Welcome to my blog.
I'm Sarah (not my real name), I live in Colchester and am currently learning to drive. I have created this blog as a place to share my experiences with a particular driving school and to document my complaint as a record for myself (and anyone else who is interested).
Bit of background first.
I passed my theory test in April 2013 and decided to look at an intensive course as the best way to learn to drive. I had been putting it off and putting it off for ages and at 31 I decided it was finally time to get it out of the way. I have a new university course starting soon, some distance a way and involving some travel, so that gave me the final push to get off my bum and get on with it.
Word of mouth recommendations all went for 'Castle' driving school but they had no free instructors and didn't offer any intensive courses in an automatic. They suggested that Nippers, based in Clacton, might be able to help so I phoned them up and explained what I wanted. I made it clear that I was quite nervous and a complete novice when it came to driving.
The man booked me in with 'Steve' and gave me a start date of the 27th May and a test date of the 4th of June. Two weeks later 'Steve' phoned me and arranged to pick up the cheque from my house. I had been given the option of bringing cash to the first lesson (£771) or he would pick up the cheque. When he arrived I mentioned again that I was very nervous, but he wasn't very reassuring. At this point I should have listened to my gut, but I didn't, I put it down to being nervous about learning to drive.
So, the 27th came around, Steve arrived five minutes late ( he was never early) and I got driven by Steve to a quiet suburb round the corner. I got into the drivers seat and looked at Steve who said 'go on then, start it'. I was surprised as was expecting to have a bit of guidance about driving position, cockpit drill, mirror adjustment etc, but figured he knew what he was doing and started the car. After ten minutes or so tentative driving Steve said 'right, off we go then' and I found myself on a busy single carriageway on the way to Clacton. We ended up forty minutes away in Holland-on Sea. Steve went for a toilet break for five minutes (long running theme, I lost ten minutes a lesson on average to his toilet breaks, which was never made up). And we drove home again. I was shaking and gripping the wheel with a death grip. My shoulders ached from yanking the wheel around (Steve never taught me the push pull technique on the steering wheel). I was then allowed an hours break before it was back in the car. Steve made it very clear that breaks were incredibly inconvenient as he had nothing to do for an hour, which made me feel incredibly guilty.
The next day we had two hours of lessons. Again Steve was late, again we finished early, again I lost ten minutes of my lesson to toilet breaks, none of which was ever made up. Again I was surprised that I was getting very little guidance and feedback, he seemed more interested in chatting and gossiping. He said there was nothing worse than a quiet car and got noticeable uncomfortable if I was concentrating and failing to chat to him. At the end of this session he finally remembered that he hadn't checked my eyesight or my provisional license or theory test certificate. At no point in the forty hours did he check or go over the basics or explain any thing in detail, so my driving position was wrong and my mirrors were not set correctly for the whole time. Any questions I had seemed to irritate him immensely and he made no test of my level of knowledge at any point.
The next two days were 4.5 hours of driving each, in neither case was any sort of break offered or scheduled. We spent our time driving around the very scary roundabouts of Colchester, none of which are standard and all of which have some hideous quirk. We drove in a massive loop, one direction only around the town, around and around. We did a small amount of manoevre practice until Steve got irritated with my inability to grasp how to do it. He didn't try and explain it another way or demonstrate it himself, he refused to offer any reference points or extra mirrors (despite having them on his manual tuition car, he said it would be too much hassle to switch them). I entered my third test STILL unable to parallel park or bay park, as once I had done it once (by fluke) that was it, further practice was almost impossible to squeeze out of Steve.