How far do our ringers progress?

In the last edition of ART WORKS we started looking at the reasons that the number of ringers progressing through the higher levels or the Learning the Ropes scheme has remained stubbornly fixed. From feedback provided by teachers and ringers on the scheme we looked at motivation and why ringer’s ring and how to create opportunities for ringers to progress. Now we will look at what teachers can do to get the best out of their ringers and what can slow-down progress.

» Read the first part of this study

Teachers – getting the best out of ringers

“We are very lucky that our Tower Captain is a brilliant teacher and ringer who I know will be able to help us develop as far as we want to. Not every learner is so lucky to have such an enthusiastic and capable teacher at their tower.“

True, but the Module 2 courses spend a lot of time addressing how to teach foundation skills and early methods, making practices fun and breaking skills development into bite-sized chunks – just as the Module 1 course does for bell handling. Many teachers don’t go on to attend a Module 2 course, which means their ringers may not have the opportunity to ring a greater variety of things.

Attend a Module 2 course. Spending time finessing a ringer’s bell control and teaching listening, striking and rhythm skills will bear fruit later on

Not spending enough time on getting the basics right at Level 2 (bell control, striking and place counting) can hinder a ringer’s rate and extent of progress and can lead to frustration and them giving up. The LtR scheme is about more than bell handling and teacher’s do need the help of a Module 2 course to make the most of it.

The Learning the Ropes Scheme – using it to best advantage

The LtR scheme isn’t for everyone “Some people just don't like signing up to something with set goals, and others will be ok with that to start with but will drop out of the LtR formal scheme as they progress, or perhaps when they change teacher or tower.”

However, have we got it right? A number of teachers commented that the “Jump from Level 2 to Level 3 is a big one” which is “Maybe why we stall”. One insightful ringer commented “I’m finding that teachers’ expectations are very different, maybe those who have been rushed through struggle above Level 3.”

Using LtR to best advantage. Spend more time really reinforcing the foundation skills in Level 2 so that progress through Level 3 and beyond will be quicker and less frustrating.

It’s true, some ringers are rushed through the Level 2 exercises perhaps to make it seem as though students are progressing rapidly now that they are ringing with others. So, the message is: spend more time really reinforcing the foundation skills in Level 2 so that progress through Level 3 and beyond will be quicker and less frustrating.

Don’t forget that there is a place for “intermediate stage rewards to keep the (slower) learner motivated. Examples include “Making more of first and subsequent QPs … celebrating ringing up and down in peal as it’s not easy … and reward regular conducting to improve the chances of someone becoming a conductor.”

When the ideal world meets the real world

“The requirements for Levels 1 and 2 are great for a tower with an easy-going ring of bells, with a short draft and a nice low ceiling. You know – the sort of tower that we'd all love to teach in! The reality is that we teach where we are, and where things aren't so ideal.”

The not-so-perfect world. In the real world of difficult bells, tower configurations and ringer’s varying needs, ways can be found to overcome most things but progress will be slower.

So true, and there are other examples. Those learning in a 5-bell tower can’t practise ringing the tenor to Doubles and there are other towers in which bells are not rung up and down routinely. And then you get a ringer who just can’t do an exercise for one reason or another – “Ringing up and down. She’s terrified of it and will turn down opportunities to practise if at all possible. I’m taking the line of getting her to try occasionally because if I push her too hard, I think she’ll give up and we’ll lose a faithful service ringer.”

Teachers say they find a way around these obstacles meaning that progress through the Levels might be delayed with some tasks “Always the last ones to be completed and often forgotten afterwards as not routinely practised.” For a small minority of ringers the “rigidity” of the scheme, particularly at the higher levels might not work well for them.

What have we learnt?

Some key messages from this and the previous article:

  • Understand your ringer’s motivations and let them guide progress. Ringing is just a hobby!
  • Good quality rounds and call changes for some ringers and bands is as much to celebrate as a Level 5 certificate for others.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for those with the “ringing bug” to learn and progress, including frequent targeted practices.
  • Foundation skills training is just as important as bell handling training in producing a skilled and motivated ringer.
  • Celebrate successes throughout a Level, not just at the end with a LtR certificate.
  • The Learning the Ropes scheme won’t easily work for all ringers or towers, however it can usually be made to work.

What’s next? Well first of all if you’ve got any other experiences or insights please get in contact at and then we’re looking to address some of the issues that you’ve brought up. Look out for some exciting events and products later on this year!


Lesley Belcher