How far do our ringers progress?

This year we’ve seen ever more ringers registered onto the Learning the Ropes scheme, but the number of them progressing through the higher levels has remained stubbornly fixed. We were sure that ringers weren’t dropping out of ringing in large numbers but wanted to know what was happening and if there was anything ART could do about it. We started by asking for feedback from teachers and ringers on the scheme.

Motivation – why ringer’s ring

“We see ringing as being a big activity in our lives for a very long time and try and ring a number of times every week (I think 5/7 is our best week so far!)”

Of course we would all love to teach learners who are “totally hooked on ringing” and it becomes their main hobby. Just like this keen ringing family – such motivated ringers need the opportunities to fulfil their ambitions and to progress.

Sensitive teachers. “We need to be sensitive to people’s individual aspirations and not assume that they are as keen as their teachers. I’d much rather have someone stopping to progress through the levels than lose a service ringer because I’ve pushed them too hard.”

However, many respondents emphasised that ringers ring for a variety of reasons. Some are very happy ringing Call Changes, covering or ringing the treble, attending their local practice once a week and being a regular Sunday Service ringer. As ringing teachers we need to be sensitive, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have standards or aim for improvement “It is OK to have ringers happy to ring only rounds and Call Changes and if LtR helps improves the standard (i.e. striking) to which ringers achieve this then that is a big win for bell ringing as a whole.”

Opportunity – how can we provide it?

So, you’ve got the “ringing bug” and you’re in a tower with lots of helpers and opportunities. That’s the ideal, but for many it’s not like that.

For a start, some bands sign up to LtR as completely new bands.It will take them an extremely long time to progress and ringing a quarter peal might seem an impossible dream. One ringer asked “What if your tower cannot support learning beyond Level 2 or 3?” and another observed that “Two of the learners have completed Level 2 but progress through Level 3 is slow as they don’t have a strong band round them and they don’t have the time to go to other practices. For them to tenor behind or treble to a method we have to have extra helpers at their practice.” It is clearly hard for ringers in new or inexperienced bands to progress to Level 3 or beyond.

Ringers who help themselves. “At this stage it’s all about practice.To that end I’m trying to get out to as many practices as possible just to keep up the momentum”.

Individual ringers can and do help themselves and recognise that “It’s lovely to have lots of learners, but the double-edged sword is that we do get less rope time. The various courses where offered are incredibly helpful and so much fun too. I was fortunate enough to be on the Bradfield course last month, which gave me such a boost.”

Motivated ringers need frequent targeted practices to progress, and although courses like the Bradfield course give a boost, it is quality and frequent time on the rope that is required. The consensus was that although that happened it didn’t happen anywhere near often enough.

Ringing courses such as Bradfield, Hereford and Essex can help boost ringers’ progress.

Unless they are exceptionally motivated and have time to dedicate to it, most ringers will only be able to progress to the level of the band they ring with. To increase the level of ringing of a band as a whole requires external, regular and frequent help.Joining together and teaching as a Hub or Centre is an organisational model that is becoming more main-stream and has been shown to improve ringers’ progression.

Create an ART Hub or Teaching Centre. Joining together and teaching as a Hub or Centre has been shown to improve ringers’ progression.

This is where those teaching ringing can benefit from thinking outside the box a little. That’s to say change the objectives to something that CAN be achieved by the band rather than what is too difficult to attain with the resources available. This is what a new band in Norfolk achieved. Only five minutes but it was put on Twitter by someone who was impressed and no doubt the ringers were really proud of their achievement!

What have we learnt?

In the next edition of ART WORKS we’ll cover teaching and the Learning the Ropes scheme itself before taking another look at opportunities. Some key messages are already emerging.

  • Understand your ringer’s motivations and let them guide progress.Ringing is just a hobby!
  • Good quality rounds and call changes for some ringers and bands is as much to celebrate as a Level 5 certificate for others.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for those with the “ringing bug” to learn and progress, including frequent targeted practices.

» Read the second part of this study

What’s next?

Well first of all if you’ve got any other experiences or insights please get in contact at and then we’re looking to address some of the issues that you’ve brought up. Look out for some exciting events and products next year!


Lesley Belcher