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Meeting documents

Licensing Committee
Tuesday 18 July 2006

Report to Licensing Board re The Knowledge Test

Report of the Assistant Chief Executive Legal and Governance Services to the Licensing Board 18/July/2006
Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing
The Knowledge Test
1.0 Purpose
1.1 To inform Members of impending changes to the Knowledge Test.
2.0 Background
2.1 The Council has a duty not to grant drivers licences unless it is satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
2.2 The Council has a number of standard tests, checks and assessments designed to assist applicants for licences demonstrate that they have the abilities and attributes required of a private hire or taxi driver.
2.3 The Knowledge Test is part of that testing and checking process. The recent introduction of the English and arithmetic assessments has changed the content and manner in which the knowledge test needs to be conducted and has allowed the introduction of an improved test.
3.0 The Existing Test
3.1 The current test is in 4 sections.
The first section covers the route between places in the city. There are about 100 different routes and there are 3 or 4 routes, selected at random, on each test.
The second section is on legal aspects of being a licensed driver.
The third section is on the safe carriage of wheelchair passengers.
The fourth section is on customer care issues.
3.2 The test is a verbal one on one test as it is also intended to be a test of the applicants ability to understand and speak English.
3.3 The test guidance notes provide information of all the questions that could be asked and the answers to the questions. The questions asked are phrased in exactly the same wording as set out on the test guidance information.
The purpose of arranging the test in this manner was to ensure consistency of testing and marking.
3.4 The test is in need of improvement mainly in two areas -
the verbal nature of the test did not effectively “test” the ability of the applicant to communicate in English as it was possible to learn the test by rote;
the routes were prescriptive and did not necessarily indicate a true knowledge of the geography of Sheffield. Additionally, changes to the road layout often resulted in errors appearing in the “correct” route.
4.0 The new test
4.1 The first problem with the existing test has been dealt with through the introduction of the basic assessment tool which is now the first stage of the test/check process.
4.2 The geographical knowledge is dealt with in 3 ways.
District knowledge - candidates will be asked to give, in general terms, a main route from the city centre to a district of Sheffield. For example a candidate could be asked for a route to Birley, an acceptable answer would be - up East Bank Road to Manor Top, down Mansfield Road and Birley Moor Road, Birley is on the right after Frecheville. The candidate could just as correctly give a route taking them up Duke Street/City road etc. The important aspect of this part of the test is that the candidate understands where the districts of Sheffield are in relation to each other.
Places of interest - a list of places of interest has been compiled. The places of interest are considered to be the type of place that a visitor might ask to go to without knowing its exact address. As the purpose is also to cover the whole of the city then, inevitably, some places could be considered to be more “interesting” than others. Candidates will be asked where a place is and will be required to give its location. The guidance notes to the test will provide the names of the places of interest but the candidate will have to find out where they are.
Routes between locations in the city - from the places of interest list about 20 have been chosen to form the start and finish points of the routes. Again, the locations are spread around the city. Candidates will know in advance, from the guidance notes, which locations can be used in this part of the test. The difficult part of this part of the test is the marking of it. It is not intended that candidates know the name of every single road on the route, only that, from the answer they give, it is clear to the tester that they knew where they were going. Using the example above a candidate that was to say - from East Bank Road follow the one way system at Manor Top onto Mansfield Road he/she would demonstrate that they knew where they were going even though they had not mentioned Hurlfield Road or Ridgeway Road. As the routes are not prescriptive future road layout changes will not affect the questions or accuracy of the guidance notes.
4.3 The remainder of the test will cover much the same ground as the existing test eg legal matters, helping people with disabilities, general customer care matters. There will be a mix of two types of multiple choice questions -
circle the correct answer from a choice of four options - this will be used where there is only one correct answer eg. where can the driver of a private hire vehicle ply for hire? The only correct answer is “nowhere”.
circle the three/four/five most important from a list 6 - 10 alternatives - this will be used where there is more than one right answer eg what are the 3 most important things a licensed driver should do before each day before he/she takes the first passenger? Making sure that you have got a packed lunch may be one of the options but it is not a correct answer.
4.4 The test guidance notes (copy attached) are free to applicants for the test. The information provided in the guidance not only sets out valuable information about being a private hire or taxi driver it is also the basis for formulating answers to the multiple choice questions.
As the guidance notes supply a wide range of information about being a licensed driver from the role and responsibilities to Council policies to advice on customer care issues it is hoped that the need to change the guidance in future will be minimal. The questions can change at any time.
In addition to the general information the “Knowledge” guidance notes also contains the names of all the districts together with the names of the places of interest that will be used in the test.
5.0 Introduction of the test
5.1 The first of the new style tests are scheduled to take place in August.
6.0 Consultation
6.1 Representatives of the trades associations have been aware of and involved in the impending changes to the test and have provided positive input on an ad hoc basis and also at more formal consultation meetings.
6.2 Any written representations received are attached to this report.
7.0 Other relevant information
7.1 As can be seen from the new knowledge test information pack attached to this report it contains information about the role and responsibilities of taxi and private hire drivers and also covers good practice and customer care issues. As this information is also useful for existing drivers a Drivers Handbook is being developed and it is intended to circulate it to all licensed drivers.
7.2 The introduction of this new style knowledge test in conjunction with the basic skills assessments in English and arithmetic will mean that new drivers entering the trade will be more knowledgeable and much more capable than has been the case in the past to provide the right standard of service to relevant people eg passengers and other customers. This improvement in standards has been achieved at no extra cost to existing licence holders or the public at large.
8.0 Financial implications
8.1 The introduction of a new style Knowledge Test was a factor taken into account when the fees and charges review took place in March 2006. There are therefore no adverse financial implications envisaged.
8.2 The Drivers Handbook was not a factor taken into account when fees and other charges were reviewed but as it is basically an adaptation of the knowledge test guidance there has been no significant additional staff resource implications. The only financial cost will be the copying and postage costs estimated to be around £1,000.
9.0 Recommendation
9.1 It is recommended that Members note the content of this report.
Liz Bashforth
Assistant Chief Executive
Legal & Governance
Town Hall