Driving Instructor Interview
Kate Fennelly, Chairman of DING

Kate Fennelly Feet 2 Wheels Driving School, Chairman of Driving Instructors Network Group (DING) & Deputy Chairman of MSA GB East Midlands

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Kate Fennelly on how the Driving Instructors Network Group (DING) is helping instructors each month

We sat down with Kate Fennelly, chairman of DING and deputy chairman of MSA GB East Midlands ahead of the Instructors Network Seminar 2019. We chatted through how her association is helping instructors with the very real problems they face, as well as her thoughts on the state of the driving instructor industry.

How long have you been an ADI?

11 Years, this April!

Why did you become an ADI?

It's because I got pregnant with my son. The job I was doing, I couldn't do the hours or travel the distance required. RED Driving School were advertising on TV trying to get people to become an instructor… so that's what I did!

There is no other seminar like ours - we are the only ones that bring all these different professions together.

What's your involvement with DING?

I was already member, then suddenly volunteered to become the chairman. The number of instructors at the time in the group was only 8 or 9, but since taking over we have risen that number up to 70 or 80 now.

This month is our AGM – and I doubt anyone will want to jump up and take my slot – so I guess I will be here for a while. I've been told that I am going to be doing this for years to come!

DING Driving Instructors Group Photo

Since you have been running DING, what has been the biggest highlight?

I would have to say working together.

As you can imagine, this world is quite lonely. Everybody here is self employed. There isn't an office where you can have lunch breaks, or chat to people when going for coffee. It's isolating.

But with DING, every one chats on WhatsApp or Facebook. They have an opporitunity to ask questions at meetings when they feel stuck and to get advice from others.

Even some of our members approach me to go and speak to examiners on their behalf and I am more than happy to go and do that to help them out. That's why I am chairman - I'm always there to support my members.

Plus, we always have food at our meetings. Usually we meet right next to an Indian.

Whats your goal for the Instructors Network Seminar?

The goal for us is to do it yearly. We are actively encouraging other trades to come down too. We want to have bike, coach, fire brigade trainers, even fleet trainers. All these different skills under one roof for a few hours - anyone dealing with training people to drive on the road.

There is no other seminar like ours - we are the only ones that bring all these different professions together.

We are proud of this and so is the entire association.

For learners, before they get in a car for their first lesson, what 3 things would you like them to know?

  1. They should have lots of knowledge by watching videos. Know what is involved in learning to drive.
  2. Ticking off their Theory Test early, even before they get in their first lesson.
  3. For the parent educational side of it - Parents need to be updated on what's required to pass a test these days. It takes far longer than they expect.
Join any associations you can find - join them all - at least one! You will get great advice from them.

What’s your biggest horror story from teaching someone to drive?

Oh gosh! I was once teaching a girl – who has now passed for the record - but when I was on a dual carriage way with her, a lorry pulled out from a slip road without spotting us. Her immediate reaction was to scream and grab her face with both her hands!

I had to immediately grab the wheel. I actually drove the car like that for the next mile.

When I see her we still giggle about that, she says to me "I can't believe I ever did that!"

In the last 5 years, what do you think is the biggest change in the industry?

Going more technical. Satnav and having to educate ourselves in that. The test is getting better by pushing students in to rural roads. More dual carriage way routes too. It’s more realistic.

What do you think will be the biggest change to the industry in the next 5 years?

Longer tests. The examiners have 35 minutes to judge someone, I don't believe this is long enough to judge if someone is able drive for years to come.

2 women enjoying their time at a DING outing

In your experience, what are the top 5 traits of an ADI?

  1. Adaptability - not being rigid
  2. High levels of professionalism - but jolly too
  3. Takes part in CPD - always trying to improve
  4. Good rapport with examiners in the test centre
  5. Have pride in their vehicle

What’s your advice for new PDIs?

Find your local association and use it immediately. Join one or all of the bigger ones. Have that support straight away. When you’re trying to learn something new, everyone will help you. Otherwise it's just you and the trainer.

Join any associations you can find - join them all - at least one! You will get great advice from them.

Kate Fennelley's is hosting the Instructors Network Seminar 2019 on June 8th in Kegworth Hotel & Conference Centre, Kegworth. You can get tickets from £45 today. See you there!

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