Stuart drove from Shropshire to be with us, for which we give him sincere thanks. Members from Gloucestershire and Dorset Groups joined with us to hear Stuart’s views, which were forthright and at times controversial.
Stuart gave us an insight into his background as a Police Officer with West Mercia Police, a career which started in 1979 and ended in 2008. With a keen interest in motorcycles and an ambition to serve in traffic, Stuart was one of two officers who completed their advanced motorcycle course before doing so in a car. After some time spent in traffic, Stuart joined the Force driving school as an instructor, initially in cars, and later also on bikes. Stuart remained with the driving school until 1998, then on promotion to Inspector, went on to serve in the Force Control Room and other duties.
Having left the Police, and had knee replacement surgery to restore health to a leg damaged in a huge accident several years earlier, Stuart wanted to return to motorcycling and its tuition, and initially contacted his local IAM group. After that failed to bear fruit, he tried his local RoADAR group, and the rest, as they say, is history. Stuart later became one of the lynch pins of Shropshire and Powys Advanced Riders, another being his wife, Sally.
The meeting continued as a dialogue with the audience, Stuart happily answering, or giving an opinion on, subjects raised by participants.
An initial topic was the “lack of support” from HQ. Stuart pointed out that the staff is tiny, and funds even smaller. He also wondered aloud if, should RoSPA come up with a brilliant marketing campaign, Groups were geared up to accept a potential large influx of associates. There was some sympathetic nodding of heads in the audience at this point – most Groups know the problem of too many associates, and too few tutors. On the other hand, it’s no good having a posse of freshly trained tutors champing at the bit, and nobody for them to train. A balance has to be struck.
On the “fast track option” once favoured by HQ, Gerry Griffin wondered if this still existed. Not to his knowledge, said Stuart.
Steve Hyde wanted to know why we stick with the name RoADAR, which confuses people. Why not just use RoSPA, which is a more recognised name? While we can use the term RoSPA in discussions with the public, it was thought it is probably a financial reason that keeps RoADAR separate, but nobody was really sure.
Greg Scawen asked if examiners would continue to be exclusively serving or retired Police officers. Stuart said the wording of this may change slightly to allow for a few other people with Police qualifications, but on the whole he favoured a level playing field and knowing the Police standards, allows him to judge candidates against a common yardstick. He also said he will be introducing elements of quality control into the recruitment and assessment of examiners, to ensure consistency around the country.
Should RoADAR go the same way as the IAM, with their externally-accredited National Observer qualification? Stuart was very much in favour of more structured tutor training, having produced his own course for his local group before taking up his current post. His ambition had been to submit this for accreditation by an external body, and he believes this may happen. He would also like to see a national package available for tutor training. Its exact form is yet to be decided. It’s unlikely to be a cut and dried set of “lessons”, or just a set of competencies to be attained, but somewhere in between. Dialogue with the IAM may help to set the standard for both organisations.
What are the benefits of the RoADAR Diploma in Advanced Motorcycle Instruction? For the individual, the ability to apply to be included on the RPMT (Register of Post-Test Motorcycle Trainers), which gives credibility within the industry. For the Group, it gives the individual the ability to take on the Advanced Tutor role, perhaps lightening the load on the Group Training Officer.
Stuart finished off with a few items from his personal philosophy and principles.
First, was the change to the Test guidelines allowing the crossing of centre lines to straighten a series of bends. Stuart was keen to emphasise that this is to be done where appropriate, requiring the individual to use their judgement. He changed the guidelines to remove the black and white aspect of “thou shalt not”, which he believes stifles judgement and leads to driving/riding by rote. A similar principle can be applied to hatch markings, when bordered by dashed lines. Would the examiners endorse the change? “Well, yes they would”, said Stuart. Having met a large group of them recently, despite a proportion initially being against the change, they had come to see his point of view.
Stuart then emphasised that advanced driving and riding is about preparation, not only what happens in the car. Prepare for your journey – check weather and traffic conditions, take emergency supplies, check your vehicle and equipment before setting off, and be “advanced” before you even get on the bike, or into the car.
The final question was about eyesight, driving licence and insurance checks. Stuart was fully in favour of these, emphasising that, especially in a car, the tutor or examiner is entrusting their life to the vehicle and we need it to be in a safe and legal condition. So walk all round the vehicle and check all the available paperwork before you put your life in their hands!
An interesting evening. Thank you, Stuart!