'It's a bit dire' - test backlog prompts waiting lists for driving lessons

File photo of a driving school car

Learner drivers in Ipswich are facing waits to start lessons because of the test backlog - Credit: PA

Driving instructors are in high demand across Ipswich - but the test backlog could mean a lengthy wait for new starters. 

Sandy Baldry, who runs Sandy's Driving School with her daughter, Dominie, has never worked with a waiting list before - but the business has adopted one as demand for driving lessons has risen since lockdown ended. 

She said: "I've cut back since Covid - I'd planned on semi-retirement, really, doing three days a week, but I still easily do five.

"It sounds a lot, but I was doing seven before the pandemic, and I just wouldn't be able to cut back any more right now because of demand. 

"It's a bit dire. We have about 12 on a waiting list, but we get multiple calls about new starters every day and can't accept anyone at the moment. 

"We have to hang onto students a bit longer than usual because of the test backlog, too. Most of my learners are ready for their test but can't book for months - I'm advising them to book the earliest date they can get in somewhere like Colchester and then we can try and react to cancellations. 

"I think a lot of instructors gave up the job, maybe they couldn't afford to be without work for the lockdowns, and even now we're allowed back it isn't simple." 

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Isolation restrictions can mean that lessons and tests can be cancelled with little warning or chance to reschedule. 

And if one of Sandy's students manages to secure a test because of a last-minute cancellation, other students can be affected as their lesson will need to be postponed. 

She continued: "It's going to take a while before we're back on an even keel and I feel sorry for the students.  

"At a certain age learning to drive is a rite of passage so I do feel sorry that it's such a wait for people." 

At the end of 2021 it was reported that more than half a million learners across the UK were waiting to take their driving test. 

When lockdown lifted the DVSA took steps to tackle the backlog by increasing test slots on weekends and bank holidays, hiring more examiners and bringing back recently retired examiners.