Driving instructors entering into sexual relationships with pupils under 18 will now be treated as exploitation even if it’s consensual, the DVSA has announced.

Jacqui Turland, the DVSA’s Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) registrar said instructors who were considered a ‘high risk’ to learners would face removal from the ADI register.

The UK’s 39,000 driving instructors are already subject to enhanced criminal record checks, which must be renewed every four years, but during the 2016-17 financial year, there were more than 100 investigations into instructor misconduct.

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The DVSA has promised to investigate serious allegations of improper behaviour, such as using sexualised language, making unnecessary physical contact and sending indecent or inappropriate messages. The agency will then make its findings known to the police.

Andy Rice, the DVSA’s head of counter-fraud and investigations, said: ‘The DVSA’s priority is to help you through a lifetime of safe driving. We take the safety of learner drivers extremely seriously and will thoroughly investigate any complaints about the conduct of instructors and will involve the police where necessary.

‘Any driving instructors threatening the safety of learner drivers and failing to meet the “fit and proper” criteria will be removed from the ADI register.’

However, the Driving Instructors’ Association (DIA) has expressed concern that the DVSA’s announcement prescribes a ‘one-shot solution for a complex issue’, and the organisation is challenging the agency on whether an ‘enforcement-only’ approach is the most effective way to protect learners.

DIA CEO Carly Brookfield said: ‘We absolutely share the DVSA’s standpoint that sexual relationships with 16- and 17-year-olds are professionally inappropriate. Any professional working in such a position of trust who engages in sexually inappropriate behaviour should expect regulatory sanctions.

‘However, with a matter as complex as safeguarding and with vulnerability on both sides of the professional relationship – trainers and pupils are both vulnerable to abuse, harassment and other forms of inappropriate behaviour – I would question the agency’s approach. Primarily, we would highlight the complete lack of training and education on the subject on safeguarding.’