How long does it take to learn to ring?

When level 5 has been completed, ringers are judged to be of at the standard where they will be able to progress quickly in method ringing. The average time to complete the Learning the Ropes programme and reach this level is 130 weeks or 2½ years.

We all know that everyone is different and that bell ringing is a life-long learning exercise. However, how long does it take to become a competent ringer and what helps or hinders progress?

Five significant learning milestones are measured by the Learning the Ropes progressive learning scheme. Standards are high with progress at the higher levels requiring assessment by quarter peal and by the time level 5 has been mastered, six quarter peals of increasing levels of difficulty are required to have been rung.

Average time to complete
Bell Handling
Safe and competent bell handling including raising and lowering a bell.

10 weeks
Ringing with others
Able to dodge, make places, and ring simple call changes.

27 weeks
Introduction to Change Ringing
Competent at plain hunt and covering. Demonstrated by ringing two quarter peals at least one of which is on the treble.

29 weeks
Novice Change Ringer
Ringing and calling touches of a doubles or minor method. Demonstrated by ringing a quarter peal inside. Raising and lowering a bell in peal.

27 weeks
Change Ringer. Ringing and calling a second method and ringing touches of Plain Bob. Demonstrated by ringing three quarter peals including inside to Plain Bob Minor.
24 weeks

What helps progress?

  • Home tower where overall standard of ringing is high.
  • Students visit other practices.
  • Students use ringing apps and software to practise at home.
  • Teaching and learning style compatibility.
  • High motivation.

Age has not been seen to be a factor up to Level 2 (Ringing with others) with both the quickest and slowest students being under 19. But, the students who have not been able to acquire the skills to master this level are all in the over-60 age range.

And what if someone can't ever seem to learn how to handle a bell safely?

We asked this question on social media and as ever we got a lot of well-thought out and varied responses. In summary, with a few added bits:

Persevere - some people will be slow to learn how to handle a bell and this is not necessarily an indication of their ultimate ringing potential.

Provide one-on-one tuition - bell handling training should be intensive and outside the normal ringing practice. This allows you as a teacher to concentrate on the student without worrying about what the rest of the band are thinking and the student not to be flustered by having to perform in front of an audience. However long it takes, don't introduce the student to ringing with the rest of the band until they can do so safely and can adjust the speed of their bell so they have a chance of being able to ring some decent rounds. It also reduces any "loss of face" if you and your student part company for whatever reason.

Teach from a bell down - less coordinated or nervous students might well benefit from learning by ringing a bell partially up from down.

Set expectations - a conversation at the beginning about how not everyone "gets it" and that you as their teacher will tell them if you don't think they will ever be able to handle a bell safely. This might make any exit conversation easier but it also has the down-side that it gives less confident learners something else to worry about. As there are more less-confident students than those who will never get to ring a bell safely then you need to be quite careful (and perhaps selective) about using this approach.

Get another teacher - sometimes a teacher's teaching style and a student's learning style just aren't compatible, so why not ask another teacher to take over the bell handling training? Hopefully it won't be seen as passing the buck!

Have the difficult conversation - if your patience is running out or the band is fed up and you've really, really tried then maybe its the time to sit down with your student and explain that this just isn't going to work. People's experiences of these types of conversations differ; sometimes the student is relieved, sometimes angry. So prepare yourself and think about it from their point of view - "What would you feel like if you were told that you were never going to make it as a ringing teacher and how would you like to be told?"


Data provided by Birmingham School of Bell Ringing and updated on an annual basis. So far, 57 students have participated on the BSoBR ringing programme. Students attend weekly sessions of 1½ hours in addition to any teaching they receive at their home tower.

What's next?

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