As the total number of licensed taxi and private hire vehicles increases – reaching 285,400 in England in 2018, an increase of 1.7% from 2017 – so does the level of responsibility both of the driver and of the authorities issuing licences. When recruiting taxi drivers and issuing licences, being able to ensure that applicants can understand and speak English to the required level is an essential part of the process.
But how do you assess English language skills? And why is it so important.
The key issue today is around safeguarding. Most licensing authorities are now either in the process, or will be shortly, of introducing compulsory safeguarding training for licensed drivers. Hertfordshire Council recently adopted a new Taxi Policy, which includes a mandatory training element for drivers (new and existing) in relation to safeguarding.
The idea is that the training will enable license holders to recognise the signs where vulnerable children and adults may be at risk, and know how to report these concerns. But in order to identify concerns and know where and how to report any issues, being able to understand and speak English to a set level is key.
Aylesbury Vale Council for example, as of March 2019, introduced an English Language Test, stating that the following was expected:
‘the need to be able to communicate freely and clearly with passengers and officials, including in stressful and emergency situations’.
Versant English Assessment – Measuring English Speaking Skills
Many councils use Versant from Pearson TalentLens UK to quickly ascertain applicants’ English comprehension and ability to converse with passengers. Versant has been proven to help councils screen their applicants on a supervised or unsupervised basis and only put those forward for interview or successful licensing application, who are able to meet an acceptable level of spoken English.
Issuing licences for taxi and, or private hire drivers with insufficient English language capabilities can not only have a negative effect on the passenger experience, but also affect a duty to protect and safeguard.
Contact our team to see how you can introduce Versant as part of your recruitment and selection process.
Next Steps: Join our webinar this September on Safeguarding and the Importance of Testing English Language Proficiency