Testing times: Driving instructors warn of huge pressure as exam backlog builds

  • Watch a report from ITV Anglia's Hannah Pettifer

Young people are being forced to wait months to get a driving test because of huge demand on the system following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

With lessons and tests now allowed, thousands of pupils who were ready to take a test before the start of lockdown are now looking to book up slots.

John Phillipson, an instructor who works across Kettering and Wellingborough, said some of his pupils are having to book a test before they even start lessons due to the 20-week backlog.

He added: "If we’re carrying between 25 and 30 learners that’s pretty much a full week so one person has to pass before another person can start driving lessons.

"It's really important for us to hopefully get those pupils through so we can free up spaces for new learners to start."

Learners face long waits to book another if they fail their first test Credit: ITV Anglia

One of his pupils, Belle Wheeler, had her test in January pushed back to next week because of lockdown.

"I’m really excited for it, I just hope it goes ahead otherwise it's a long wait for another one," she said.

"Having to wait another five months means that I’m going to have to spend more money on hours for lessons...and it means the driving instructor can’t continue with other learner drivers."

The problems facing John and Belle are being found across the country, according to Carly Brookfield, CEO of the Driving Instructors Association.

She said: "[Instructors have] got a lot of pressure on them to prepare pupils in a very short timescale for tests.

"But then they’ve got the context of worrying about when new pupils will be able to take a test with long waiting times, and if those pupils who are taking a test now fail, a very long wait for those pupils to get a retest as well."

The national waiting time is 17 weeks on average, according to the DVSA, who are planning to start offering tests on weekends and bank holidays.

Terry Faulkes, an instructor based in Brantham in Essex, said that backlog was adding to what is already a very stressful process.

He said: "I've a young girl going next week, she's been driving for 18 months and she knows the pressure is on.

"She said to me if I don't pass I'll cry, because she knows I've got to wait so long for another one."

The DVSA Chief Executive Loveday Ryder urged learners not to rush and book an exam if they were not ready.

He said: "With more than half of candidates failing, and demand currently extremely high for tests, learners should only take their test only when they are confident they can pass. This will help them to avoid a lengthy wait for a retest and help us by not adding to the backlog of tests."We are doing all we can to provide as many tests as possible and I know that it will be frustrating for some time. We are sorry for any inconvenience but please bear with us as we start getting our services back to normal."