To charge or not to charge

When I set up the Ringing Centre at Kineton in 2008 I decided that I would have to make some charge to the students who would benefit from the Centre. Helpers would not pay and would have their tea, coffee and ‘Harry Windsor’ biscuits provided free as a small reward for their time. However those who gained benefit would need to make a contribution as payment to the church for extensive use of the building and to cover the cost of equipment (and biscuits) was essential.

The charges were very small (£10 to learn to ring – total cost!) and £2 a practice and perhaps the same for a workshop. No one begrudged the payment and without exception it was felt to be good value. In some instances ringer’s local tower funds or the PCC paid but usually it was the individual.

Beneficial effects

Making a charge though had some interesting and very beneficial effects. In the first place I immediately felt that I must give value for money. Given the low charges that was easily achieved but I constantly felt that I had to develop my teaching skills, provide theory as well as practical support and to ensure that the student felt that the experience was professionally delivered – not just a variation of a ringing practice. Long touches, limited numbers of students (2 for 90 mins) and effective feedback was the order of the day. ART and Learning the Ropes gave quality backing and support to that concept.

Contributions to Church funds raised the profile of the Ringing Centre too and it was valued within the Church community.

For the student though the approach focused their attention as well and confirmed that they wanted to learn – they were not there for social reasons or just to have a ring, they were there to develop their skills. That’s what they focused on with good results. In particular those that had sought out the Centre and traveled distances to get tuition were more than willing to pay in return for good teaching and were very receptive to learning.

Other hobbies and sports

Similar approaches exist in the sporting environment where coaches and teachers are paid professionals (I have not gone that far!) but funds to some extent are used to support the central educational organisation – in this case ART. The most sustainable way to fund the future of change ringing is through perhaps £x per new ringer – it would certainly not be a revolutionary concept to other activities that benefit from the substantial increase in funding this provides to them. Two learners involved in sport do not understand why we are not organised in that way already.

Then a conversation only last night where a group of teachers were discussing coaching in Maths and English subjects for entrance exams. £36 an hour was a charge mentioned! We know that the cost of music tuition is pretty much the same too.

My reticence to charge much for youngsters' events is misplaced I find. Consider the small regular sums paid for Scouts and other organisations where they have to support a central and local infrastructure – very like ringing. After school ringing clubs tend to be very cheap compared with other clubs or say an hour or more of childcare.

Becoming a commercial organisation is not on the agenda, but we should not be embarrassed at asking for money to cover our use of facilities and central costs – it’s what people expect and what we need to do to develop teaching skills and learning programmes within ringing that can attract and retain ringers.

Of course, with money comes responsibility and you do need a separate account, proper records, an independent scrutiniser, maybe even a simple constitution for the centre or activity. Not difficult – and a small price to pay.

Graham Nabb, Kineton

One girl came with Grandma. I asked and she said she would have happily paid up to £10 a lesson. I think we undervalue our skills.

Your tuition was well worth the money. My daughter pays that for a game of hockey with petrol on top and has to provide all her kit! It has improved my confidence and bell handling no end so I hope to continue to improve now.

I now charge £20 to teach someone to ring and often find that it is regarded as very low compared with other areas. Recently a lady came to her second handling lesson and expected to pay another £20 – that’s £20 for each lesson!

What's next?

» Return to the recruitment and retention home page