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Council partners with education group to help taxi drivers improve English language skills

Buckinghamshire Council has partnered with education group, Pearson, to help taxi drivers improve their English language skills, ready for when they need to renew their licence.

From September 2022, anyone who renews a taxi licence in Buckinghamshire will need to pass an English language test to ensure all drivers can speak and understand English at an appropriate level.

Taxi drivers are in a unique and ideal position to spot and report safeguarding issues by being able to identify when a passenger is being pressured into doing something or is being taken somewhere against their will.

Previously, all taxi drivers needed to have a good standard of English, but this was not always assessed in an independent test. Now, the Government has introduced new requirements, which mean anyone renewing a licence will need to show that they have a standard of English that enables them to identify potential exploitation to protect children and vulnerable adults. If drivers do not pass the test, they will not be able to renew their licence.

In Buckinghamshire, taxi licences are renewed every three years, so those who had a licence issued or renewed three years ago will be the first drivers who need to pass the assessment from September 2022. Drivers who have already passed the test or hold an equivalent qualification do not need to take the test.

To support taxi drivers across the county, the Council has partnered with Bucks Adult Learning and educational group, Pearson, to provide a preparation workshop, along with a mock assessment to prepare for the real test. This aims to help drivers understand how they will be assessed and understand if they will pass the test. In addition to this, Bucks Adult Learning is also providing a 14-week ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course (at a reduced cost for those claiming benefits) to improve English-speaking skills for those that may need it. Drivers are being encouraged to book and take the test now ahead of their licence renewal and the test can be taken more than once if needed.

Cabinet Member for Housing, Homelessness and Regulatory Services, Nick Naylor, said: “I understand that some taxi drivers may be feeling worried about these upcoming changes, but we are here to help and support all taxi drivers who need to improve their English language skills. Safeguarding vulnerable people is incredibly important, and we are fortunate that our taxi drivers are in a position that they can help us to tackle cases of county lines, child trafficking and other serious safeguarding issues. However, this can only be done if our drivers have a good understanding of the English language and can understand conversations happening between their passengers. That is why the government has introduced these new standards, and why it’s important that those who are worried about passing the test take advantage of the excellent Pearson course on offer, as well as the Bucks Adult Learning workshop.”

Head of Pearson TalentLens UK, Matt Stevens, said: “The launch of our unique Versant English Testing service for Buckinghamshire Council is an exciting step forward in the use of remote testing. Working together, we have evolved our processes to meet the challenges of the current environment and address a need for a reliable English Language testing service that meets the new guidance for safeguarding.”


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