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The UK’s first driving course for school pupils

Driving instructor and a woman in a carWe’re used to seeing “drivers ed” classes in America thanks to the wonders of film and TV. But driving lessons are set to become a feature of British schooling as well.

It’s a risky business being a young driver.

Those under the age of 25 are more likely to be involved in a road accident and, as a result, pay higher car insurance premiums.

To tackle this, some in the motoring industry have called for a ban on intensive driving courses and graduated driving licences for motorists aged under 25.

The latter scheme would introduce a minimum one-year learning period for young drivers, with a night driving ban and a restriction on carrying passengers.

Driving on the curriculum

But one driving school has come up with what seems a much better alternative – driving lessons for pupils.

The UK's first curriculum based driving course and qualification for school students has been launched at Nailsea School in North Somerset.

Find out more in the following video:

The new BTEC in Driving & Driver Education provides 40 hours classroom training and 30 hours of practical in-car training and includes the DSA Driving Theory Test.

The course is available to Year 12 and 13 (sixth-form) students to take alongside their A levels.

Driving instructor, Mike Williams is the managing director of Driving Force, and developed the BTEC course together with the firm’s training director Ian Littlefield.

Pre-driver education

Williams explains: “I used to work in the motor trade selling and servicing cars.

“I often dealt with teenagers and parents looking for cars and worried about the cost of car insurance and also about road safety.

“I saw there was a need for pre-driver education aimed at teaching teenagers how to be good, safe drivers instead of simply passing their test.”

Nailsea School became the chosen educational establishment after the assistant head of sixth form, Phil Duncan, contacted Driving Force trying to secure lesson discounts for local pupils.

Accredited qualification

Williams says: “In 2010, we started running a three-day driving course in school holidays – two days’ theory in the classroom, and one day practical in the school’s car park.

“It was really popular and soon pupils, parents and teachers started asking if it would lead to a certificate or qualification or insurance discount.

“This prompted me and Ian to see if we could develop an accredited driving course for school pupils.”

The new BTEC in Driving & Driver Education was accredited in November 2011 and now 70 Year 12 students are enrolled on the course which will run until the end of the school year.

Importantly, the course isn’t just aimed at producing good drivers, but good passengers.

Pupils are paired up for the 30 hours in-car training with half of this time spent as a driver and the other half as a passenger.

Peer pressure

Williams says: “Tackling peer pressure for young drivers is half the battle of increasing road safety.

“When you’re young and you’ve got a car, it’s fun to give your friends a lift.

“But they’ll egg you on, urge you to go faster, or dare you to take a corner at 50mph for example, and it’s this behaviour that causes crashes.

“By teaching pupils how to be good passengers we aim to temper this.”

With the pilot course up and running, Driving Force has already had interest from other schools.

Driving lessons in all schools

Williams says: “The end goal is for the government to turn round to us and say we want to roll this course out to every school in the country.

“The government spend a lot of money on setting up these courses for motorists who’ve been caught speeding or drink-driving.

“I think if they spent money on driver training in schools, instilling good practice in young people before they get on the roads, it would be money better spent.”

Phil Duncan, assistant head of sixth form, Nailsea School, adds: "We spend a lot of time at school educating students about the dangers of drink and drugs or the importance of safe sex.

"Yet they’re actually more likely to be affected by a serious road accident and under the current system we do nothing to address this."

What do you think?

Should teenagers learn to drive in schools? Do you think this will reduce road accidents among the young and create better drivers in the long run?

We'd love to hear your thoughts. You can leave your views on the message board below.

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Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick covers all things consumer for She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

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