Competencies and how to meet them (in plain English)

Was the lesson plan adapted, when appropriate, to help the pupil work towards their learning goals?

What the DVSA say:

You should be willing and able to adapt if your pupil:

  • appears to be uncomfortable or unable to deal with, the learning experience you have set up
  • suggests that it is not providing what they were looking for

If your pupil’s inability is creating a possible risk situation you must adapt quickly. This might require a few extra questions to clarify what is out of line. It may be that the problem is because of the teaching and learning style being used by you rather than because the overall plan is wrong. Whatever the reason for adapting the plan, you must make sure your pupil understands what they are doing and why. 

Indications that all the elements of competence are in place could include:

  • comparing the actual performance of your pupil with their claims and clarifying any differences
  • responding to any faults or weaknesses that undermine the original plan for the session
  • responding to any concerns or issues raised by your pupil
  • picking up on non-verbal signs of discomfort or confusion

Indications of lack of competence include:

  • persisting with a plan despite your pupil being clearly out of their depth
  • persisting with a plan despite your pupil demonstrating faults or weaknesses that should lead to a rethink of the plan
  • changing the plan without reason
  • failing to explain to your pupil why the plan has been changed

What does this mean?

I highlighted in red the really important element of this competence above, but here it is again (in case you missed it!)

If your pupil’s inability is creating a possible risk situation you must adapt quickly

The DVSA have always been concerned regarding safety, which is why the old test was the examiner pretending to be a learner and committing mistakes, that, if left unresolved would become safety critical. so if there is anything that happens that is, or could lead to becoming safety critical it MUST be dealt with.

So it isn’t just about the initial goals, it is about sorting out anything that is a concern, or could become a concern if left alone. We therefore must see that there is an issue, (was the trainer aware of the surroundings and the pupils actions) bring it to the learners attention, (was any intervention timely and appropriate) have them agree that it is something that requires fixing (was sufficient feedback given to help the learner understand any safety critical issues) and then adapt our plans by either replacing the original subject, or adding the new stuff to the original plan (was the lesson plan adapted). these are what used to be referred to as the core competencies of instruction, they are alive and well in this new system, the difference between the old test and the new, is that the learner must be involved in the planning and execution of plans and as such we should be able to affect behavioural change.

I speak with a great many instructors who tell me they failed and cannot understand why, they attended to the learners goals and both they and the learner thought it was a good lesson. However, on further investigation, safety critical issues arose that were not attended to and this results in the examiner seeing it as a failure of your duty, which they see as attending to, and fixing safety critical issues.

Where else does this impact on the form?

This is a really big one, perhaps the most important box on the form. again it is one where i hear much confusion from ADI/PDIs.

If you score low here you will always fail, it is the bread and butter of the job, to be able to see where issues are, to be able to raise these issues in a timely manner and then help the learner to understand the need for change to plans and to be able to help them hatch new plans. It is the most common reason for failure, and this is mainly because this competence cuts across so many others, so a low score here, really messes you up!!!

So it impacts in the following areas, but is not limited to these areas.

Lesson Planning

Did the trainer identify the pupil’s learning goals and needs – because you have identified an issue and should have discussed this with the learner, and they should, as a result of this discussion hatched new plans.

Was the agreed lesson structure appropriate for the pupil’s experience and ability – because of the issue not being addressed, new lesson structures were not agreed.

Were the practice areas suitable – ADIs are often surprised to find a low score here, the reason for this is that we have not used the area to good effect (for example going back around the block) so even though you may be in the perfect place to do the subject (something i hear a lot) you didn’t use it to good effect.

Was the lesson plan adapted, when appropriate, to help the pupil work towards their learning goals – Because we have not added the new stuff to the plans (or replaced the stuff with this new plan) the lesson has not been adapted where the examiner thought it necessary to deal with a safety critical issue

Risk management

Did the trainer ensure that the pupil fully understood how the responsibility for risk would be shared – you should have, as part of the new plans, decided who will be responsible for what (levels of support etc)

Was the trainer aware of the surroundings and the pupil’s actions – you have not said anything about this, or have not said enough about this

Was any verbal or physical intervention by the trainer timely and appropriate – you have not brought this new issue to their attention

Was sufficient feedback given to help the pupil understand any potential safety critical incidents – you lose points here because you have not discussed it with the pupil and had them agree that it was a safety critical issue that needed attention, often ADI/PDI’s persist with the original plan as this is what the pupil wanted, this is a huge mistake, you are the driver training professional and as such should be able to make a good enough case to convince the learner. If you cannot get the learner to agree, then it is a failing in your duty as the person ultimately responsible for safety (at least until test day)

Teaching and learning strategies

Was the teaching style suited to the pupil’s learning style and current ability – no because if we are not making these necessary changes due to a safety critical issue, it becomes the wrong lesson for that pupil on that day, at that time.

Was the pupil encouraged to analyse problems and take responsibility for their learning – if we are doing our job, the pupil will clearly see that changes to the lesson are necessary.

Was the pupil given appropriate and timely feedback during the session – we should be inputting here to gain agreement from, or understanding from the learner about the safety critical issues

Did the trainer maintain an appropriate non-discriminatory manner throughout the session – you may lose points here (you may not too), not because you were discriminatory, but because you perhaps allowed the pupils feelings on the safety critical matter to override yours

In conclusion

It is vital that you get this right, failure to do so will always result in a low score, however, conversely, if you get it right, it drags your scores elsewhere up with it. I am asked (more than I should be) “what happens if the lesson doesn’t need adapting?”

I normally respond with, “give me an example of this”, and the answer often comes back, my pupil just wanted to continue with the original plan… this puts us in the school of mum and dad league, your job is to aid learning and as such you should be making changes to what is happening to make certain learning takes place. I often describe the part 3 exam or standards check, not as a test of your ability to instruct, but more a test of whether you can justify charging for it. So you MUST make things happen. Your lessons should be a series of cycles. Set a plan, execute the plan, evaluate the plan, set a new plan. Each new segment should be different to the one previous, otherwise why are they paying you?

I hope that makes sense, and as ever, if it doesn’t or you have anything to add, please use the comments section below.

Comments on Competencies and how to meet them (in plain English)

  1. Mike says:

    I love this well worth the read thanks you. I failed with a total score 29 but risk was the best score, I was told even though I took my student out the day before to the area wrote a good plan with him over a coffee, on the day he acted as if it was his test and did nothing wrong by the time I had relized there was not enough time to change the goal before we needed to head back to the center? My lesson learnt! The expensive way.any tips ive got my second one booked for 21st dec with a different client.

    1. Bob Morton says:


      My advice would be to work in short bursts, reviewing and adapting every 7-10 mins

  2. Hi. Just a brief on me so you have an idea of experience etc. I’ve over 40 years as an instructor. Fortunately managed to get 3 off the 51 score. But would have loved the 51. Just wanted to say I read your competences in plain English and though just that. It was excellent write up and we all need reminders regardless of how long or what we think we know. I’ve taken the liberty of forwarding on to the guys that work with me. Hope that ok & thank you.



    1. Bob Morton says:

      Thanks for the feedback Derek, pleased you found it useful.

      Because I hear so much misinformation and find much misunderstanding I wanted to make this most important competence explanation public.

      I am happy to have others directed here to read

      Kind regards

  3. Adrian Wills says:

    Hi Bob, great clarity and informative. Always good to go over the Competencies and Self reflect any weaknesses in order to maintain or improve the required standard of coaching we provide to our customers. Much appreciated.

    Kind Regards
    Adrian Wills

    1. Bob Morton says:

      Cheers Adrian, hope you are well

  4. Matt says:

    Been doing it 18 years but still great to read up on the job.
    Had a pupil need/want to do drifting off big roundabouts (spirals) She came to one big roundabout to turn left but she just didn’t look right until she was stopped at the give way.
    I said let’s go do it again she agreed. Would you say that was safety critical? Would you refocus refocus lesson to that or just go have a look at it once more? We went around the block again and got her to appreciate and look sooner.
    Any help appreciated.

    1. Bob Morton says:

      Hi Matt
      I would definitely say this was an issue that needed addressing (its one of the main reason for failure of L test too) and returning to the “scene of the crime” was the correct thing to do in my mind.

      This is one of the reasons i favour short repetitive routes as it means you can address issues such as this in a timely manner.

      I would likely add it to what we were already working on, but, depends how much it impacted, how wide etc

      Kind regards

  5. Right here is the perfect site for everyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic which has been written about for decades. Great stuff, just wonderful!

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