaviour

A screenshot of the ADI code of practice on the GOV.UK website
The ADI code of practice sets out how ADIs should behave in their personal conduct and business dealings.

I’m sure you’ll also be shocked to know we do receive reports of serious inappropriate behaviour.

These range from using sexualised language, unnecessary physical contact, through to inappropriate messages or images being sent to pupils.

This is totally unacceptable. It can make the victim feel shameful, humiliated and helpless. It can lead to anxiety and depression. And it won’t be tolerated.

We’ll fully investigate any allegation of inappropriate behaviour and support anyone wishing to take a case to police.

If someone is convicted for this behaviour, I’ll start the process to remove them from the register. In cases where there’s no conviction, I’ll still consider removal if I believe they pose a significant risk to pupils.

The ADI code of practice sets out the behaviour DVSA, the ADI associations and the public expect.

If you agree to follow the code, you can confirm this by updating your ADI registration. You can then use the ‘ADI code of practice - I’ve signed up’ logo on your website or literature.

5. Intimate relationships with pupils

Most of you know it’s completely unacceptable and unprofessional to start a sexual relationship with someone you’re teaching.

While it’s not unlawful to have a consensual sexual relationship with someone over the age of consent, I see this as exploiting the position of trust the instructor is in - particularly if the pupil is vulnerable.

Anyone under 18 is legally a child. This means that local safeguarding teams, including police and local authority designated officers, will be involved in such a report (either from the pupil themselves, or one of their relatives).

I won’t hesitate to remove any instructor I consider to be a risk to learners.

Protecting learners, protecting you

As I said earlier, I know the vast majority of you conduct yourselves with the utmost professionalism.

I hope you agree that dealing with inappropriate conduct is vital to protect learner drivers, and to protect you and the reputation of the ADI profession.

We're raising awareness with learner drivers and parents about what they should expect from their driving instructor.

There’s information on GOV.UK for learner drivers about how to complain about a driving instructor. If you get any pupils who tell you they’ve experienced inappropriate conduct from another instructor, please do explain to them that they can tell us about it.

We take every report extremely seriously.

Make sure you’re signed up for email alerts or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates. You can also join an ADI association so your interests are represented.

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  1. Comment by Graham Carroll posted on

    All the above does indeed highlight, why instructors need to show professionalism at all times. Sadly the present standards check takes none of this into account. Therefore the dvsa 's drive to publish grades/scores etc, will push parents/ guardian's towards using grades as a decision for their choice of instructor and away from word of mouth recommendations, which usually recognises punctuality, professionalism and general positive learning experiences.

  2. Comment by Graham L Pickup posted on

    About time. Why have you take so long to do this.

  3. Comment by Annita Whittle posted on

    I feel this is long overdue I hope instructors take heed! Also apart from the behavioural code there is also a question of dress code!! I look around the test centre waiting room and most times think well I'm glad I'm not inthe same car as you! How can any pupil have any respect for their Instructor if they are dressed so scruffyly? The casual look is fine, but at least look smart, it is their pupils special day!

    • Replies to Annita Whittle>

      Comment by Andy posted on

      I completely agree with this point and always look smart to represent my position as an instructor. If I wore scruffy ripped jeans and a t-shirt my lesson plan would be equally as poor. Dressing the part definately helps my frame of mind, and overall conduct.

    • Replies to Annita Whittle>

      Comment by Darren posted on

      It’s not just the ADI , the car they bring up should reflect their professionalism and be clean and free from odours including stale smoke

    • Replies to Annita Whittle>

      Comment by Gavin hale posted on

      Could not agree more regarding dress code. I've been an adi in Bury St edmunds for over 10 years and the standard of dress code has gone drastically down hill in recent times. A certain local driving school which has started up over the last couple of years whose name I guess I cannot mention sets absolutely no standard of dress code for there instructors , most of whom look like they have just fallen out of bed!!

      • Replies to Gavin hale>

        Comment by Ron Were posted on

        I am an instructor in the Worcester area and agree that standards of behaviour and dress have fallen drastically. Dirty looking tops jeans dragging on the floor hair a complete mess and smelling of body odour and stale smoke.
        This does seem to apply to a lot of young instructors and in a new startin up group. These instructors do not have any self respect how can they show respect to their pupils.
        Come on Dvsa you write about codes enforce them. Make it a recommendation from seadi’s that all instructors have a behaviour code and dress code.

  4. Comment by John Wilson posted on

    A sad state of affairs when you have to list these items dealing with appropriate behaviour and unsuitable or inapropriate behaviour. The driving (and riding ) instructors I see and work with on a daily basis are professional, dedicated people. Such a shame that a minority drag our reputation down and have to be reminded of the standards expected. Well done for highlighting this important issue!

  5. Comment by John King Adi posted on

    Needed to be done, to spell out what is unacceptable as a driving instructor we all have a duty of care towards all students.
    Pleased to see you have raised the issue of non deliverance of pre-paid lessons this is an area that the few think they can just get away with more still needs to be done to protect the student from this.

  6. Comment by len kerr posted on

    i totally agree

  7. Comment by Alan Wilson rozenski posted on

    new driving test is a welcome change in keeping with modern traffic environments

    • Replies to Alan Wilson rozenski>

      Comment by Adam posted on

      Ive just found an article about you being convicted at court for touching up and sexually harrasing pupils in the past.
      Also racism to an asian family.
      Ill be posting this on Twitter later with your new 'Elite' driving school name.
      I suggest being a little nicer in future when on the phone to people.

  8. Comment by Kevin Green posted on

    I’ve never understood why people would want to pay money up front to an adi they don’t know.

    • Replies to Kevin Green>

      Comment by David Brown posted on

      Hi Kevin, I was interested in seeing your comment on paying up front to someone you don't know.
      Trust is a two way street, the instructor often does not know the pupil but is often left with a two hour gap when the pupil cancels on the day with a quite thin excuse. I would always ask and always get payment up front, my learnerson, both current and prospective pay because I have built my reputation on quality of service.
      I've often found that is quite productive to try walking in another man's shoes first before passing judgment.
      There is always another valid opinion. Ability to judge often come from age and experience.

    • Replies to Kevin Green>

      Comment by Graham L Pickup posted on

      If the ADI as a good reputation then there should be no problem. I tell new pupils my prices and options how to pay ie pay as you go or pay for nine get ten, confirm in writing then when I turn up for first lesson if they want they can pay for a block booking in advance. I've done this for 39 years and has no problems.

  9. Comment by Mrs Leech posted on

    What about the behaviour of driving instructors outside work?
    My husband was verbally abused, threatened & had our front door damaged by our neighborhood instructor, just for asking his daughter to park a little more considerably.
    It's not just while they are working their bringing the ADI into disrepute.

    • Replies to Mrs Leech>

      Comment by Alan posted on

      It's a sad affair' to say that there doesn't seem to be much self discipline or tolerance amongst young people' that goes for both student and instructor'im an older adi' and served with the forces as a younger man' discipline is crucial with all aspects in life' I think it all starts' at home.

    • Replies to Mrs Leech>

      Comment by P W Godridge posted on

      Sounds like you have a personal issue with your neighbour which has nothing to do with his profession.

  10. Comment by Concerned posted on

    You mention lessons shorter than agreed. What about ADIs that sit outside test centres for half an hour before test just to practice reversing

  11. Comment by Hemlata Patel posted on

    Most of my students are from, Other supposedly professional driving instructors, who have experienced being shouted at, waiting for them to turn up and they don’t or are very late with no warning and worst of all inappropriate contact ! Along with those who feel that they are not progressing and those who have no idea how far they’ve got with their learning!
    I am constantly surprised and sometimes shocked with their stories and I’ve ending up apologising for the mistreatment that they have suffered from my fellow professionals. I hope that this will reduce the number of these stories from my future new business!

  12. Comment by Andy Holmes ADI posted on

    I see alot of instructors who smoke standing at the roadside with the pupil midway through a lesson. The pupils paying for the lesson and I don't think this looks very good and doesn't promote a professional view to a passer-by.

    • Replies to Andy Holmes ADI>

      Comment by Gavin hale posted on

      Worse than this is often see other local adi's smoking will showing the student where certain things are under the bonnet. Aren't we supposed to be prioritising risk assessment these days!!

      • Replies to Gavin hale>

        Comment by Alan posted on

        For those adi's who do smoke I don't see any harm in that' and if the student is ok with it' no problem.

        • Replies to Alan>

          Comment by Gavin hale posted on

          So if you have a teacher at school or college smoking during a lesson then no problem as long as the student is okay with it !!!! Smoking at any time during a lesson is in my opinion totally un professional

  13. Comment by Anthony posted on

    I agree but also Instructors and examiners health and welfare and abuse issues need to be addressed as well.

  14. Comment by Terry posted on

    Well done. I often hear of unprofessional behaviour ie often cancelling lessons! It’s a pity. I can now pass on or Whistle Blow.
    Thank you.

  15. Comment by Sarah posted on

    I'm shocked this still happens, I got taught in the 80's my male instructor kept putting his hand on my lap which upset me , so I changed to a lady instructor who was always late and continually collected her shopping or other errands in my time on my lesson but when your 17 you daren't say anything. Hard to believe after 30 years there are still some out there doing this.

  16. Comment by F. Xameron posted on

    This is brilliant. This way ADIs can't say they did not no. Keep promoting safety of client as a priority

  17. Comment by M Nahi posted on

    I agree that there are some instructors who do what you you have outlined in your report. Like in any walk of life, Prime Minister, Ministers,MPs, Police Officers, Teachers , even Priests who abused their positions.
    And i absolutely agree that those individuals should be prosecuted to protect the general public.
    But, how about using the same tone, warning Learners and making them understand that its not one way traffic, they too have obligations and guidelines to follow and the Instructors have rights too.
    As instructor for the last 27 years, and instructors in general, we suffer from and have to put up with " some" learners doing the following and more worse such as:
    * Making the lesson longer by suddenly remembering by the end of the lesson the need to go to a cash machine which is 15 minutes away, or changing the drop off point.
    *Showing late or not showing for agreed pre-booked lessons.
    *Canceling lessons without agreed appropriate notice.
    * Not paying for taken lessons.
    *Driving according to their mode, friend, dad, mum ,background, culture
    or the country they came from.
    *The attitude of"its my lesson and i do what i like". either Miss Daisy or Sterling Moss.
    *Wrecking the tuition car because the paid for the lesson.
    *Forcing the instructor to accompany them to the driving test when they
    are far, very far from ready.
    * wanting to drive when they are clearly under the influence.
    *wanting to drive on the first lesson when they show a fake "international" license.
    Finally, how about clamping on those rouge unlicensed con artist individuals who are "cashing in" on the market.

    • Replies to M Nahi>

      Comment by Graham L Pickup posted on

      A lot of these problems you've highlighted you can sort out yourself, some of these problems are not the DVSA,s issues.

  18. Comment by Arthur posted on

    I am a retired ADI who is now disabled.I was shocked the other day to find an ADI`s Car parked in a Disabled space at a Supermarket no Disabled Badge was displayed.However the car was Covered in Logos and Advertising Material it looked a Car you see promoting a Circus, I informed Security and left a note on the windscreen with my name & telephone number so for no contact has been made. So Sad So unproffessional

  19. Comment by patel posted on

    I am a self-employed ADI .
    so far all i have heard is how unprofessional we are,but what about students who do the same to us,
    I have had them shout at me.cancel lessons any time they want and never show up,and even don't pay for lessons already provided.
    So it easy to say yes we can just dump them.but surely we also have to balance a living and be respected for what we do.
    Most of my colleges in this area are very professional and always discuss this issue.

  20. Comment by E Barry posted on

    Last year my grandson booked 10 lessons with a well known driving school, after about 4 or 5 lessons his instructor had to go to hospital. He was meant to be away for approx. 2 weeks we had no contact from driving school and eventually after a few weeks we rang and got a new instructor. He kept changing the days,the times and the outcome of the whole sorry saga, my grandson wasn't trained enough to take a test and since then has not been able to afford more lessons. I thought it was dreadful behaviour but my grandson didn't want to cause a fuss.

    • Replies to E Barry>

      Comment by Kevin posted on

      Hi I have been an ADI for 40 years and I do agree you should have had a different instructor as soon as your grandsons one was taken to hospital unless it was agreed he would wait . But I find it hard to believe you might think he would have been ready for a test after only 10 lessons even if he was able to take lessons every day and a test straight away.

  21. Comment by Frank White posted on

    I totally agree with everything being said here, however, I only wish that some pupils would conduct themselves properly also. To this end, and to avoid contradiction later, a consensual recording serves to curtail this kind of thing from both sides of the car! With the added benefit of peace of mind.
    Great for updating progress notes later, should you need to.

  22. Comment by Alistair mcniven posted on

    I totally agree with all the posted comments having heard similar accounts from many of my pupils particularly regarding being shouted and sworn at . Very unprofessional ! Alistair mcniven a.d.i

  23. Comment by A Rhaman posted on

    Not all comments I agree,instructor do need need to cancel lessons sometimes do to other reson , regarding the leate as instructor you can't brake road speed limit you can't rush because traffick , pupils need to hunderstand that,

  24. Comment by Stephen Hicks posted on

    I have taken on many disgruntled female pupils since being trained in 2002 as an instructor that have told me about other instructors making lewd suggestive comments and talking inappropriately during training, they usually arrive in my car after being recommended by other female pupils that have learnt and passed with me, i tell every-one of them on the first lesson with me that i comply with the DVSA code of conduct of "NO TOUCH / TEACH" explaining to them that there is a bullet proof sheet of glass between us with an access point for me to take control of the steering if required and end my sentence with a thousand apologies for crushed fingers before they occur.

    How about an instructor taking pre-payment from 3 x seperate pupils and then doing a runner with the cash without providing any lessons, then to top that off being asked by the owner of the driving school to cover the pupils lessons and get them through the driving test to save the reputation of the driving school, then not be paid by the owner of the driving school even after all 3 pupils passed 1st time ...... needless to say after a heated discussion and my apparently earning enough to cover the loss i have left that local professional organisation and moved to a national organisation.....

    Also when public around us put pressure on our learners by way of intimidation, such as pulling out from side roads directly in front of us forcing the use of dual controls to avoid collisions, driving up close to the rear of learners at speed in an attempt to force the pupil to exceed the speed limit, sitting so close at stationary junctions with no room for error such as roll back on pulling away, causing the pupil to fret to the extent that i as an instructor have to take control by assisting my pupil who probably would have been comfortable had it not been for the intimidation of the driver behind, there needs to be a patience media campaign to educate full licence holders of they're actions and effect they have on new drivers...

    • Replies to Stephen Hicks>

      Comment by Helen Watkinson - ADI posted on

      I agree. There are responsibilities on all parties. It feels like ADI’s are all being tared with the same brush. When I learnt to drive, some 30 yrs ago, my instructor smoked in the car, did very little to put me at ease and encouraged me to put in for my test when I wasn’t ready. This is what I wanted to change and I did, 15yrs ago. My students know about my history, why I became a driving instructor, what I expect when they are driving my car, I won’t shout, touch them, unless absolutely necessary to correct road postition. I am professional and always dress appropriately. It’s such a shame that our profession is being blighted by such a few who truly shouldn’t teach.

  25. Comment by Joe posted on

    After 33 years in the profession I have now retired due to health reasons. I am amazed from all the comments how everybody wants to knock every other school, claiming they are as professional as any other profession, yet when it comes to pricing they don’t match. Professionals charge around £100 an hour on average. A clinical psychologist client of mine confirmed to me once how similar our professions are. You have to get that brain apart and rebuilt it. It takes experience. Do you see doctors tearing each other apart, or supporting each other? Charge rates that cover your pensions, holidays, biannual replacement of tuition cars, conferences and smart suits and CPD. Learn by watching other professionals; politicians and officials for example.

    • Replies to Joe>

      Comment by Anthony posted on

      I agree I personally charge a higher rate in my local area and when a pupil contacted me after failing the test 6 times they didn’t want to pay more than £25 so o suggested someone in the area that charges that and advertise a 90%pass rate apparently.

  26. Comment by Phil Bolton posted on

    It's a crying shame that instructors need to be reminded of this, unfortunately, some simply don't care, until they receive the brown envelope.

  27. Comment by Maureen Nucholson posted on

    May I suggest a check on those supposed driving instructors, who are listed on the DVSA website from NW6 area. I have been told, by a pupil, who was enquiring about prices and lessons that it was mandatory for her to have 10 lessons before she can take a test, even though the pupil has an American driving licence. I also think it is important that the same website should confirm that each instructor is an ADI and maybe quote the ADI number.

  28. Comment by Steve M posted on

    Please make this applicable to motorcycle instructors as well. In my 20 years as a professional, I am constantly shocked and saddened to see and hear the appalling way that pupils from other schools are treated. To many inappropriate comments and examples to list... 🙁

    Also can we please have an offence of "intimidating a learner rider/driver" on a public road with a penalty of a ban and having to take a retest (extended).

  29. Comment by Mark Cowdell posted on

    As a seasoned ADI, and reading the comments I come to the conclusion that YES the time is NOW to make conciderable changes to attitudes both from ADI and PUPIL. RESPECT from both sides is as I see it is extremley lacking. As a professional body we need professional respect doing a job in an extremley difficult climate.

  30. Comment by David S. posted on

    I wish the opportunities to register complaints had been in place forty years ago. Having entrusted driving lessons to a supposed quality concern I was basically driving one of the instructors around for his errands leaving me parked stationary for much of the lesson time.
    A blown brake light bulb was brought to the instructors attention each week and never rectified.
    A potential sneaky was all my lessons had been in a mk2 Ford Escort, come test day the car allocated to me was a mk1 Ford Escort. Those in the know will remember Ford changed the entire switchgear on those cars, in particular the indicator being moved from the right side of the column (mk1) to the left (mk2). Light switches, wiper switches among others, were also relocated from dashboard rocker switches to column mounted levers.
    Thankfully I passed my test.

  31. Comment by Anthony posted on

    I agree with you 100%

  32. Comment by Peter Collett, ADI posted on

    Perhaps the question to ask is "How would I wish my son, daughter, wife or husband to be treated?" Or, "If I was talking to my doctor about a life-threatening health problem, how would I feel if the doctor was not paying attention to me, perhaps taking a non-urgent phone call or doing a crossword while talking to me?" We should treat people as we would wish to be treated.

  33. Comment by Alan posted on

    Sounds like you had a good instructor' hard times they were but he got you through......loyalty

  34. Comment by F.J.BECK posted on

    Dress code is so important. I have seen some instructors dressed in jeans, t shirts, baseball caps , ear and nose rings, tattoos,moustaches, beards ,sandals etc. Of course apart from the uniformity of appearance it is also important to be able to spell and speak clearly. Don't even start me on examiners..........

    • Replies to F.J.BECK>

      Comment by Graham L Pickup posted on

      You can't judge a book by its cover, you can't tell somebody what to wear. Just because somebody else appears scruffy to you and wears earrings and tattoos doesn't make them a bad instructor. We all have different personalities and dress differently, that's the society we live in. I used to know a instructor that worked for me 30 years ago and he was a very good instructor but he was the first to admit that it you put a Armani suit on him he'd still look scruffy. I know of a instructor that wears baggy t shirts and track suit bottoms for medical reasons but he's popular and always busy. The dress code is not the problem in this industry the problem is what the registrar has highlight and pointed out to you. You ADI,s need to up your game or give your green badge back. I could go on and some say I do, but hey I've around for over 38 years and plan to be around for a few more. Graham

  35. Comment by Mr Deonath Gosein posted on

    well done keep up the good work.

  36. Comment by Lucy N posted on

    My instructor stresses me out, because every time there is a pothole on the road the instructor grabs my wheel and steers around it. I know potholes can be dangerous and I'm trying to avoid them if I can, but by doing this, the instructor creates unnecessary stressful atmosphere and so sometimes when I drive, I find myself focusing more on avoiding potholes rather than on driving itself. The instructor also raised their voice on me a few times, which made me loose my confidence. Luckily, I was able to use my family member's car and for now, I will be driving with my family only. I may get refresher lessons just before my driving test, when I'm ready. I don't think that the driving lessons I had with my instructor were a good value for money either. In my 15 lessons and I only did parallel parking once and never really went on dual carriageway for long enough.