The power of the group

Ringing, teaching and learning in groups can be a very positive experience. There is no template for how this might be done, but lots of examples. Each is unique in its scope, scale and objectives. What is important is that the groups are formed by people who get on and can work together and that the band(s) are behind what is trying to be achieved.

Pooling of resources

Creating a ringing hub, cluster or ringing centre creates opportunities of scale, and can relieve pressure on ringing leaders and organisers. With more ringers, towers and teachers in the pool:

  • Ringers can change their regular practice to fit in with their work or life circumstances, without being treated as 'the visitor' for a number of years.
  • Organisers and leaders can play to their strengths rather than having to be a jack-of-all-trades and they too can scale-up or scale-down their contributions without jeopardising the progress of the band.
  • Specialist practices can be held e.g. youth or surprise practices.
  • Bell handling or foundation skills training can be centralised and new teachers taught.

The Loddon Hub includes six towers and is a great example of the benefits of pooling resources. They are expanding, have a youth team and have even starting ringing at a previously silent tower.

The Birmingham School of Bell Ringing pools its teachers over four towers on a Saturday morning progressing students through the Learning the Ropes scheme from Bell Handling to Change Ringing (Plain Bob Minor).

The Ledbury Branch of the Hereford Guild modified this concept for their own circumstances and cancel all tower practices once a month and hold Learning the Ropes Level practices instead.

How an inexperienced ringer (and his wife) took on a failing tower, wiping the slate clean and starting again. This is how they did it at the Walsoken Hub.

The Old North Berks Branch of the ODG have been organising its towers in a collective effort, creating a Branch Ringing School on a Saturday morning to train new recruits and mentor and develop new ringing teachers.

Group learning

Learning in groups is a much more positive experience than learning on your own in a tower. Here are some quotes from students of the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing:

One of the most important aspects has been able to learn along side people at a similar level of ringing. Peer support throughout the groups has been fantastic and as an older learner does make you realise that everyone has similar concerns and that no one is too old to get involved with something completely different.
I would have given up long ago. Thank you to all the helpers and to my fellow students for their help and support.

So if you're planning a recruitment exercise when ringing resumes, consider running an event with surrounding towers or across your branch or district.

At Maids Moreton, 13 new ringers had 10.5 hours of one-on-one tuition arranged at two towers with 16 different teachers, using the Learning the Ropes scheme as a structure and a handover document. That’s 140 hours of teaching in a month! Teachers helping out on this project, then transferred this model to a tower in their own branch, adapting it to their own situation and rejuvenating a band at Greens Norton by teaching 10 new ringers.

More advanced practices

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is a saying we should all be aware of when ringing returns. There might be a need to train up new ringers but this takes time and repetition and your helpers, teachers and leaders will probably need to have something arranged just for them, so that they carry on enjoying ringing. Consider arranging regular targeted practices or other opportunities for these ringers to get some good well-struck ringing and to progress. Think about what the group wants to achieve – completing the Ringing World Pathways, Minor Stepping Stones, ringing a nicely struck quarter peal, progressing through Learning the Ropes Plus, or learning the Project Pickled Egg methods.

It might well be that bands will have to do this together and form new groups to provide these opportunities. It might feel a lot to do if you're already teaching new ringers, but to be successful, recruitment and retention has to work for the whole band, not just the learners.

Play to your strengths

Every teaching centre or hub is different, which is the way it should be. There are purpose built teaching centres such as Norwich or Worcester. There are single ringing teachers such as at Hathern, where someone with the passion and skill to teach bell handling does just that for all the surrounding towers and then passes the ringers on to those towers to develop their method ringing. The most important connections between these? They involve people who are contributing to the wider ringing community by playing to their strengths.

What's the right type of practice for you?

Now that the weekly routine of your practice has disappeared, it might be a good time to reflect on the type of practice you ran and whether it's right for you and your band when ringing resumes.

» Some thoughts to consider ...


ART and group teaching

ART supports and encourages groups of teachers who regularly teach together and there are currently almost 40 such ART Teaching Centres, Schools and Hubs.

» ART Teaching Hubs and Centres

For new and developing ringers

A guarantee that you will be taught well using a progressive, modern teaching scheme. Learning will be structured and fun and progress accelerated.

Teaching that is tailored to your needs and offers lots of varied ringing opportunities.

A sense of camaraderie because you are learning together and the social life associated with a wider group.

Assurance that all teachers will be following ART safeguarding policies and guidelines.

An environment that is well-organised and well-resourced.

For teachers

You will be teaching as a team with like-minded teachers. Your hard work and dedication will lead to the best results – and it will be fun.

You won't have to do everything yourself – you're part of a team.

The concept and way of working of an official partnership with ART strongly appeals to the expectations of new ringers.

ART will support your safeguarding and insurance needs.

ART will promote you to new ringers on the ART website.