English and maths requirements for Wakefield taxi drivers to be lowered as exams are 'irrelevant' and 'too hard'

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Minimum maths and English standards needed by aspiring Wakefield taxi drivers to enter the trade will be lowered, following concerns their current exams are too hard.

Until now, drivers wanting a private hire licence from Wakefield Council had to pass Level 1 tests in maths and English - the equivalent of an old fashioned D or E grade at GCSE.

But the council's licensing committee was told on Wednesday that cabbies were being forced to answer exam questions that are "too difficult", irrelevant to the job and that the first-time pass rate is low.

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One councillor told the meeting a taxi driver had asked him why he needed to learn to "bake a cake" after taking the exams, in reference to questions about imperial units.

Cabbies had complained that the tests were too difficult and the council said the first-time pass rate was "low".Cabbies had complained that the tests were too difficult and the council said the first-time pass rate was "low".
Cabbies had complained that the tests were too difficult and the council said the first-time pass rate was "low". | jpimedia

They also have to learn about prefixes and homophones - words which have more than one meaning - to pass the English exam.

For the next six months at least, drivers will now have to pass Entry Level 3 exams, which are slightly easier than Level 1 exams.

After completing those, they then have to pass a knowledge test before they can get a licence.

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Committee chair, Councillor Martyn Johnson said: "I've met some of the people who've taken the test and at the moment, it's like a nurse having to pass a doctor's exam.

Drivers will now have to complete slightly easier exams before progressing onto a knowledge test.Drivers will now have to complete slightly easier exams before progressing onto a knowledge test.
Drivers will now have to complete slightly easier exams before progressing onto a knowledge test. | jpimedia

"It's not relevant to the job they're doing.

"There's applicants out there who just memorise how to pass the test, and they eventually get a licence, but that doesn't achieve anything."

Pontefract North councillor Clive Tennant said he knew an ex miner who was a "good driver", but was unable to become a cabbie because of his lack of academic skills.

Coun Dick Taylor added: "This change is something I've been arguing for.

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"I remember being accosted by a taxi driver who wanted to know why he needed to bake a cake to be a taxi driver. He'd been asked about how many ounces, grams and currants in a cake

"It's something that's been on my mind for a while and I welcome it."

But Coun Elaine Blezard raised concerns that lowering standards would lead to problems in the trade.

She said: "I fought long and hard to get these exams (to be compulsory), because we were getting anybody and everybody applying to Wakefield Council for a licence.

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"I agree maybe some of these questions are a little bit over the top.

"But I can't agree to this in full."

The committee decided to approve the new policy, but to review it after six months.

The Wakefield and District Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Association, which represents drivers, has been contacted for comment.

Local Democracy Reporting Service