Taxi drivers failing to meet standards in literacy and numeracy

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NEW recruits to Sheffield’s taxi trade are being referred for adult education courses - after more than 70 per cent failed literacy tests and 40 per cent were found to have inadequate numeracy skills.

Sheffield Council requires applicants for taxi licences to undergo a series of assessments, including the literacy and numeracy tests and criminal records bureau checks, before being granted permission to work in the city.

Out of 517 applicants for a taxi licence between June 2010 and July 2011, only 152 passed the literacy test and 306 reached the standard in numeracy.

Just 134 applicants passed both subjects first time.

The council said that of the 383 applicants who failed either or both tests, 298 attended college and only 101 of them later met the required standard of passing both tests following their courses.

It meant fewer than half of the original applicants during the period were allowed to work as taxi drivers.

Steve Lonnia, chief taxi licensing officer for Sheffield Council, revealed a new course is now being developed with Sheffield College, which is set to be launched in January 2012, which would be the equivalent of an NVQ qualification.

Mr Lonnia said: “The council is not allowed to grant a licence unless they are satisfied that a person is fit and proper.

“Part of the council’s policy to ensure they do not license someone who is not fit and proper is to set tests which currently include an English and maths assessment, knowledge, driving and medical fitness.”

He said Sheffield Taxi Trade Association and private hire operators support introduction of mandatory courses for new drivers.

Sheffield College said its course would ‘improve services offered to customers’.

Council funding would be available to cover the literacy and numeracy element of the course but that applicants would have to pay up to £250 to complete further modules, which would also be mandatory.

Hafeas Rehman, chairman of Sheffield Taxi Trade Association, said: “I think it is a good idea to have courses for drivers. One of the biggest issues we have from customers is about poor linguistic understanding.

“A course would be a good thing to introduce new drivers to the profession and ensure they are of the required standard - but I think the charges proposed should be less, and it would be better if they were nearer to the £100 mark.”

The plans for a new course for drivers are set to be considered for approval at a meeting of Sheffield Council’s licensing board on Thursday.

Mr Lonnia said the Sheffield course is being designed so that it could be adopted by councils in other areas and may become standard across the country.