How do our ringers progress?

My great, great, great, great grandfather James Bye learnt to ring. In fact, we know from a peal board that he conducted a local band peal of Grandsire Triples in 1829, aged 29. However, that’s all we know. We don’t know about the teaching techniques they used and how he got that far.

Nowadays in ART we are fortunate that each new recruit can be registered on SmART Ringer. This not only provides the new ringer with access to on­line learning resources, but over time also enables us to draw out some useful insights into how people learn.

For example, looking at the figures from 2015 till lockdown we can see that 25% ­ 30% of those who learn start to do so when aged 18 or less. The only exception seems to be around the period of Ringing Remembers, when it reduced to 21% and a greater proportion of those starting were aged 46 ­ 60. A lesson here perhaps about the focus for future mass recruitment campaigns.

What surprised us is that on average just under 10% who start to learn do so in the 18 ­ 30 age group.

A survey carried out by the Central Council in 1988 showed that tower captains in the 20 ­ 40 age group were the most effective at finding and retaining recruits. It also found that the longer they were in service the harder this became. Those in post for four years or less being the most effective.

The conclusion is that you need to encourage fresh and energetic young leaders. Therefore, ART’s work with university societies and plans to introduce a leadership training programme are extremely important for the future of ringing.

Turning to progression through Learning the Ropes:

Those successfully learning to handle (LtR Level 1) rises with age, with around 60% of all registered recruits reaching this stage.

Age has no impact on ability to ring rounds, Call Changes and Kaleidoscope Changes (LtR Level 2), with around 30% of all recruits mastering this stage.

However, under 30s are twice as likely as older age groups to master plain hunt and covering (LtR Level 3).

Under 30s are four times as likely as older age groups to master method ringing (LtR Level 5).

Of course, as some recruits will only have joined the scheme more recently than others, the rates in the later levels should increase as more people have the time to work their way through the scheme.

Nevertheless the numbers of those reaching LtR Levels 3, 4 and 5 are lower than we would like to see. However, there is nothing wrong with aiming for well struck rounds and call changes. Obviously, some bands simply do not have the resources to progress people all the way to Level 5, and this issue may be more acute after the current COVID­19 restrictions are lifted.

Looking at quarters published on BellBoard, there also seems to be a tendency for some teachers not to register LtR Level 3, 4 and 5 passes. There are probably several reasons for this. For example, people may move to a new area.

To improve the accuracy of our data and help evidence the benefits of the Learning the Ropes scheme we encourage all teachers to register all their recruits and their passes at all levels ­ once the ringer has reached the required standard, of course.

James Bye and his local band were able to progress to ringing their peal without having the benefit of cars, mobile phones, e­mail, the internet, ART and Learning the Ropes. Are we aiming high enough? What can we do to remove the barriers to progression through Learning the Ropes?

We must help those who wish to reach their true potential and replicate the success of our ancestors? Even better them!

No doubt a subject for further research.


Roger Booth
With thanks to Adam Knight-Markiegi for working up the data