There are currently 21 ringers participating as students attending the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing. [BSoBR] Since its inception in September 2013, a total of 53 students have passed through the school.
St Paul’s in the Jewelry Quarter, equipped with computer simulators and a purpose built class-room, is the headquarters, and an additional three towers form the school.
The school runs four sessions every Saturday morning during term time, training taking place simultaneously between 10.15 and 12.15 and students follow the Learning the Ropes [LtR] scheme, provided by the Association of Ringing Teachers [ART]. BSoBR is committed to training new teachers and operates a mentoring scheme for those completing the ART Modules.
The LtR scheme takes new ringers from bell handling to a quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor inside in five stages called Levels. Each ringer will have rung six quarter peals on completion of the scheme.
After learning to handle a bell [LtR Level 1 - Bell Handling] at St Paul’s, ringers move on to Tower B – where they work on ringing Foundation Skills, [LtR Level 2 - Foundation Skills]. At this point they are matched with a local tower and join that band for practices and Sunday service ringing.
At the launch, in September 2013, the School enrolled students into Tower A [Working towards LtR Level `] and Tower C [Working towards LtR Level 3 Covering and Plain Hunt]. Those taken in to Tower C had been ringing for some time and made a self-assessment as to their capabilities. Tower B – [Working towards LtR-2 Foundation skills, Call Changes and Kaleidoscope Ringing] was introduced after one term, and Tower D – [Working towards LtR-4 early method ringing], after one year.
This information suggests that starting at LtR Level 1 as a novice gives the best prospect of a student progressing through all LtR levels. BSoBR has found that the longer students have been ringing, and the further they have got without having covered the foundation skills, and reached a sticking point, the harder it is for them to make any further progress.
Most of the attempts to teach them have resulted in the students deciding themselves that they are unable to progress at the speed that they want to and they have returned to ring at their own towers (in most cases better ringers than when they came to the School). Usually, this has been the student’s decision alone. In one or two cases, the decision has been made mutually by student and tutors and the students have been directed to local practices which have the capability of helping them consolidate and move on albeit at a more gradual rate. Often these practices are run by tutors from the School, so in a way we are still offering these students some support. BSoBR has also come to the conclusion that even with LtR, some students will still reach a ceiling beyond which progress is very, very gradual.
It has been noticeable that not covering the foundation skills of LtR Level 2 seems to create a significant barrier for students to make progress. Without exception, students arriving at the Plain Hunting tower [Tower C], who have started with the School from LtR Level 1 and progressed through LtR Level 2, do so with the required underpinning knowledge that has been gained by being properly prepared at the Levels below. They have been given technical tuition on how to change speed and know why this is necessary. The foundation exercises, with incremental steps, at LtR Level 2 have given them the skills to achieve it. They are also well grounded in theory: the importance of “position/place” in the row is stressed, as is an understanding of course and after bells. The average time taken for these ringers to achieve their LtR Level 3 was 6.8 weeks. Introducing the concept of “position” in the row and counting places after a student has already been attempting plain hunt (having learned to ring somewhere else) has almost always proved to be an uphill struggle, these ringers took much longer to progress to their LtR Level 3, taking on average 17.8 weeks.
Those ringers who had passed through the LtR scheme from the beginning moved from Level 2 to Level 3 in less than half the number of weeks than those who had not.
It is always important to explain to students why foundation skills are important because at the time students are taught the skills, the importance of them is not apparent. Perhaps this is why they were glossed over previously by teaching locally that did not follow the Learning the Ropes Scheme.
Birmingham School of Bell Ringing
Ensures a new ringer has a strong basic technique. This is important, not only for safety reasons, but in order to facilitate the future progress of the ringer.