• Simon Linford
    152
    Some time ago at a Birmingham School of Bell Ringing 'conference', I speculated that the 'Median Ringer' could ring Bob Minor. I hadn't worked it out with any great statistical basis, but had done some analysis of how many quarter peal ringers there were and then worked on there being about 30-40,000 bellringers. So it wasn't particularly accurate, but I don't think it is going to be far off.

    It was a good point to make though because when ringers are learning they will usually see ringers who are far better than them and may feel that they hopelessly low down the ladder, but actually they are not. Particularly true in Birmingham where a lot of very experienced ringers are involved in teaching. It was also useful for us as a Guild to focus our resources understanding that half ringers would not be ringing beyond Bob Minor.

    I am not sure if this is useful to anyone else, but I think it is interesting to think where the Median Ringer sits on the learning curve.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    Roger Booth can usually come up with a couple of buckets of stats on this sort of thing. Is he about?
  • Phillip George
    23
    The following information is up to 21 years out of date and statistically insignificant but I present it for interest.
    In 2000 and again in 2010 when I was Huntingdon District Secretary (Ely DA), I carried out a survey to get an idea of the health of ringing in all the district towers, which is predominantly a six bell area.
    2000 (38 towers responded)
    Practice Night - highest technical standard of the band.
    Plain Bob 40% of towers. TB/Surprise 21% of towers.
    2010 (31 towers responded)
    Practice night - highest technical standard of the band.
    Plain Bob 41% of towers. TB/Surprise 22% of towers.
    These numbers were reduced for Sunday service ringing in favour of call changes by the local band.
    The conclusion could be made that during the last two decades Plain Bob is the median ringer's level.
    Time for another survey me thinks!
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    My guess is that it would be much the same. My guess would also be that most of the TB/Surprise ringers would be the same people but 2 decades older; the People in the PB group would be significantly different.

    Only guessing mind.
  • John de Overa
    72
    Even more interesting is why they get that far and no further.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    As always we could do with a properly collected set of data but from observation and guessing: we don't teach enough younger people. We do keep teaching youngsters but most have them have stopped ringing by their early 20s, older folk tend to stick with it but don't (as a broad generality) progress very quickly or as far as younger people (some do get on well though, of course), those who might progress quickly and go a long way get stuck, perhaps very early on, because their local tower can offer little and there is no obvious route for them to take to progress, we recruit people on the basis of keeping their local bells ringing rather than people who are looking for a challenge of getting as far with method ringing as they can. Might have missed a few factors. The bulk of competent ringers are now rather elderly and learnt to ring decades ago when the world was a rather different place. Most of them learnt when they were young and stuck with it. For the last three decades the sticking with it after youth has gone. That is why we have ended up with two fairly distinct ability groups; both of them rather elderly and with a large ability gap in between. These days I seem to be spending most of my ringing time teaching middle-aged and elderly people plain hunting and Plain Bob. It is slow going and I will have stopped ringing due to my great age before they get very far. Of course that is not the whole picture, there are people of all ages ringing and there is not a total polarisation in the ability range.

    The question is, what can we do about it? Are there just powerful trends in society that we cannot change or by significantly adapting the way we operate can we save method ringing? Have we left it too late whatever we try to do now?

    Should we try to control the future anyway or do we just join in with what there is and go with the flow?
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    Going back to the original post, I agree that the median point for all ringers is probably at about Bob Minor.

    The more interesting question is what is the median point for those who lave learnt to ring in about, say, the last decade or two? I think that anyone who gets to ART level 5 is a bit of a star. How many new ringers get much beyond that?
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    I think it is probably worth starting a new thread on The Future of Ringing
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    29
    Sorry to be an incurable optimist, but I really don't think it's a problem. Clever people always crop up who will re-invent things. After all, method ringing had to be invented in the first place. So say maybe in 100 years time there is nothing but a few aged bands ringing call changes. Then some maverick youth will say "What if we joined all the changes up and rang them all at once? Bet no-one's ever done that before!". And change ringing will be reborn.
  • Nick Lawrence
    5
    Surely, and to a degree from my own observations, if someone can ring PB Minor competently (and I mean competently) they won’t want to stop there; although advancement will depend on their band, and their willingness/ability to travel, and in many cases break through the glass ceiling imposed by dinosauric TC’s.
    Apologies for inventing a new adjective.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    PB6 was always our 'median' and the target for all new members to attain. On 'good' nights we would comfortably manage PB8, Stedman 7, and Camb6.
    Sadly the Covid restrictions have reduced our abilities to call changes and plain courses of PB5 and G'sire5. Covid-related reasons prevent our two most capable ringers (up to Spliced Surprise) from re-joining us and our third qp/touch-conductor retired through ill health shortly before the lockdowns began. So, 53 years after I started the band, it's back to square one. Ho hum, such is life!
  • Simon Linford
    152
    Nick, I am not sure that is completely true, for reasons I hypothesised when I wrote the 'Ringing Zone' articles many years ago. There are barriers beyond Bob Minor which are quite difficult to overcome, but I think a lot more is done now to understand and introduce stepping stones even since I wrote those articles. However I think there are enough examples of people who have struggled at some point to overcome a barrier but then gone much further to show that it is worth investing resources in people who are keen to learn.
  • Andrew G Smith
    5
    @Simon Linford talks about the median ringer, but what about the statistical distribution of ability? My perception is that those at the top are getting better and better with mind blowing performances but those at the bottom are getting worse, so although the median might be Bob Minor the statistical ‘range’ is wider.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    True. 'Better' might not be the right word but I know what you mean. It is certainly true that in the Black Zone's upper reaches, provided you live in the right place and have the abillty, the things being rung a much more complex than they were say 20 years ago. It is far easier to get up a ladder if there are more people above you to help pull you up.

    Ringing and striking gets better and better the more complicated you make things. So it is next to impossible to scale the higher reaches if your striking is not very good - you just won't get asked. Is that important in a wider context? Only in as much as generally ringers do prefer ringing to be good - I am sure of that. If you have ringers, or a band, who do not care about the striking, then more experienced ringers will be less inclined to help them, and so there is a downward spiral of the quality of ringing.

    However that does lead to a conflict of putting pressure on ringers to 'perform' when that might not be what they signed up for. We get into this whole question of whether ringing is a Performing Art, just a hobby, or something in between.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    The trouble is that we have lost the middle, in both age and ability. Your local band might get you up to Bob Doubles if you are lucky. They you have to find a way of crossing the gap because the next step is Rigel in the Big City. Perhaps not quite that big a gap but finding decent eight and ten bell ringing is getting tricky from my limited view of the world.
  • Rosalind Martin
    6
    In 2014, Christchurch and Southampton District carried out a survey of members, with 85 responses. The median ringer in that group was in the process of learning their 2nd method, which at that time was most likely a 2nd doubles method, not Bob Minor.
    The median age at that time was 62. A fact which I think shocked the District into doing a lot of active recruitment.
    One unexpected result was that ringers who were recruited post-1980 were (very) significantly less likely to have mastered any Surprise methods.
    For a fuller summary of the report, you can visit https://wpbells.org/2014/05/16/questionnaire-report/
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    Did the post 2014 recruitment bring down the median age?
  • John Harrison
    92
    or at least stop it rising?
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    One thing that I am very confident about is that the average age of ringers will not keep on rising.
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    How do ringers' skill levels compare with the skill levels achieved in other activities?

    For example what is the median in judo in terms of their coloured belt awards? Wikipedia tells me "In Europe the belt system is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and black" - is the median about yellow or brown?

    Similarly, not everyone starting to play tennis lands ends up playing even at county level, never mind Wimbledon!
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    ART used to talk about a pyramid. They probably still do. In my mind I imagine a graph, numbers of ringers on the y axis and level of attainment on the x axis. The graph rises steeply then continues to rise but more slowly at about ART level 3, flattens at about ART level 5 and then descends with a very long tail. But that is just my guess.
    What matters of course is not so much the static graph but the dynamics. If that bulge at the bottom was full of people on the way up, as I believe it was in the first few decades after the second world war, then the future is bright. If it is not then it isn't. My worry is that while the numbers in the left hand side of the graph will probably reman high the numbers in the long tail to the right will diminish.
    To know what is going on we need to collect and maintain data.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    ... and so if 60% of ringers are now over 60 is the median age of ringers about 65?
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    29
    Sorry if this sounds smart-arse, but I think it would be more useful to ask how much "ringing intelligence" ringers have, rather than what they can ring. I mean - can they use ropesight, listening, rhythm in such a way that, while ringing, they have a reasonable perception of what is going on within the method (or even call changes) and where they fit into it. Thus ensuring that they ring whatever it is well.
    My point is that, if you have a good memory, it is easy to reel off a complicated blue line without having a clue what is going on around you. (Guess how I know!) Which does not produce really good ringing.
    So I would say that someone who rings Grandsire intelligently is contributing more to the future of the Exercise than someone who crams the blue lines necessary to ring 23-spliced and then promptly forgets them all.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    There are separate components here; what you can ring, how reliably you ring it and how well. They all matter.
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    29
    Indeed, I could not disagree with that.
  • John de Overa
    72


    The more interesting question is what is the median point for those who lave learnt to ring in about, say, the last decade or two?

    I think it's worth distinguishing between "can ring reliably, bobs, singles & all" and "working towards it". I suspect PB6 is not the median for ringers in the late-starters group. PH5 is more likely I think.

    I think that anyone who gets to ART level 5 is a bit of a star. How many new ringers get much beyond that?

    Last time I looked the attrition rate between L1 and L5 was 95%. If that isn't a sign that things aren't working in the upper ART stages, I don't know what it is, but it seems to pass without comment, let alone action.

    ART is great up to around L3 but unless you live in an area with lots of active towers and strong bands, it's pretty much useless beyond that. The ART syllabus becomes much more spotty and the over-reliance on QPs is a mistake IMHO. I've got to L4, if I squint at the requirements hard I think I probably need one QP of Grandsire5 for L5 but I've already rung 2 QPs of the "harder" PB6 and I've taught myself or am learning Kent, Oxford, the other 4 Oxford Group methods, Stedman, Grandsire and Norwich. ART has been almost completely irrelevant to me for several years and if I get to L5 it will be as a by-product of other ringing I'm doing, not because of it.

    If ART's goals is to get people ringing CC & PH for service ringing than I'd say it has been a great success. If it's to produce method ringers then it's an abysmal failure, even judging by their own stats.
  • John de Overa
    72
    There are barriers beyond Bob Minor which are quite difficult to overcomeSimon Linford

    One of them being PB itself, particularly due to the way it is taught, which turns it into a dead end even if the method itself isn't. PB5 is a poor choice of teaching method in the first place, I used to get two plain courses of PB5 a week, how the hell was I supposed to learn to dodge properly with just 4 dodges a week?

    There's a big jump in the core ringing skills needed to move beyond PB-by-the-numbers, and in my experience they simply aren't taught. So lost of ringers get stuck struggling and failing to ring PB5-by-the numbers for literally years.

    I listened to a very interesting talk yesterday that focused on exactly these issues with the "traditional progression" teaching and how they might be addressed. For example bell control training mostly stops after you are unlikely to kill yourself. *All* the skills need continual, integrated teaching rather than "Done that, next".
  • Simon Linford
    152
    Where was that talk?

    Phil Ramsbottom, current St Martin's Guild RM, is a passionate advocate of Bob Doubles being the wrong place to start - he has been commissioned to write a book about alternative routes.

    At my tower, Moseley, I am finding closed handstroke lead Devon style call changes is good for developing bell handling beyond the "unlikely to kill yourself stage". It's surprisingly hard but rewarding when you get it right. I want to start every session with it - first six people in.
  • John de Overa
    72
    Where was that talk?Simon Linford

    It was at a Whiting Society practice day. It certainly generated a lot of discussion, most of it agreeing with the analysis of the issues and there was also a good degree of agreement on approaches that didn't work and ones that did. I don't have a copy yet but it's going out to the Derbyshire Association mailing list shortly, I can pass a copy on once I receive it.

    Phil's book sounds very interesting, I'm keen to see it :smile:

    We've had some success with Single Court Minimus with 2 covers. We have 3 who can ring it inside, it's dodge-free so you don't have to immediately cross that bridge, the treble is something other than PH order so it moves that ringer on, the 5ths is covering but again not PH bell order and the 6th can concentrate on striking well behind the 5th, so it's got something for most of the band in there. It sounds quite nice and it's a "proper" method so it ticks the sense of achievement box as well. I'm sure there are lots of other similar things you can do and I think that a "Growing your skills toolbox" approach is far better than "PB5 Or Death". ART do already have a "Minimus toolbox" with methods graded by difficulty, so there are support materials out there as well.

    The Devon CC thing sounds like it would fit well into our tower which has been mainly CC + attempts at PH for many decades. Is there any HOWTO material available? I understand the general principles but I've never rung Devon style myself and if we do try it I'd like to do it justice rather than coming up with some sort of naff "Chicken Korma" version :wink:
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    There are certainly plenty of good ideas out there. The problem is getting people to adopt them. I prod and nudge a bit but to little effect. I worry about being too pushy as I don't want to cause trouble. Well not more than I normally do. i just keep on hoping that pennies will drop and ringers will will work out for themselves what needs to be done.

    At the moment I am involved with five different groups of ringers. One is a monthly surprise practice that since the return has been firmly standard-8. Before The Great Lockdown we had been ringing a few PPE methods. Reversion now to how things used to be. Deciding what to do by referencing the past. At the other practices much (but not all) of the learning has been directed at middle-aged and elderly learners and with a view to getting them plain hunting and ringing Bob Doubles. Teaching as it always was. Again looking to the past. Where there is progress it is slow.

    Why do we persist in this way? I think that for those who are doing the teaching it is the way they learnt and how, in decades past, they taught and it used to work in that enough ringers learnt this way, often quickly, and rapidly progressed onwards. But the learners were young and we probably had a high drop out rate but overall it worked. I think the penny that needs to drop is that, as a generality, a different approach is needed for older folk with much smaller steps and much more rope time. And an acceptance that some would best stick to call changes.

    And teaching need to be organised outside of the traditional local tower set up to give viable support.

    My current perpetual question is how to bring about change. I have more or less given up and just float along with whatever is happening and try to support it a bit. I can analyse suggest but I have no leadership skills.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    ART 'Levels' ?

    Would someone please remind me the criteria for the various Levels referred to above? I have just scanned through the ART website. I see Moddules 2c to 2f referred to but no mention of 'Levels', perhaps I have missed them.
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