EACR Training Day

The 2020 EACR took place on November 28th, in a virtual format due to Covid-19. The original plan was to run two face-to-face handbell sessions but these had to be cancelled due to lockdown restrictions. The students who had registered have been contacted by Paul Cammiade, the teacher and advised that the sessions will run as soon as possible. We started with three courses and added two more when the handbell sessions were cancelled. The courses on the day were:

  • ART Ringing Room Workshop – Lesley Boyle
  • Basics with a difference – Jane Walters
  • How to learn a method – Chris McCarthy
  • Move on to Minor – Colin Chapman
  • Step up to Surprise – John Harpole

In addition we ran two talks:

  • All about ART – David Sparling
  • The Birmingham School of Bell Ringing – Simon Linford

The Essex Young Ringers had a Ringing Room practice at the end of the day.


Booking for the courses was via Eventbrite with no charge for tickets (therefore no charge to EACR for using the platform). We had planned to charge £5 per person for the handbell sessions to pay for locations and were going to take that money on the day. Eventbrite is easy to set up and was an excellent tool for the job.

Being able to send emails to all the delegates at a stroke is very helpful. All the students reported that it was easy to use. However, in future it would be ideal to ask for a mobile number and home tower when students register – there were three students who didn’t reply to their teachers’ email prior to the course and having a second method of contacting them would have been helpful. We should also ask if students are under 18 (see Safeguarding below).

Number of students per course

The number of students was as follows:

  • ART Ringing Room Workshop –6
  • Basics with a difference – 5
  • How to learn a method – 7
  • Move on to Minor – 8
  • Step up to Surprise – 4

We recognised that having seven or eight students would be too many under the timing we had originally planned of one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.

Chris McCarthy decided to extend each his sessions to two hours and split the students in two, concentrating on the first group in the first hour and the second group in the second hour. Due to connection problems, these groups both over-ran making both sessions very long.

For the Minor groups we approached Liz Rayner the week before the Training Day and asked her to help teach this group due to the number of students. Liz suggested that rather than run two groups, we kept the group as one but used Zoom breakout rooms and a second Ringing Room tower to split the group which is what we did on the day.

In the surprise group, John Harpole planned to use breakout rooms in order to virtually stand behind his learners. On the day he used two breakout rooms, one called the practice room with John and the student who was ringing, and the second called the vestry with a teacher and the other students. In the event we were lucky to have Lesley Boyle, a very experienced ART Tutor, helping on this group and she managed the vestry giving expert advice on what was being rung; in the afternoon this group was expanded by the use of an extra helper and ‘Wheatley’ the Ringing Room virtual extra ringers and the students were all able to attempt individual leads in this breakout room.

From the teachers’ feedback, it was clear that Chris found the long sessions very stressful and all the helpers who provided feedback found the length of time on the courses tiring and felt their concentration was going by the end of the day (see comments on helpers below).

The maximum number of students on any one course (apart from the workshop which didn’t involve ringing time) should be limited to four.

Judicial use of breakout rooms can help with higher numbers but the ideal situation would be to have only four students AND use breakout rooms for extra coaching or extra ringing during the practical sessions.

Interestingly only two students felt they didn’t get enough virtual rope time (and one was complaining about another student who hadn’t bothered to experiment with Ringing Room before the course) so the measures taken by the teachers to cope with the additional numbers were successful. One of the helpers made a very good comment relating to breakout rooms: ‘There was one learner who had an observation anxiety, so she was taken into a breakout room with Chris, she could see and hear ringing room but those in the ringing room could not see her, Chris was able to instruct her without it disturbing the rest of the band and the alternative conductor used the buttons on ringing room for starting and stopping. I thought this was a stroke of genius, the learner performed well and was then able to ring in the main group the next time round.’

Contacting students before the day

All students were contacted by their teachers before the Saturday and three out of the five ran sessions to meet and greet and give theory lessons. All the students appreciated this time spent: ‘The information beforehand and the chat are vital to prepare for the day and make the most of it’ is a typical response. On future courses, using Zoom and Ringing Room to arrange pre-day sessions should be the norm. Not only does it enable the time on the Training Day to be used for practical advice, it also encourages the students to swot up beforehand and potentially get more from the opportunity to ring with skilled helpers.

Was the course too long?

Only one student said the course was too short and he was commenting on the Ringing Room Workshop (and unhappy about one particular student taking time up); all the others said it was about right and the surprise students in particular felt it was just right: ‘It gave us a good amount of time to ring and discuss the method.’ However, we know that the helpers found the attention needed was gruelling (see below).

Were the courses at the right level for the students?

All the students reported that they felt the course was right for them, which indicates that the courses were well described and the right people were encouraged to join. A couple of teachers felt their students struggled at first but all said they achieved good levels by the end of their course.

I had thought it would be good to give the courses a slightly different slant by calling the learners group: Basics with a difference (and featuring some of the ART exercises such as Kaleidoscope and Mexican Wave) and the method group How to learn a method. However the teachers of these groups reported that what their students actually wanted was plain hunting in the first group and how to ring Bob Doubles in the second group i.e. the more common topics. There is a debate Page of 2 9 about whether we should revert to these groups in future or continue to change the focus of the groups so they are more about developing skills than learning one thing.

Use of mentors and ability of teachers

Two teachers used mentors (experienced helpers were buddied up with students) to assist with the teaching and this was popular with the students – they felt it meant they got more out of the day. All the students who responded were complimentary about the skills of their teachers and appreciative of the time they had put into making the course run well.


We had a good supply of skilled helpers – some contacted me direct and some were co-opted by their teachers. All in all, we had no problems with the number of helpers or their abilities on Zoom and Ringing Room.

Many of the helpers (and some teachers) remarked on how tiring it is ringing virtually and that even ringing something that is well known (e.g. Plain bob Doubles) demands a lot more concentration in Ringing Room than in the tower. I would recommend that helpers are only asked to ring for one session and that we recruit extra ringers or use the Wheatley function to fill extra ropes. It might also be worth considering using students where possible for trebling or tenoring to keep their attention and to spread the load. For this training day I asked the teachers to contact their helpers, especially as some wanted them to attend the pre-course sessions and they needed to receive the Zoom and Ringing Room information. However for previous training, whoever is doing the admin normally contacts the helpers and I would suggest this is done in future to take pressure off the teachers.


It was quite late in the day when I realised we should get parental approval for the juniors attending the course. The following email was sent to each junior on a course (seven on the courses) plus eight at the EYR practice and the parents returned the form although some of the EYR ringers didn’t respond (certainly one is over 18).

Dear x, I’m delighted that y is attending one of the courses on the Essex Association of Change Ringers Training Day. All our teachers are DBS checked and aware of the fact that they have juniors in their groups - they will make sure Primrose is supported on the day. Each group also has helpers who are known to the teachers so it is not possible for any unknown individuals to be part of the virtual course. However can I ask that you make y aware that she should not be in contact with anyone she meets virtually on the training day course without letting you know. This is just to make absolutely sure that no one would be able to approach a junior ringer having gained their confidence by being part of a course. If you would like to sit in with your junior for part of the course, you will be welcome. Could I ask you please to return this email to me to confirm you are happy for Primrose (please indicate her date of birth) to attend our training day. Thank you.

I’m not sure if much (or any) work has been done about juniors attending Ringing Room courses but I’ll watch out for any CCCBR advice. If we decide to run other virtual training days it would be good to ask for advice.

Essex Course as virtual scheme

When asked the question ‘If we ran the Essex Course in this format would you sign up’ only one respondent said no and didn’t qualify his answer. Some others added comments: ‘Probably,’ ‘Would need to be combined with physical ringing as well.”

The talks and helpers feedback

We had some interesting feedback about the talks – everyone who responded enjoyed them and learned something new however a couple of people suggested that they might be better not on a training day so more time could be devoted to ringing. We didn’t get a lot of feedback though, so difficult to draw real conclusions. We did get a few useful comments from the helpers about how to organise the day – more shorter sessions, for example.

In conclusion

We had a total of 105 people involved in the day either as teachers, delegates, junior ringers or listening to the talks. There were far fewer problems than I had anticipated. The use of Zoom and Ringing Room in a supporting function even when we get back to tower training is an interesting concept and one which several teachers were keen to consider. Summary of recommendations:

  • When using Eventbrite, request mobile number and home tower and DOB if under 18.
  • Four is maximum number of students on virtual courses.
  • Use breakout rooms for extra coaching or extra ringing during the practical sessions.
  • Use Zoom and Ringing Room to arrange pre-day sessions, for virtual or normal courses.
  • Provide students with mentors from helpers.
  • Reduce helpers to one session during virtual courses.
  • Administrator to contact and assign helpers (rather than teachers).
  • Consult with CCCBR regarding safeguarding advice for juniors on virtual courses.

As a final sign off, this was a most encouraging comment from a student who attended both talks:“I have spent all day in front of my computer and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute.”

Helpers' comments

The training day yesterday went well. It was nicely structured and fair to all learners. Of the 7 learners, all achieved the plain course, and four achieved a couple of touches. There was one learner who had an observation anxiety, so she was taken into a breakout room with Chris, she could see and hear ringing room but those in the ringing room could not see her, Chris was able to instruct her without it disturbing the rest of the band and the alternative conductor used the buttons on ringing room for starting and stopping. I thought this was a stroke of genius, the learner performed well and was then able to ring in the main group the next time round. Chris also organised the ringing well so that each of the learners had a mentor, the learner and mentor did not ring in the same course, the mentor observed the ringing of the learner, then went with the learner into the breakout rooms to discuss how they had performed. This too was innovative as it meant that private chats could take place. So not only did the learners learn and achieve, but as a helper I also learned. He also made sure that there was one person allocated to do the assigning of bells according to his plan for learner and helper engagement. It was very well planned If I had to say where improvement could be made I would say that Chris could have put more into ensuring the helpers (not the learners) maintained the hand stroke gap and that the over run time on both sessions needed to be managed. I think the latter was due to trying to get everyone a fair number of rings and the obvious internet issues encountered. So all in all from my perspective, a really good trading day. It was also good to see both you and Andrew in the towers as well. It meant a lot to know that the support was there.

I thought Saturday was a thoroughly worthwhile event, all credit to Beth for setting it up. It can definitely provide a blueprint for a replacement to the Essex Course. [Addressed to teacher] Your hard work in advance definitely paid off, both the pre-training day meetings and the way you planned out the day. The use of breakout rooms worked very well. It meant the helpers weren't distracted by your comments to the student and, perhaps more importantly, kept the non-ringing students usefully engaged. Obviously we were extremely lucky to have such an expert as Lesley Boyle to run the vestry sessions. As Wheatley should be well established by the spring it may be a good idea for all groups to have, in effect, two teachers running two towers. The course teacher to take each student in turn and the assistant to look after the others in a similar way to Lesley. Otherwise students will have very long periods of non-engagement. Helpers can be divided between the rooms. I think the only suggestion for change I have would be to let us in the Ringing Room let us hear your debrief of the student and briefing of the next student. That unavoidably led to quite long gaps between rings with us wondering what was going on, and if we had lost contact. I appreciate the zoom system may not allow that. All in all a successful day. The only thing missing was the social aspect. I really missed the between rings chat and pub lunch and the opportunity to make some new ringing friends. It would be lovely to have a course reunion some happy time in the future. A final thought. I think all the helpers found the day pretty exhausting, even more so in some ways than we do in real life as concentration is so much harder. To keep it up for a three day course may be asking too much! I presume the same goes for teachers.

Thank you: helping with this was certainly a different experience from "normal" training situations! Talking to Chris McCarthy afterwards, we were both surprised by how drained we felt – I certainly was more weary than if I'd rung a peal on something heavy. I think it was the level of concentration required plus the knowledge that many people were watching and listening. This latter point nearly put off the student whom I was mentoring: having had a fairly sheltered existence since the first lockdown, seeing all those faces on Zoom panicked her and I had to do a lot of talking to get her stay. Chris had an inspired suggestion that we should start with just her and five helpers 20 minutes before the afternoon session and this worked really well – she took part in arguably one of the best bits of ringing of the day in our group - and she had only ever done PB Doubles in theory before. Of course these Zoom / Ringing Room sessions will never take the place of "real" practices, and I think that some of the early-stage learners are going to get a bit of a culture-shock when they try to put what they have learned here together with bell-handling, but it may be that this type of technology has a useful place as part of future training programmes?

Feedback from the talks

Thank you for arranging the talk with Simon, I found it most interesting. One topic that he touched on was travel as some one with no transport it rung a bell with me Essex has a limited amount of good transport with some areas receiving better public transport than others. The Master said that the talk gave a great deal to think about transport should be one. Peter Chapman Witham

It was very interesting. I did not know much about ART and David's talk with his easy to listen to presentation style was a good way to find out more. I have since had a trawl down the website and found some new interesting stuff that I hadn't seen before. I would give David 5 stars, it was the right length and pitched right for the audience. For me this kind of talk is ideal for a Virtual Training Day and I think it could be suited to other situations, but not just while we can't ring. Why not have Virtual Talks anytime?

David spoke very well with excellent content. It was interesting and relevant – 5 stars for presentation, content and ease of use. With regard to a future virtual training day, I think talks about aspects of ringing would be very helpful and informative. I’d like to build up my theoretical knowledge. I suspect many of us learnt by just being told what to do at a Bob or Single so something around the structure of methods and calling them may be helpful for those who are less experienced and trying to ensure they teach learners in a way that gives them a good foundation to build on.

I decided to join the ‘audience’, not with any aspirations of becoming a ringing teacher, but rather to gain an insight into ART. I found the talk full of interest but perhaps a bit too long. I was quite surprised at the amount of work undertaken by ART and have since looked at their website. I was thinking just how the situation at Brentwood correlates with the observations about how the pandemic is affecting tower bands. I’m sure we’ll lose a few of the group. I’d give David a 5 star performance rating - his knowledge and enthusiasm definitely came through. Please pass on my thanks to all concerned.

I thought it really interesting to hear how ART have reacted to the pandemic, and the strategies they are following. I guess I would now be interested to hear how this ripples down to my tower, via the Association and district. I think the talks add to the training day, and have allowed more people to be part of the day.

It was a good training day. Thanks for organising it. I enjoyed the talk and will now look at what ART has to offer, so the talk will have been useful. The length and content were good. Talks are a good idea. They don't have to be part of a training day but I suppose that focuses the mind and you will get more attendees, if it is part of a training day.

I thought David Sparling's talk about ART was informative, well presented, interesting and worth five stars. David answered a lot of questions I have as a module 1 teacher in training and he is my Mentor. As a teacher I have tried to encourage my 2 learners, (a boy of 11 who was doing very well and an older lady) to participate in our tower Ringing Room but sadly they are not interested, a shame because they could learn so much, even i am learning and keeping in touch with other ringers has been invaluable. Unfortunately due to commitments i could only watch Davids talk today but i am definitely very interested in further training day webinars.

Thank you for organising today's training and talks. I have spent all day in front of my computer and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute. David's talk was very informative and I wasn't aware of all the aspects of ART as an organisation. It was very interesting and just about right in length bearing in mind other events taking place. I would give him ten stars out of ten. The poor internet connection at times I wouldn't hold against him. I would always try to attend anything to do with learning and Bellringing, we should concentrate on both. Thank you and everyone involved for a very instructive day.

Unfortunately I did not manage to get to either of the talks but will try to catch up on YouTube. I certainly think the concentration should be on the ringing and wonder whether the AM and PM sessions would be better closer together with an after talk starting/finishing slightly earlier. However, I really enjoyed today and I’m sure the students did also, so thank you and everyone involved in its organisation.

What a fantastic day you organised. It went very well and was very beneficial to the students and wasn’t too onerous on the helpers. The format of the day worked very well and we really enjoyed both talks from David and Simon and they were both so positive looking at the future – we have to accept that ringing just won’t be the same in the future but different. It was so good to hear that some good had come out of ringing room and the enforced lockdowns of the pandemic. On a practical note from a student’s perceptive, if another virtual training day is arranged, could there be 3 ringing sessions of an hour each throughout the day to get more practice? The talks were fab but I don’t think many of the students attended them. I’m thinking if I was a student I would like more practice to try and progress with the help of the more experienced helpers. Just a thought ... maybe that’s asking too much from the helpers ... food for thought.

I found David's talk very interesting and yes it was long but well-structured at the beginning and I learnt a great deal. I was also interested about his comments on the way forward and the possibility of perhaps helping each other out as I hope my tower won't become a silent one. I am sure a balance of talks and training should continue in the future. My learners enjoyed the training sessions I am going to try and give my learners confidence by quoting from David's talk: “If you have the ropesight and listening skills when you return to ringing you will be able to concentrate on bell handling skills.” At present we are using the Ringing Room for virtual practices

What a superb talk! The time flew by which is a great indication that you are listening to a good presentation. In answer to your questions; it was interesting, about right time wise and ten stars (out of ten). Good use of Zoom too, I liked the electronic voting! I would listen to further talks too, when part of a training day.

I thought David’s talk was excellent and very informative. An hour was about the maximum for my attention span but I felt it required that time due to the amount of information David had to impart. Perhaps I’m biased as I’m interested in ART anyway but I found it very encouraging to hear about plans going forward through this difficult time. There were a couple of times the sound broke up but I assume that was a connectivity issue and it didn’t really detract from the talk. Five stars (out of five) for presentation, content and ease of use. Yes I’d enjoy more training in the virtual world as I’m afraid we won’t be actually ringing for a while. Thanks again for organising these sessions.

I thought David's presentation was spot on. I don't know much about ART so as such is was all new! I think the video format is a great opportunity to hear from people who we don't necessarily hear from and is a chance to gain insights into the wider world of ringing. I'm beginning to see the actual act of learning and ringing as the tip of an iceberg in terms of what needs to happen to make those two things available and most effective…

Yes I attended David's talk. I found it very interesting. I've been out of regular ringing for a while now (too many Guiding commitments) although I used to be heavily involved at one time and was secretary just before David took over as master! I started back with Danbury at the beginning of this year but of course shortly went into lockdown. I know about ART but not much about the detail so I found it very interesting. I thought it was about right time-wise, David is an interesting speaker and having the occasional poll also helped maintain interest. I thought the talk by Simon Linford was interesting as well. I watched that the following day.


Beth with members of the Shenfield band

Beth Johnson, EACR Education Officer