Driving Instructor Interview
Headshot of Tony Poole, Leeds Driving Instructors Association

Tony Poole Chairman, Leeds Driving Instructors Association

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Tony Poole from Leeds Driving Instructors Association and discover why local associations are essential in today's world.

GoRoadie CEO, Michael Carr, chat with Tony Poole of Leeds Driving Instructors Association about why local associations are vital at this moment in time.

Hi Tony, why don't you introduce yourself?

My name is Tony Poole, I’m an approved driving instructor and fleet trainer based in Leeds. I’ve been an ADI for almost 17 years now. I provide driver training for learners, fleet trainers, I work with private companies and give advice to PDIs. I’ve also previously held positions in engineering, retail and I was a NVQ Assessor as well. I’ve worn many hats!

Amazing. That’s what I like to see. Do you think because you wore so many hats, your approach as an ADI is slightly different?

Yes because what I found particularly with the NVQ job you always find your learners - they always have an achilles heel. And it doesn’t change from learner drivers with clutch biting point and changing gears to adults learning maths and IT skills. It’s pretty much a similar bag - you approach it the same way, trying to draw the best out of people.

It’s about trying to inject them with confidence. In my opinion confidence and belief and ability all go together. You can’t have one without the other.

I carry a motivational credit card sized thing in my wallet from Henry Ford of all people. “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right”

How long have you been running Leeds Driving Instructors Association?

To be honest Michael the LDIA has been running longer than I’ve been alive. It was actually born in 1964. Its now into it’s 57 year, this year. I’ve been a member now for numerous years. First as a normal member, then a committee member, I did two years as vice-chairman and I’m now into my third year as chairman.

We’re there as a bit of support for instructors to Leeds instructors. We run training sessions, last year we did a first aid course, we had guest speakers from specialist subjects and from the DVSA as well. It’s great when we can come together. It’s a good forum for people to talk and to feel like they're not alone.

And we are part of the ADINJC. Along with other groups like NASP.

Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.

What made you think to join LDIA?

I had only just qualified as a driver training and my mentor was a member. He just happened to mention the LDIA. He said ‘Why not come along and see what we’re about’, I did and I joined on the night.

Whether you’re part of a franchise, in some respects you’re on your own and if you’re independent - you’re definitely on your own. Associations are a great idea, to have a driving instructors community.

Exactly, you can share the challenges you all face.

Absolutely, say there is a local issue. I could always speak to Test Centre managers and try to resolve it there. If it’s something more national, that’s where we can lean on the ADINJC.

LDIA is an excellent support network from grassroots to national.

How has COVID-19 impacted your members?

Terribly. Absolutely terrible.

We are now in the third lockdown as you know. As soon as lockdowns are announced, ADIs stop working. It’s made a lot of us do things we have never had to do like claim universal credit if you’re eligible or claim the self employed support scheme.

Instructors have had to take payment breaks from mortgages and other purchases like franchise fees.

But none of us are unemployed, we still have a business and learners still want lessons. I’ve had two this week! The frustration is that we can’t touch.

So, how has LDIA helped out?

We have put regular messages out, asking how people are. I’ve been scouring information sources and putting useful links and advice on the group for people to access if they need it.

As soon as anything comes through from the ADINJC or DVSA - they are going straight on.

We have also partnered with another local association in Wakefield - we are sharing information.

We keep to the routine of monthly meetings via Zoom. And of course, anyone can talk to me inbetween or any of us.

There’s a real coming together in this adversity. I don’t want anyone to feel like they are on their own or struggling.

The most important thing is to be there for someone to talk to. Everyone’s mental health is suffering here. During lockdown I’ve been quite busy myself. My passion is around Mental Health Support and Counseling. I found my biggest strength is helping people with their mental health. Just having an ear on the other side of the phone. I’m also part of a national ADINJC telephone support group. This is the biggest area that I’ve helped in. If it helps other people then it’s worthwhile.

Another scheme that LDIA offer is Dave Lawrence Sickness Accident Scheme (DLSAS). Unfortunately a few years back Dave passed away and we named this scheme in his memory. If an ADI is sick or unwell, people from the association come together to help out financially for up to 6 weeks.

Associations are a great idea, to have a driving instructors community and to not be alone.

Yes! Exactly that. So have you had new members reach out during COVID-19?

We have. During our first lockdown, we opened our LDIA Facebook group to non-members. We went from around 45 members to over 90 members on Facebook. That really helped people. And we have had a couple join us since COVID-19 yes.

There’s always scope for more people.

And a big change for our association because we have had no guest speakers or training programmes, for 2021 there won’t be a membership fee.

That’s great. I have seen other associations do that and it seems the right thing to do in the current climate.

It is the right thing, for us driving instructors, if you don’t work you don’t earn and that’s why LDIA is free for the next year. And some instructors are struggling financially, so it does seem like the right thing.

It’s horrific. I was speaking to an instructor yesterday that said the ADINJC offers instructors financial aid in the most dire circumstances.

Absolutely. There are a couple of fantastic ADIs that have came up with this support scheme. Susan McDonald and Bobbie Hicks, what they have done is absolutely fantastic. Of course there is a criteria but it will really go to the ADIs/PDIs that will need it. These two should be applauded because people will benefit from it.

That’s great. We definitely would like to raise awareness that these sorts of schemes exist.

Well that’s it, people sometimes don’t know the support is there. Sometimes they aren’t even aware local associations exist. Instructors qualify and feel that they are on their own - they are not. They got us.

What is the future for LDIA?

Now that it’s approaching it’s 6th decade. It started with a few ADIs and it’s progressed through depressions, financial crises and even the current plague… and I still feel people are still getting value from it.

The guy that set it up is still our life-president. In his 90s now!

I’m hoping it will continue as an entity, I’m hoping people will continue to join and support and take the association forward. It will always be some place for people to get together.

So, what's in your future Tony? You previously mentioned metal health…

I’ve just renewed my ADI badge… I have it but can’t use it. For me, I would like to move away from driver training, at least from a full time aspect.

It’s become a bit unstable, I’m not sure how we are going to come out of it.

It’s definitely tough. Universal Credit only goes so far, it doesn’t cover my outgoings at all. I want to develop something I am passionate about and create more stability. Although this is definitely not immediate.

But hopefully in 10 years… hopefully I’m retired.

Okay, so final question. Advice for ADIs during lockdown… what would be your advice?

Try to remain positive. Try and do positive things.

There’s a fantastic phase I heard… “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift."

Try and focus on small positive things. Any hobbies. If you need to, pick up the phone and talk to someone. Financially, take payment holidays and try and take cuts where you can. If you need alternative employment - do that!

If you feel you’re really struggling give us a call on the ADINJC national helpline, I’m there and so are others. We are there for you.

Thanks for your time and I'll catch up with you soon.

Thank you.

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