This would negate the need for an official examiner-based practical driving test altogether, meaning learners would no longer have to wait for their practical test to be rebooked once the lockdown has been lifted.

The demand, cited in a petition online, comes on the heels of A Level students being awarded predicted grades by their schools when their exams were dropped in 2020.

The petition has already gleaned over 50,000 signatures and caused a fracas among learners and driving instructors.

Some believe that the petition has some merit – but only in so far that instructors play a more significant role in the qualification process.

For instance one suggestion is that “there needs to be a system in place to improve how this farce has played out.

“Not as simplistic [as what is in the petition] but a system where the learner has to log hours, signed by their instructor, detailing what they have covered.”

Other instructors are open to introducing instructor feedback into the examination process with the instructor signing off on a student, in turn contributing 50% to the learner’s final result – but with a toughened up test that promotes a higher overall standard of driving.

What the pros say

Several driving schools have come out against the petition’s demand with Bill Plant Driving School stating that, yes, “frustrations are high, but we simply don’t agree with passing learner drivers outside of the current DVSA managed examination process,” while RED Driving school believes that it would represent a high conflict of interest and put “the future of road safety at risk.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (aka IAM Smart) has said that the system won’t work as “there is currently no quality controlled way of taking feedback from an ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) and assessing it to see if a learner is fit to pass the practical test.

“We have a great deal of sympathy for those learners currently in limbo but until the pandemic is over, it looks like they will just have to wait.”

Agency says no

The DVSA has responded to the petition, stating that “the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) 1999 regulations require driving test examiners to meet certain criteria and pass an initial qualification and examination… The regulations also specifically prohibit an examiner from simultaneously being an active ADI.

“Although ADIs are well qualified and proficient in driving and instruction, they are not experienced assessors and this is evidenced by the current practical test pass rate of 47%.”

Ouch.

The agency does state that once the lockdown is lifted, it plans to deal with the huge backlog by increasing testing availability via several key measures including:

• Offering overtime and annual leave ‘buy back’ to its examiners

• Asking any and all of those able to carry out tests to do so

• Carrying out testing out of hours (think public holidays).

Stuck in neutral. For now

With a renewed call for the theory test certificate’s validity to be extended beyond two years also now shot down by the DVSA, it looks like the best learners can hope for is to sit tight until the lockdown lifts, all while keeping their skills in shape.

Here are Theory Test Pro’s three top tips for staying on top of your learning:

1. You can go for a practise drive with someone from your household – but remember, it must be part of an essential journey to, say, the supermarket. You cannot head out solely for the purpose of practising or you risk being fined.

2. You should keep working on learning your Highway Code, using platforms like Theory Test Pro. Also consider taking online quizzes such as our Big Lockdown series.

3. You should keep in touch with your instructor; they may be offering online sessions to discuss best driving tips and more to ensure you keep learning during this difficult downtime.

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