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Class mates: Life at the Beginner Knowledge School

What do you do if you’re part-way through studying the Knowledge and your school closes? You could open your own, which is what Everton Thomas and Leon Martin did in September last year. Now their Beginner Knowledge School in Southwark has around 25 students coming to classes twice a week. 

Green badge driver Everton, 34, passed out of the Knowledge in July 2017. Before that he was a bus driver with Go-Ahead. ‘I started the school two months after I got my green badge because I was getting fed up with having my front room filled with the students from the school that closed. ‘We have around 60 people on our books with more coming through all the time. Leon teaches the beginners in one room while I take those who are more advanced in the other room. 

A lot of people are a bit apprehensive about attending school and so we try and make the whole experience a bit more enjoyable. ‘The classes help give the guys confidence about making their appearances. We are like one big family and so when one of our guys pass out we all go to meet them after they get their badge – it keeps those who haven’t passed yet really motivated. ‘This (doing the Knowledge) is a second chance for lots of people like myself who don’t have any formal qualifications or a degree. People coming to our classes can see that me and Leon (the other teacher) are making a good living from driving a taxi. ‘I was a bit greedy with the Knowledge; I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. Now I’m trying to get the other guys to be greedy too. Teaching is also helping me stay sharp as a taxi driver by keeping my knowledge fresh.’

It has taken Nikki, 34, four-and-a-half years to get through the Knowledge. Currently working for the Emergency Services, she wanted to get her green badge before starting a family. ‘Friends have told me that it is really hard to go back to work after having children. Doing the Knowledge before I start my family means I’ve already got the tools to work when I want to work and I’d definitely promote this as a career to other women; it’s all about work/life balance. ‘I love the Knowledge. I’m a bit geeky and I didn’t realise how much I love London until I started doing the Knowledge and getting to know the city better. I say to all my friends “why don’t you do it?” But people are scared of the Knowledge; they say “I’ll never be able to remember all that”. But actually, if you take it bit by bit everything comes together. Anyone can do it. It’s all about commitment and joining a school is all about support and networking.’ 

Abdul, 33, is just starting out on the Knowledge and will be doing his map test (Stage 1) soon. ‘I’ve been working for Royal Mail since 2011 but I want more freedom and more money. ‘I know someone who has done it and so I asked him lots of questions before I started. It’s hard but I’m enjoying it because I’m learning a lot of new things all the time. London’s such a massive city with so much history – it’s fascinating. ‘I’d recommend this to anyone. Coming to the school I’m learning a lot of information I wouldn’t be able to find out myself. There’s always lots of information to pick up on. You need to be dedicated and keep your interest up because then you’ll retain all the knowledge even though it’s hard.’   

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