How to retain your pupils and keep them inspired all the way to their test

How to retain your pupils and keep them inspired all the way to test

We all wake up with a dream now and again. Sometimes we even act on it the same day. For many 17 year olds they can make that learning to drive dream happen on pay day.

Most learners underestimate how many hours they need to pass their driving test or they hear their friend passed in 20 hours and they think they can do the same. There might be more to their friends story in regards to how and why he passed in 20 hours such as that he’s a motorbike rider, a sportsman with great spacial awareness, reactions and motor skills. All the prospective learner hears and remembers is the “20 hours first time” and all they want is to do the same.

Getting them into the car is the easy bit (as you know driveJohnson’s does that bit very well), but how do you manage their dream so you that you don’t crush it and walk away disappointed after the first lesson while managing it so you don’t sell them up the river and let them down later?

You don’t want to keep doing offers and see the pupils disappear after the first 10 hours or even worse, after only their initial taster lesson. You need to give them hope, goals and most importantly make the lessons enjoyable.

So here are some ways to help you retain your pupils.


Everyone needs hope, some more than others.

Here’s a good example:

If you are part of the driveJohnson’s driving school franchise you would have asked the inevitable, “how many pupils can driveJohnson’s realistically provide?”

If we said to you that we “don’t know, can’t promise you anything”, you wouldn’t have joined us. That would be the really honest answer. But in the interests of you and driveJohnson’s it paid to give you some hope.

We gave you hope, you tried us and you joined us. You didn’t have much to lose by trialling us, which is why we gave you hope. If we let you down and didn’t produce the goods it wouldn’t have been a disaster, like signing a 12-month contract with a national driving instructor franchise. We had to give you a degree of hope to even trial us.

So how does this relate to your pupils, you needing hope to speak to us?

When your pupil asks you how many hours they need to be test standard you should within reason, give them some hope. Explain to them the following:

  • How long does the average learner take to drive? Show them some statistics.
  • Give them examples of previous pupils you have taught. Scroll through your picture messages of past pupils, so they can see all the pupil passes. Tell them how many hours each person took.
  • If they realistically need 100 hours of driving tuition. Say to them if they have 40 hours of lessons with lots of practice in between lessons it’s attainable.
  • Tell them how you have taught much more difficult pupils than them and got them through their test. Use past pupil names and stories to sell yourself.
  • Confidence

Learning with a winner

When you are talking about past pupil passes, don’t be afraid to big yourself up. Without being cocky, let your pupil know they are learning to drive with a winner. Talk like a loser and you’ll earn money like a loser. No 17-20 year old, or even anyone on the planet, wants to part with money for a service with a loser. Believe in yourself and your pupils will believe in you too!


The obvious goals would be to pass the theory and book the practical test. So in the interests of the pupil and yourself, how do you keep their lessons going when they haven’t passed their theory test?

The answer is to help them with their theory. Encourage them when they are ready to book their theory and give them access to our driveJohnson’s theory test training resources. You don’t have to keep the car stationary to help them with their theory either.

Try the following:

  • Quick Q&A at the beginning of every lesson on road signs. Use the book, Know your road signs which costs around £2.99.
  • Ask them theory questions on the move, as and when it’s safe.
  • Make a bet with them. Tell them that if they book their theory test and pass by a certain date, then you will give them a free hour on their driving test day. You can put conditions in there, such as they must continue their lessons with you weekly etc. Shake hands on it an it’s a bit of fun at the same time. The pupil will take pleasure in winning an hour off you and you will have the pleasure of continued lessons with your pupil. Everyones a winner!

Draw goals out on paper for the pupil. There’s a lot of psychological evidence that drawing goals with pen and paper helps. This diagram is a classic to help motivate your pupil and give them goals.

Set realistic goals during the lessons. How many times have you heard yourself or another instructor say things like “he doesn’t bloody check his mirrors, that’s his problem” or “he’s too fast approaching junctions all the time”?

Pull your pupil up and explain the challenge and say something on the lines of, “here’s the challenge. I want you to do the next 5 junctions correctly, in regards to your approach speed. After 5 junctions, we will pull up and see how many you have got right. You up for the challenge? Ladbrokes betting shop reckon you won’t get more than 2 right, I thought that was a bit unfair, so prove them wrong!”

After your pupil gets the first one right, say out loud, “1 out of 1 correct, Ladbrokes look like they are going to lose their money.” You will be motivating your pupil and inspiring them to try and get the next one right.

If they get the second one wrong, encourage them to beat Ladbrokes and say something on the lines of “Unlucky, 1 out of 2. 3 left and you need just 2 more right to beat the bookies.”

The above betting example is just a example. Obviously use your discretion with each pupil and see if it’s something that would motivate them without offending them.

Plan your lessons

How many times have you heard a pupil say “All I use to do with my last instructor was drive around”?

Guess what? That’s why they have come to you. Don’t make the same mistake. It takes 2 minutes to plan a lesson at the end of your pupil’s lesson. Your pupil isn’t going to grumble at getting back 2-3 minutes early for a proper recap/debrief and lesson plan for next session.

It’s not always possible to vary the lessons when your pupil is stuck on one particular area but it may pay to set some realistic goals/targets so they have something to aim for. Then when they achieve those goals, their treat is a new subject.

If you don’t give them a target, then they have nothing to aim for. It may take longer and they may feel they aren’t progressing as they are doing the same thing.

For more experienced learners, it’s very easy to vary lesson and keep it interesting. So avoid just driving around and spend 2-3 minutes at the end of the lesson planning the next lesson.

Manage expectations in general

This almost syncs with the hope section. You never want to delude your pupils and say something that they cannot achieve or that they will never pass their driving test.

Managing expectations is all about communicating with your pupil and helping them understand.

If your pupil says something like, “I’m never going to pass – I may as well quit.”

You need to help them understand and put things into perspective for them. You may need to draw a timeline of their journey on paper and show them how far they have come and how close they are. Like the diagram above.

You may need to go through their test report form with them and help them understand 2 serious faults can often happen to very good learner drivers, explain by recalling past pupils that were very good that failed with 2 serious and passed second time round.

If your pupil says, “I can’t afford lessons at the moment, it’s too much money.”

You may choose to or find it appropriate to put things into perspective for them and say something like, “you go out every weekend drinking right? How much do you spend? £60 on alcohol? Why don’t you do 1.5 hours a week instead of 2 hours that will cost you £35 a week and you’ve got a little bit left over each week or go out drinking every other week? Based on you doing 1.5 hours a week, I believe I can get you through your test in 8 weeks. So you have 8 weeks of slightly hard times to get yourself a driving licence for life.”

Managing a pupil that has booked their test without your consent

Many instructors reaction will be, “I’m not taking you. Rebook your test or find another instructor.”

That’s fine if you are really busy and don’t mind losing the pupil. After all, the pupil lacked consideration for their instructor when booking the test.

However, what should you do if you are a little bit low on work, you can make the driving test date and you want to finish the job yourself?

Try the following:

  • Conduct a mock test on their next lesson. Many learners don’t understand what test standard is. By doing a mock test early on, it can help them understand what the requirements are for test and many cases the pupil learn themselves they are not ready rather than you telling them which is much better. After they have experienced a mock test and failed badly you can often advise them on when to book the test and they will often listen.
  • You’ve done a mock test, pupil has failed miserably but they still wan to take their test. What can you do?
    • Offer them a second opinion with an instructor who is a friend. 9.5/10 they will decline, but it’s your way of putting your money where your mouth is.
    • Offer them the opportunity to sit in a pupils lesson who is ready for test standard. 9.5/10 they will decline, but it’s your way of putting your money where your mouth is.
    • Explain to them the consequences for you and them when you take someone down for test who is considerably not ready. Examiner may abort the test and walk back. Report the instructor. Examiner may remember you next time and automatically pigeon hole you before you even start the test. Not right, but it happens in life when you have almost died in a car accident and had to walk back in the rain.
    • Cut the pupil a deal, sometimes you may need to compromise. If you believe they need 20 hours to have a good chance of passing then what would an extra 10-12 hours buy them? If 10-12 hours would buy them a respectable fail, then try to compromise. If the pupil doesn’t want to meet you half way and you have exhausted all of the above then you will have to give them their notice and tell them you can’t take them for test with the notice they deserve so they can find an alternative instructor.

Courtesy texts

Always keep a log of all the pupils you have. Any time you are remotely quiet, get the log out and send courtesy texts to all the pupils that have stopped lessons. Many of them may have done only 10 hours. So when you get 1-2 of them back in, they will go to normal rate, so you don’t have to do a introduction deal.

Send texts such as:

“Hi James, hope you are all good. Have you booked your theory test yet? Speak soon…”

“Hi James, hope you’re well. Have you thought anymore about starting your driving lessons in Luton back up? You were doing so well.”

“Hi James, I’ve got a couple of slots available for next week if you fancy getting the lessons going again? I reckon you only need another 10-15 hours to pass your test. Let me know?”

Over the course of 1 year, you will build up a list of pupils that are stop and starters. Sometimes a text like above is enough to tickle them in to starting again, especially around pay day at the end of the month.

Be nice

There’s an old saying it pays to be nice. Treat your pupils as you would like to be treated and it will go a long way and serve you well in the long run. That’s how driveJohnson’s has grown from one man and his car.

If you think a certain pupil is messing you around, don’t send them a text reading them the riot act. Try to be nice about it and help them understand your point of view. In some instances make a compromise with them as long as they understand next time you won’t be able to do the same.

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