Driving instructors call for theory test extension as learners struggle to book tests

Monday, 21st September 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 21st September 2020, 8:02 am

Instructors from some of Britain’s biggest driving schools have called on the DVSA to extend theory test validity as learners struggle to book practical driving tests.

Theory test pass certificates usually remain valid for two years but senior instructors from the AA and RED Driving School have called for an extension to give candidates more time to secure a practical test.

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Around 400,000 learners had practical tests cancelled during lockdown and there have been significant problems with the system for booking new tests since restrictions were lifted.

As a result, learners whose theory test certificates are due to expire soon face having to pay to resit the theory test before they can attempt the practical portion of the exam.

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Sarah Rees, managing director of AA Driving School, used the resumption of practical driving tests in Scotland to higlight the struggle some learner drivers face and call for an extension similar to that applied to MOT tests and driving licence expiry dates.

She said: “There is still a cohort of learners whose theory test certificates expired during lockdown, while MOTs and driving licences were extended.

“We hope that the government will relax the two-year theory test rule to give more flexibility for learners who will be at the back of the queue due to coronavirus.”

Learners have to have a valid theory test certificate to book a practical driving test (Photo: Shutterstock)

Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School, agreed, arguing that learners should either have their test vaildity extended or be offer a free resit rather than having to pay the £23 fee themselves.

He commented: “We’re seeing record numbers of new students who are keen to get their driving licence to reduce their exposure to COVID-19 on public transport.

“The younger generation have arguably felt the greatest economic, social and educational impact of the pandemic and it’s vital we remove any bureaucratic barriers which restrict their mobility.

“There may be around 50,000-70,000 people in the UK whose theory test certificate expired during the four-month period when DVSA test centres were closed, which means they will now have to pay to re-sit their theory test again before they can book a practical driving test. The four-month driving test backlog throws a spanner in the works for hard-pressed youngsters who are keen to get mobile now practical test centres have re-opened.

“The DVSA implemented a six-month grace period for MOTs as a result of the pandemic, and young drivers deserve the same consideration. In light of the exceptional circumstances, we are calling on the DVSA to offer an extension for theory tests that expired during lockdown or provide a free re-sit for affected learners.”

However, not all driving schools believe such a move is necessary. Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at Bill Plant Driving School said the two-year window should be long enough for most learners to be ready to sit their practical test.

He said: “We do completely understand the frustrations of learner drivers whose theory tests have expired throughout lockdown and now face having to do a resit in order to book on for their driving test.

“Anything the DVSA can do to assist would be greatly appreciated, but theory tests last for a two-year period, which has really only been shortened by a few months, and in the grand scheme of things it’s not the biggest thing that the Government has to worry about right now."

We have approached the DVSA for comment.