• Alison Hodge
    106
    There is plenty of discussion in the media (unsurprisingly at present) about young people becoming involved in sports activities, including the ways to spot and support talent, and aid progression to higher levels of achievement:

    - limited training facilities - long distances to travel (including international) and limited capacity
    - shortage of trainers and coaches
    - costs of coaching / training
    - costs of special equipment / clothing, especially while children are still growing
    - pressure of school work / teachers
    - major career decisions at a very young age
    - disproportionate emphasis on "popular" sports, rather than minority sports
    - some sponsorships - but there are funding gaps
    - conflicts with family life, parents' jobs, siblings with different interests
    - time commitment for those directly involved but also parents and families
    .....etc
    Costs are being emphasised in the discussions - there were estimates quoted of the costs amounting to many £thousands and even £10s thousands!

    So, how does this compare with ringing? Has anyone estimated costs of training young ringers to the level of those in the National Youth Competition a few weeks ago, for example?
  • John Harrison
    184
    How are you defining costs? In the context of cost being a barrier to progression in sport I think it would be interpreted as cost to the individual or family, for example buying equipment. in ringing there are hardly any such costs. The most notable would be the cost of transport to events, but while I am sure lack of transport limits some ringers I suspect it's not the monetary cost so much as th time cost.
    The tuition costs, which would be born by the family of a child learning a sport are invisible in ringing because they are invariably born by the teacher and supporters as opportunity costs, which get overlooked when counting cash that changes hands.
    In short, I think it would require great care to do a meaningful financial comparison between ringing and sport. You would need to take in many other factors and try to find valid equivalences.
    And sadly, any valid lessons to emerge from such an analysis would probably fall on deaf ears because 'ringing is different' and 'ringing isn't like sport', and unlike in the real world, ringers don't like to talk about money and ringing in thee same sentence.
  • Tristan Lockheart
    74


    Bellringing is traditionally run on a shoestring. Pretty much everything we need to pay for, bar major repairs, is covered by tower donations from visiting groups, practice donations, wedding fees and the church (incidentally, perhaps the "going-rate" for all sorts of donations needs reviewing - materials for repairs are much dearer, but I doubt fees and donations have increased in the interim). Perhaps we ought to check our reliance on the church to subsidise the exercise - it's £170 for a peal at one private tower currently!

    As @John Harrison mentioned, time cost is the big cost, and is often overlooked. From my perspective as a learner, I really need two practice nights a week, and general practices tended to be a bit of a waste when it was one go at rounds, then sitting on the side for the remaining 1hr20. Even in London, finding a tower where I can actually progress means travelling quite far - a good practice could get me travelling on three buses to my destination, costing me money for the fares and time (I can easily spend 2-4 hours just on travelling to a practice). I could go to the tower at the end of my road, except it is silent now. This is a barrier to progression - young people in particular are reliant on public transport or lifts from others, which means any sort of distance incurs time and monetary cost penalties. People have other things going on in their lives, and taking out an entire evening multiple times a week is not going to happen.

    From my perspective as treasurer, I really want to send some of our members on ART courses so they can lead and teach handling. The course tailored to university societies is in Bristol this year (so further away from most university societies than, say, Birmingham), and train fares + accommodation + course fees take it up to a cost of over £120 per person. I can only afford to send one person, but we rather keenly need to send two. Therefore, the cost stunts both the number of people able to teach and keep the society afloat, and the skills of our ringers who could go out to make very fine leaders wherever they settle after university.

    From my perspective as a tower officer and a service planner, the time burden is also on the teachers and leaders. The first type is the Respected Leader. They become known for being the person who always steps up and is good at what they do. They train up people, act as tower captain, become a district officer, try and set up clustering, fill in last minute at peals and weddings, etc. They carry too heavy a burden, such that they burn out due to the emotional, time, and monetary costs, causing the numerous responsibilities they hold to fall by the wayside. The second is the Firefighter. They are filling in all over the place because there is no-one else to take their roles on. Their cost is that they're too stuck with just trying their best to resolve immediate crises, with the opportunity cost of their own development, and maximising their time.

    Overall, I'm not sure that quantifying the cost of providing tuition is helpful in itself, but we do need to identify where we can cut the costs of taking up ringing, cut the costs of providing ringing locally, and optimise the use of our money to provide facilities and trained leaders which improve the cost:benefit ratio of both providing and undergoing teaching.
  • John Harrison
    184
    as a learner, I really need two practice nights a week, and general practices tended to be a bit of a waste when it was one go at rounds,Tristan Lockheart

    That's a good example of the inefficiency of the way people develop as ringers compared with many other skilled activities. One way to increase the efficiency, and potentially reducing the participant cost, would be the much more widespread use of simulators. That requires some investment and a culture change, but the payback is considerable in terms of the practice hours that can be provided per trainee hour, per week at a location, and per unit supporting effort.
  • John de Overa
    238
    I couldn't agree more. I run a 1 hour learner's simulator session each week, currently I have 1 person at that session, at a pinch I'd consider 2. My aim is to get them to the stage where they can ring unassisted at regular practices as quickly as possible, rather than having multiple learners sat out and getting bored and the existing ringers spending all their time ringing for them. It seems to have worked well - they were ringing unassisted at the 3rd regular practice they went to, their striking & bell control is pretty good and In the individual sessions we are now at the stage where it's "That wasn't right, what am I doing wrong?" rather than me having to tell them. And that's with a retired learner. I think concentrated training is probably the best way to teach what is primarily a physical skill, and prevent learners getting frustrated with slow progress and giving up.
  • Steve Farmer
    5
    Just a thought, if you have a local tower that you can use for a course then speak to ART about setting up a Module 1 course (Bell Handling) in your area, I have done this recently as the courses in the NW are fairly thin, we advertised it via our local guild and had no problem getting enough people to attend.
  • Roger Booth
    37
    In the W&P we have a 'Probationary' category of membership for new ringers. In 2019 we carried out a survey of the membership, which included looking at the progression of the probationary members. Of those who were probationary members in 2015, 49% ceased membership in 2016 and a further 12% in 2017. Only 34% became Full members. The survey also showed that a third (33%) of the Guild's members are either learning to handle, ring rounds and call changes, or plain hunt. Clearly there is not only a tremendous wastage, but also a need for far more investment in training at the foundation skills level to improve retention rates. However, nationally there are several millions of pounds sitting in restoration funds for years on end, at very low interest rates, when inflation this year is forecast to to reach 13%. We seem to have too many bells and not enough ringers. If only we could re-assess the priorities and change the culture!
    Guild Education Survey Results and Feedback | WPBELLS
  • A J Barnfield
    213
    I like your posts Roger. They give statistical explanations as to why I spend most of my ringing time trying to assist with R&D but with nobody much going anywhere. If the statistics were better my time would be much more usefully spent.
  • John de Overa
    238
    I like Roger's posts as well. But I'm not sure money alone would solve the training and retention problem, no matter where it came from. I'm a "late starter" like the majority of new ringers nowadays, but my target was been to ring methods, as soon as I realised what they were and what was involved, and I'm OCD enough to generally stick at things I want to do even if it takes me literally years to get there. It's been an extremely difficult process, and I've been on the verge of giving up in despair several times.

    I think ringing has become good at getting people ringing Rs & CCs quickly and safely, thanks to ART, but it is failing people beyond that. I realise that not everybody wants to become a method ringer (which is fine) but if you do, you really are on your own in many areas of the country, there is no formal support and you have to dig very hard to find appropriate help.

    If you want a really depressing statistic, the last time I looked, less than 5% of people who are interested enough to enrol as an ART learner get to Level 5, which is really the very bottom-most rung of method ringing. I've still not got to L5 myself, because beyond Level 3 ART was of very little help. The journey from PBM to Norwich Surprise Minor was done entirely alone, during COVID, on a tower simulator that I was lucky enough to have access to. That's not a realistic option for the majority of people who are capable of becoming method ringers.

    The issues I've struggled with for my own personal ringing progress affects training teachers as well. I've been on the ART Module 1 teaching course and I follow it rigorously - it worked well for me and I know my limitations so I'm not going to get "inventive" in how I teach, but I can't ever see me getting to be an accredited ART teacher. I don't even know who in this area to talk to, and since the course I've had zero follow-up from anyone in ART. I think the biggest failing of ringing training, of all sorts, is identifying those with the aptitude and interest in progressing, and actively providing support and mentoring for them.

    To end on a more positive note, I'm teaching someone who rang for 18 months as a teenager and has now come back 40+ years later and had to start again from scratch. She is a recently retired music teacher and she's commented on how good the training is compared to when she was ringing as a teen. I think that shows that the ringing community has the skills and motivation needed to fix these issues, but what we have at present only addresses the first stages adequately.
  • Tristan Lockheart
    74
    @John de Overa what I have found is that there is no pathway within ringing to acheive what you want to acheive. The idea that you have to advance through word of mouth of opportunities, then try out all sorts of towers to try and find one which works for you, is not an incentive for people with busy lives.

    Perhaps this is where a census comes in? Identify where the centres of method ringing are and promote them, and identify where resources need to be directed to establish more opportunities for method ringing.

    Information and support are really quite crucial to get people to make the jump into method ringing, and what we have at the moment is clearly not working.
  • John de Overa
    238
    it's easy to believe there were halcyon days in the past, but from talking to the old lags, I don't think that was ever really the case - over time different bands in an area rose and fell in ability, and you always had to "get on your bike" if you wanted to progress. The issue now is that such informal "centres of excellence" are becoming rarer, and even more thinly spread. Existing areas with strong ringing aren't the problem, it's the "centres of mediocrity", or even worse "ringing graveyards" that really need the help. My concern is that it will be all to easy to direct funding and resources to areas that don't really have a problem, as they will be the easiest to identify and will be more active in pushing for funding.

    It is possible to turn things around though. As far as we can tell, it is at least 40 years since the band in my home tower could ring anything other than poor CCs and PH, last week we got through a plain course of Grandsire Doubles on the 3rd attempt. It's only a tiny step and we'll have to see how much further we get, but that was done entirely without outside help. What made the difference was a new TC and one returning retiree ringer - those relatively small and internal to the band changes tipped the balance. What we could do with is help maintaining that new impetus.
  • A J Barnfield
    213
    I agree with the old lags. I don't think that there was every anything much by way of formal structures but there were enough good towers and peal and qp bands about that you could make some progress if you (in my case literally) got on your bike. But you relied on the good will of towers and a helpful informal mentor or three to help you on your way. A lot of luck was needed and it was all very hit and miss. I don't recall the local association being any use at all.

    A couple of decades back there were still enough capable ringers who were young enough that it might have been possible to set up some formal T&D structures. Now the core of capable ringers is probably too small in number and rather elderly and in any case it looks like folk are generally trying to flog on with the old tower based model. There has been a bit of tinkering with a few clusters and some co-operation but the wholesale structural reform that was needed has not happened.

    Of course there are some success stories but generally I think method ringing is going down the pan. Probably not much that can be done now.

    There are plenty of ringers about and plenty trying to learn but from a method ringing point of view is is mostly basic stuff with little hope of many crossing the gap from ART level 5 to S Major. That is if they can get past ART level 2.
  • John de Overa
    238
    thanks for the info, and what you describe pretty much describes my experience. I've found a tower with good ringers who have been kind enough to take me under their wing, but finding them was mostly blind luck, and at the start it must have been a gamble for them as I certainly wasn't anything near their level - but I'm extremely grateful that they did.

    I'm not completely despondent but I think you are right that time to do put something in place is short - I suspect 5-10 years is about it. I also agree that the old tower-based model seems no longer viable, but people are wedded to their little fiefdoms, I guess.

    I'd be interested to hear what you think the problems are in getting people across that gap? If I think back over what my biggest challenges were I think adequate bell control and ropesight are up there, even after ringing up to the level of the ART L5 syllabus. I fixed that with lots of simulator time, and not trying to run before I could walk method-wise. I learned a number of TB Minor methods rather than dashing off towards Surprise, so when I did learn my first Surprise method it took 3-4 simulator sessions over a week to learn Norwich, which is what the grown-ups had been given as homework.

    I think it is possible to get motivated people across The Great Divide, but I think it needs to be done in a considered and structured way, in the same way that handling is now taught. But as far as I know there's no commonly agreed way of doing that, People are more than happy to trot out their favorite set of methods, but it's often a case of "Wot I done wen I wura lad/lass" rather than a planned, graduated learning path with clear objectives at each step. I suppose part of the problem is that once you get to TB level, the number of options is huge. But if we do want to break away from the "isolated tower" model I think having a common syllabus is important.
  • John Harrison
    184
    I'm not sure money alone would solve the training and retention problem,John de Overa
    money alone certainly won't. It needs to be intelligently applied to support suitably competent and inspiring people doing useful things. But not being able to spend money when it would help to get things done closes off many options, making it harder to do what is needed when it is needed.
  • Tristan Lockheart
    74
    it's easy to believe there were halcyon days in the past, but from talking to the old lags, I don't think that was ever really the case - over time different bands in an area rose and fell in ability, and you always had to "get on your bike" if you wanted to progress. The issue now is that such informal "centres of excellence" are becoming rarer, and even more thinly spread. Existing areas with strong ringing aren't the problem, it's the "centres of mediocrity", or even worse "ringing graveyards" that really need the help. My concern is that it will be all to easy to direct funding and resources to areas that don't really have a problem, as they will be the easiest to identify and will be more active in pushing for funding.John de Overa

    I would argue that, whilst the latter two are the biggest problems, the presence of "centres of excellence" is not much help if people don't really know where they are and aren't getting the support to join them. But yes, I get your point about the deserts. A census of ringing skills by person and by tower is needed to provide the justification for intervention in specific areas.

    What made the difference was a new TC and one returning retiree ringer - those relatively small and internal to the band changes tipped the balance. What we could do with is help maintaining that new impetus.John de Overa

    It's good to hear that you are able to progress; I imagine that there is a bulge of the sort of person who is able to help progress a band into methods around the older age groups. If we had a previous census from 10 or 20 years ago, we could see if they are being replaced as they age out. Do you think they are being replaced, or are the numbers with those skills declining?

    But you relied on the good will of towers and a helpful informal mentor or three to help you on your way. A lot of luck was needed and it was all very hit and miss. I don't recall the local association being any use at all.A J Barnfield

    Sounds like Districts and Associations need to be helping with the signposting.

    A couple of decades back there were still enough capable ringers who were young enough that it might have been possible to set up some formal T&D structures. Now the core of capable ringers is probably too small in number and rather elderly and in any case it looks like folk are generally trying to flog on with the old tower based model. There has been a bit of tinkering with a few clusters and some co-operation but the wholesale structural reform that was needed has not happened.A J Barnfield

    I'm not so sure I'm as pessimistic as you, but I do think we are starting to run out of people with the ability to nurture, the ability to teach, and the ability to lead. The next generation of capable ringers need to be identified and mentored just for us to stand still, let alone grow their numbers back to a point where there are enough leaders, mentors, and teachers to revive method ringing. The Young Change Ringers Association and ART both seem to be getting stuck in to meet this challenge, although there is still a long way to go.

    I also agree that the old tower-based model seems no longer viable, but people are wedded to their little fiefdoms, I guess.John de Overa

    Some people seem to prefer a declining standard and roster to change, although whether it is a desire for control or simply a familiar and comfortable environment, I'm not sure.

    I think it is possible to get motivated people across The Great Divide, but I think it needs to be done in a considered and structured way, in the same way that handling is now taught.John de Overa

    Yes, I have found my best progress to be on structured schemes; the traditional deep-end or just-do-it methods rarely do me much good.
  • Roger Booth
    37
    I was a helper on the new NW Ringing course a couple of weeks ago. What was interesting was that each student was willing to pay £275 for two and half days intensive tuition in their chosen subject. What was disappointing was that each student in my group (and I suspect many of the others) came because they met a barrier to their progress in their own tower, and even after the course, they would have very limited opportunities to ring their chosen method afterwards.

    After the course the organisers set up a WhatsApp group for us all to keep in touch. In my feedback I suggested that as there are other similar courses (Hereford, Essex, Bradfield etc) what would be useful would be to link up with them and set up regional WhatsApp groups for each of the subjects, so that students could get together with other like minded people and practice what they were learning on the course. Even as I helper I wouldn't mind joining in for a follow up day later in the year in my part of the country, perhaps with a few quarter peal attempts thrown in. I also suspect others who had not been on the course would be interested in joining in too.

    ART has just held its second successful Learning the Ropes day for people at the lower end, but wouldn't this be a good way of harnessing new ways of working to help remove the barriers for people further up the ladder?
  • John de Overa
    238
    I imagine that there is a bulge of the sort of person who is able to help progress a band into methods around the older age groups. If we had a previous census from 10 or 20 years ago, we could see if they are being replaced as they age out. Do you think they are being replaced, or are the numbers with those skills declining?Tristan Lockheart

    Purely observationally, I think numbers are declining, and many of them now ring solely with the people I've been ringing with for years. It's very daunting for less experienced ringers to "break in" to such towers, and also from observation, the learners that do turn up are infrequent and don't last long. Once the current ringers stop, the towers will fold - there's no replenishment happening.

    Sounds like Districts and Associations need to be helping with the signposting.Tristan Lockheart

    I think the problems are deeper than that - the ethos and purpose of districts/associations needs to change radically first. I was exasperated by branch email I received yesterday, announcing a QP week in October. They are asking each tower to ring a QP, perhaps a couple if they have learners. It's pure fantasy - I'd love to know where they think the secret cabbage patch full of QP-ready learners is, or which rock all the method ringers are hiding under. The fact is they do bugger all training wise for the rest of the year, but I'm sure they will all be patting themselves on the back about what a good job they are doing.

    Getting people to method ring takes a sustained effort over a long time, and it's key that opportunities are regular, and with a clear plan in place. I see no signs in any of the associations I ring in of that being grasped. I'm afraid to say I think most associations are long past their usefulness, and if the method ringing problem is going to be addressed it needs to be done outside of the existing moribund structures, in the way ART has for the earlier stages.
  • John de Overa
    238
    Yes, I have found my best progress to be on structured schemes; the traditional deep-end or just-do-it methods rarely do me much good.Tristan Lockheart

    What was disappointing was that each student in my group (and I suspect many of the others) came because they met a barrier to their progress in their own tower, and even after the course, they would have very limited opportunities to ring their chosen method afterwards.Roger Booth

    I completely agree with both of those, they certainly mirror my experience. Courses are a help but what's really needed for learning method ringing are regular opportunities, at least once every 2 weeks. There may be areas where that is happening (Birmingham?), but it certainly isn't happening in the 4 associations I ring in.

    After the course the organisers set up a WhatsApp group for us all to keep in touch. In my feedback I suggested that as there are other similar courses (Hereford, Essex, Bradfield etc) what would be useful would be to link up with them and set up regional WhatsApp groups for each of the subjects, so that students could get together with other like minded people and practice what they were learning on the course.Roger Booth

    I was offered a place on Myerscough but unfortunately I couldn't make it. I'd certainly be interested in such a follow-up effort, I might even be persuaded to install WhatsApp to join in :wink:

    ART has just held its second successful Learning the Ropes day for people at the lower end, but wouldn't this be a good way of harnessing new ways of working to help remove the barriers for people further up the ladder?Roger Booth

    I think courses are good but they aren't going to produce method ringers without follow-up infrastructure in place, and at present it appears that it isn't. I think people may be going on courses because it's the only option available to them, not because it's what they actually need.
  • John Harrison
    184
    when we organise a quarter peal week with a request for many towers we offer to try to find extra ringers (or conductors) for towers that need support.
    Sadly we rarely get such requests, presumably because only those towers that can organise their own quarters are interested in ringing at all.
  • John Harrison
    184
    the ethos and purpose of districts/associations needs to change radically fJohn de Overa
    I'm not sure the purpose needs to change. I see our branch purpose as to help provide the opportunities and services that members can't get from their own bands, and which the Guild is too remote to provide.
    The problem is achieving that purpose in the face of (a) limited resources and (b) low desire of many members to avail themselves of such services, even when offered.
  • John de Overa
    238
    Sadly we rarely get such requests, presumably because only those towers that can organise their own quarters are interested in ringing at all.John Harrison

    The problem is achieving that purpose in the face of (a) limited resources and (b) low desire of many members to avail themselves of such services, even when offered.John Harrison

    So it seems clear that what the branch is offering isn't working.

    If it isn't working, why are you still doing it?

    You've exactly illustrated my point, branches / associations carry on doing the same thing over and over and are apparently puzzled why something that didn't work for the last 10 years still doesn't work this year.

    If you are in a hole, a good first step is to stop digging and take a good look around.
  • John Harrison
    184
    If it isn't working, why are you still doing it?
    You've exactly illustrated my point, branches / associations carry on doing the same thing over and over and are apparently puzzled why something that didn't work for the last 10 years still doesn't work this year.
    John de Overa
    What we are doing is working for some of our members, but not all of our members want to be helped.
    Nor are we just doing what we did ten years ago. We are doing other things as well, for which we identified a need.
    Beware of over generalisation. It's possible to do some useful things while beong aware that more could be done.
  • John de Overa
    238
    What we are doing is working for some of our members, but not all of our members want to be helped.John Harrison

    It's interesting to speculate on why. Taking the QP week case, towers that regularly ring QPs already might bung a couple in as a show of support, but it's pretty pointless in terms of their progression. For towers that aren't already ringing QPs, that's most likely because they aren't capable of it. Offering to parachute in some ringers (as my branch has) is almost guaranteed to fall on stony ground. You aren't going to get a band to sustainable QP standard that way, and in many cases even if there are keen newbies in the band who would like to give it a try, it's likely that the TC and the bulk of the band are long in the tooth and short on skills and won't want to be shown up.

    I vividly remember one TC who, when informed by a keen new ringer that they were applying to go on a residential ringing course, for multiple weeks actively tried to dissuade them. "Why are you going to pay for that when you can get it for free here?" He was completely wrong, on multiple fronts - he might have been able to ring methods himself, but he sure as hell couldn't teach them.

    "Helping" by offering to "take over" is very unlikely to succeed. People with potential but who are blocked need rescuing from their band and moving into a context where they can progress. So why aren't we seeing (say) locally based weekend "Methods for the Mystified" mini-courses, followed up by fortnightly sessions for several months, spread across 3-4 towers in a branch to ease travelling?

    I see our branch purpose as to help provide the opportunities and services that members can't get from their own bandsJohn Harrison

    I think that's a laudable goal. But running yearly QP weeks falls a long way sort of providing adequate opportunities - and to be clear, I can only talk about my local situation, your branch may be on the case and providing effective support.
  • John Harrison
    184
    Taking the QP week case ... it's pretty pointless in terms of their progressionJohn de Overa
    Agreed. We promote 'quarter in every tower' events not as progression but to encourage as many as possible to feel engaged by taking part in major events. The first was for our centenary and others have been for national ringing events. We do have an annual QP week in the diary, but that's just to act as a gentle jog to bands that occasionally ring quarters and might like a focus.
    For progression we rely on regular events, for the well attended Elementary Practices that we introduced a couple of years ago when we identified the need. We also run a number of courses, mainly skill based rather than method based, that are arranged to suit those who need them. See: http://odg.org.uk/sdb/training/
  • John de Overa
    238
    that's an impressive set of courses, and shows what can be done. A shame the approach isn't more widespread.
  • Roger Booth
    37
    We seem to have drifted a little off topic. To get back on topic, I estimate that it costs over £400 to teach someone to Level 1 of learning the Ropes and £200 for each level thereafter. Therefore to get to Level 5, which is a fairly ‘basic’ standard for a method ringer therefore costs about £1,200 per ringer

    A year ago we held a recruitment event at the Cheriton parish fete with the Charmborough Ring. This cost £150 to hire. Plus a little more for transport. We also printed some handouts. We held a taster evening a couple of weeks later and as a result a group of six started to learn. Over the following weeks more joined and we ended up teaching 13 people to handle. We started with a month of intensive handling lessons, with each pupil receiving a series of one hour lessons 1:1 with an instructor. These were scheduled using Doodle Polls and took place several afternoons and evenings in these first few weeks. In total each pupil received on average 12 handling lessons to get to Level 1, most receiving two a week for the first four weeks, although the handling lessons continued for some time afterwards in parallel with learning to ring rounds, and also as more friends joined the group. However, we also lost three of the group over this period, so we ended up with ten new ringers.

    To deliver this instruction we had a team of six handling instructors who volunteered to give up their time, some of whom were travelling up to 15 miles to each session, although the average distance was about 7.5 miles. The National Lottery credits volunteer time at £20 per hour and the marginal inland revenue mileage rate is 25p/mile. We also bought each new recruit a Learning the Ropes Personal Progress Logbook at £2.50 each. There were also a couple of cracked stays. Therefore the volunteer time came to £3,120, plus travelling expenses of £585. Including incidentals. The total cost to reach Level 1 of learning the Ropes was about £4,000 or £400 per learner who reached Level 1.

    The Winchester District did buy some simulator sensors at a cost of £420 and another ringer loaned a second-hand laptop. There is also the cost of training the teachers. Four of the instructors had previously attended an ART Module 1 teacher training course, although there were two very competent teachers who had not, and everyone worked together well. If you include a portion of these costs, the actual cost is higher than £400 per ringer.

    Some of the band rang some good rounds for the Carol service and we then had six weeks off for Omicron. To date we have held about 40 weekly practices and the band is now ringing for some services (because it is part of a large benefice, service times vary from week to week and sometimes there are no Sunday services to ring for) and weddings to rounds and call changes standard (Level 2 of Learning the Ropes) almost entirely on their own. We have been fortunate to be joined by two lapsed ringers living in the village, and four helpers have been coming each week, although the need for this involvement is gradually tailing off. We still have some handling practice for the stragglers before the main practice, and use the simulator as well, but our helpers are not the same group as the handling instructors, so the average travelling distance is about 5 miles. We’ve also given each new ringer the publication A Ringers Guide to Learning the Ropes at £7.50 each, plus another couple of cracked stays (the trebles are very light and flighty, with a high ceiling, and that is something we need to fix by purchasing some rope guides). However, the cost of reaching Level 2 for the ten ringers is going to work out at around £200 each.

    We’ve just started on Level 3 for the most advanced members of the group, so rather than tailing off, we’re going to need to retain our helpers for the next and subsequent stages, at a similar level of input for each level. The problem is that with such a large group of rounds and call-change ringers, we can’t teach all of them to plain hunt at the same time, otherwise they will get so little rope time that they forget everything between lessons. Therefore we’re going to need to establish a second practice night, possibly at another silent tower nearby (but that means more travelling) or send some of them away on training days (the Guild has an annual one) and longer courses, but that has a cost too.

    Fortunately the learners are far more willing to pay for this tuition than the typical ringer who has been ringing far longer. Although we have not charged, my wine cellar and that of my fellow teachers has been kept generously stocked!!!
  • John de Overa
    238
    Good to have some hard data. But I'm not sure you can extrapolate costs from L1-L3 to L4-5 as the nature of the learning process changes significantly and you need a competent band to support the learner - you do note that in your reply - plus progress tends to get slower at the higher levels. However I think your estimate is a good lower bound on the costs.
  • Roger Booth
    37
    I've given this a little more thought as we've not yet got stuck into Level 3. I do know that the Birmingham School of bell ringing reckons that it takes between one or two terms to progress from one Level to the next. Let's say 15 weeks of two hour sessions with five experienced ringers, and one teacher/leader/stander behind. They could give each of a group of five 'learners' at least three 5 minute touches of quality rope time in each weekly session. In time two learners might be able to ring in the same touch, increasing the amount of rope time, but there would still be a need for the same number of helpers, to stand behind and provide feedback.

    Based on my previous figures that's about 180 hours of teacher/helper time for 5 pupils = £720 per pupil per Level. Add on incidental expenses that's probably in excess of £800 per pupil per level.

    That's around £3,200 to get to Level 5.
  • John de Overa
    238
    I think that's a good illustration of why a fully commercial model for teaching ringing is unlikely to ever be viable. It looks like that number doesn't contain any costs for the bells & building as well, other than some broken stays, is that right?

    15 minutes per learner per week doesn't sound like enough to be honest, at the tower that's kindly taken me under it's wing I get 30-45 mins a week with a Surprise-level band. On top of that I'm putting in around 2 hours a week on a tower sim + moving ringers, which has allowed me to move all the way from PBM to Norwich & Cambridge during the period when there was no "real" ringing to be had. Simulators take investment both in terms of installation costs and of time to learn to ring with them but I'm surprised they aren't used more. I know arranging access can be an issue, but they do seem like a more effective way of delivering rope time than a "live" band, and for me at least, it's rope time which has been the rate limiter on progress.
  • Roger Booth
    37
    Of course the commercial model isn't viable. We rely on the owners of buildings making them available and providing use of some expensive equipment for free, although we might contribute towards the upkeep of the latter. However it's interesting to consider what other inputs such as volunteer time are required to teach someone to ring. We can then consider whether we are making best use of scarce resources.

    The model that I costed is based on the typical Guild/Association training day. However in 2 x 2 hour slots each pupil only gets 6 - 8 five minute touches of quality rope time. They may benefit form more practice in their own tower, but in my experience the majority come because they can't do what they want to learn in their own tower, and as these training days are often once a year, they are likely to come back to the same group next year (if they haven't given up in the mean time!).

    The Hereford/Bradfield/Essex/NW ringing courses use a similar model, providing around three times as much quality rope time in around six or more sessions concentrated over three/four days. Whilst far less is forgotten between sessions, you probably need to go on two of these courses to to turn a call change ringer who rings with a weak local band into someone who can confidently hunt the treble to QP standard, or progress from this to ringing their first QP inside etc.

    The longer courses at the Tulloch Ringing Centre, which make good use of simulators etc is pretty close to the ideal, and people are willing to travel there and pay, but it is not something that could be rolled out everywhere. However the Birmingham School and Bell Ringing and the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre are models that could be adapted for use elsewhere, but they do rely on the use of existing facilities and investment to improve them, which are not reflected in their charges.

    A much smarter way of making best use of scarce resources would be to use these training days and courses to promote the use of some simple exercises to break down the learning process into easily manageable steps. Those who come from weak bands can then take them back to their own towers to help improve the tuition for the others there.
  • John de Overa
    238
    Of course the commercial model isn't viable.Roger Booth

    I agree, but I've seen it suggested.

    these training days are often once a year, they are likely to come back to the same group next yearRoger Booth

    you probably need to go on two of these courses to to turn a call change ringer who rings with a weak local band into someone who can confidently hunt the treble to QP standard, or progress from this to ringing their first QP inside etc.Roger Booth

    So two years before they are able to treble to a QP? No wonder there's a 95% drop out rate between ART L1 & L5.

    (if they haven't given up in the mean time!)Roger Booth

    Which they do, in droves. Or if they don't they never get any further than CCs and poor PH. From observation of my own cohort of learners, they've either given up or got stuck after CCs. Once they get into that place it's comfortable to just keep turning up on Sundays and ringing CCs. There's nothing wrong with that if that's their target, but by making that the easy option there's little incentive, let alone support, for people with the aptitude to become method ringers to make the effort to do so.

    in my experience the majority come because they can't do what they want to learn in their own towerRoger Booth

    Those who come from weak bands can then take them back to their own towers to help improve the tuition for the others there.Roger Booth

    I think it's unrealistic to expect the keen learners who go on courses to go back and change the culture of their towers - believe me, I tried. I'm not saying it never happens, but as a way of fixing ringing's current problems, I think it's a non-starter.

    My experience is that as a learner you "ring up" to the standard of the people you ring with, and in many areas, mine included, there's no longer the critical mass of experienced ringers plus keen learners in most of the towers to make that happen. I think in parts of the country, the "tower band" model is dead as far as method ringing goes. Of the 3 towers in my town, only 1 is now ringing and in nearby Tameside, 7 out of 10 towers are now silent, and at the remaining ones the elderly bands don't get much beyond call changes.

    http://www.tamesidehistoryforum.org.uk/bellringing.htm

    It's great that there are still areas where that isn't the case and there are thriving bands bringing method ringing learners on, but works in those areas isn't viable in areas like mine. I'd be sad to think that method ringing has effectively died out here, but that seems to be the inescapable conclusion.
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