Russell Coleman Chairman, Ashford Driving Instructors Association← More instructor interviews
Good Morning Russell, so before we begin can you let our audience know a bit about you and your experience so far.
In a previous life I was working in sales, and I used to drive all over the place for that. So, then I ended training to be a driving instructor because I was always keen to get on the road even with 6 feet of snow! It's been ten years now, and I've never looked back.
So how did you get involved with the Asford Driving Instructor Association?
When training to be an instructor I was attended one of their meetings and I found no one was asking questions. There was a mindset of "you can't ask the DVSA that... they'll take your badge away from you". Nobody was asking the questions we had been talking about the month before, I was the one to ask the DVSA these hard questions, because why not?!
So with that, the Chairman at that point turned around and said to me, "you're going to be the next chairman". I wasn't quite ready for that but over time, that's exactly what happened. About three years ago I was voted in as the chairman and been running the show ever since.
What changes did you make to your association?
I was keen to setup our WhatsApp group. This is great for sharing information like closed roundabouts, traffic jams and this is has helped our members.
Then next I setup our association curry night.
I often have 1 on 1 meetings with our driving test centre managers. I got on really well with the last two test centre managers, I would always represent the instructors and I would give feedback to our instructors. Having that communication is key to great a solid relationship on both sides.
A really good example is sometimes we teach the test centre managers some local knowledge about our lanes. In one case, you can turn right from a left-hand lane which the examiners weren't aware of until our association raised it. So, communication and a good relationship goes a long way.
The association even reached out to the local council which spoken to a local sports hall, next to our test centre, and they managed to give us four spaces to practice with our pupils in.
“ Nobody was asking the questions we had been talking about the month before, I was the one to ask the DVSA these hard questions, because why not?!
What are your biggest challenges with your association?
We have to get on with our driving examiners.
So, to improve relationship I invite them to some of our meetings. And they stay the entire night. Our members start to realise, examiners are just normal people that can make mistakes from time to time too.
Are you involved with any of the national associations?
We are not involved with ADINJC yet but we are keen to get them involved.
Where do your passions for the driving instructor industry lie? Is it with pupils, the technology, the associations?
I really enjoy how pupils can surprise you and that's where my passion comes from - the vast range of pupils.
A couple of years ago, I had a pupil and after his first lesson I told him "let's book your test". Some pupils just surprise you.
He was my only student that passed in 10 hours.
Most of my pupils pass their test with 3 or 4 minors. I am still think that 15 minors is too high. In 40 minutes 13 or 14 minors is too high - we should decrease the limit to 10.
What are the challenges for ADIs right now?
Key works exploiting the system when it first came out. That’s why there are very few people learning right now.
Take away workers were getting tests when they shouldn’t have. Even taking government documents and putting their names on it so they could get a test.
Now in 2021, they are much stricter.
Any advice for instructors to get better pass rates?
Listen to examiners and sit in the car with the pupils on their test. You get a first hand view of what is happening. I find out what happens on the tests, if there are little unique roads or routes I can always then pass that on to my pupils.
What’s the biggest change you’d like to see in the industry?
I would love for the DVSA to get competition. By having competition it is going to improve the service provided to learners and instructors.
There is so much confusion at the moment during COVID-19. I turned up to a test and I got a text from the DVSA the test was cancelled, when I was in the car park about to do the test.
Their communication leaves much to be desired.
What’s the future for yourself? Where do you want to take your association?
With the association I am trying to keep the members informed. I have just been voted in as chairman again, which was great to see.
I will keep pushing information out through our WhatsApp group.
We have a new test centre manager, I want to ensure she gets to meet the association to build that relationship. We are keen to continue to work with the DVSA where we can.
We are keen to grow our association members a bit too.
My last question.. What is your advice for ADIs and PDIs for right now?
Read as much information as you can. So many don’t read the information that's coming out. If your association is pushing information out, read it!
Take posts on social media with a pinch of salt - even if that means reaching out to the association chairman. We can quite often spot fake news!
Thanks Russell, thanks so much for your time today. It's been great to chat with you.