Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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An important advert from the Harry Windsor Ringing Centre (in Kineton, Warks) is displayed in this Newsletter, as it highlights a sad aspect of ringing at the moment — lack of ringers, both now and into the Future if something substantial isn't done to reverse the current trend downwards. Our Speaker at the Guild's Annual Dinner, Chris Righton, also recognised the problem we face. While truthfully outside the Guild's area, the HWRC 'employs' a number of Guild members to help in keeping the various activities going; and it is in truth our most local Ringing Centre. The HWRC isn't a business (more a labour of love and commitment on the part of the organisers and helpers), but it does need 'customers' to keep the show going. They cater for raw recruits wishing learn to ring, but courses on various aspects of bells and bell ringing are run, too. The advert on p.13 is a course to teach interested ringers how to be ringing teachers.

Claire Penny from Offenham has taken the ITTS course and is now an accredited ringing teacher. I asked her to pen a few lines on what the ITTS course is all about and how its accreditation system has benefited (and will undoubtedly benefit) the Exercise as a whole. Ed

I don't think that there is any argument about the fact that we need to recruit and, more importantly, retain new ringers. A lot of work is being done by individuals and organisations from the CCCBR downwards on how to attract both more people in general and younger participants in particular. This problem has to be tackled on multiple fronts starting with how to get people in through the door, but once inside we have to keep them and that is where the Association of Ringing Teachers (ART) and the Integrated Teacher Training Scheme (ITTS) comes in.

ITTS is not prescriptive about the way you teach, you do not have to 'do it the ITTS way'; what you have to do is embrace the philosophy, which is to teach people to ring competently and safely and keep them motivated and enthusiastic whilst they are learning. The only thing you have to do is follow the 'Learning the Ropes' scheme (LtR) and at a basic level that is just a checklist to make sure you have covered everything, and something that another ITTS teacher can look at and know at once where your learner has got to in their ringing career.

So what can ITTS do for your? Well, let's start at the beginning……

Do you actually like teaching? If the answer is an outright 'No', then why are you doing it? Probably because you are the only person in your tower who is even willing to give it a go. Well, instead of putting yourself (and maybe your learner!) through 15mins of torture each practice night why not send them to somebody who likes teaching, and possibly has the time to give your learner more than 15 minutes a week on the end of a rope. Ringing 'clusters' are not a new idea, but could a group of towers within a sensible distance from each other working together be a way forward? If there is only one person in that group who likes teaching, well, let's hope they are rushed off their feet! However if there is more than one person the load can be spread, and by using LtR all the teachers in a cluster will be able to teach any of the learners knowing that everyone is heading in the same direction with the same objectives. Equally the learners will know the teaching they get is consistent and competent even if it is a bit different form teacher to teacher.

So back to the original question — Do you like teaching? If the answer is 'Yes', that's wonderful. Are you confident and happy doing it? If the answer is No then you should seriously consider an ITTS course. You will probably learn a lot and come away with a range of new techniques and exercises to try, but more importantly you will have met people who are in the same situation as you. You now have a support group of like-minded people with different skills and backgrounds, you have access to a range of information and teaching tools on the ITTS website, and you have a mentor; somebody you can talk to, who can advise and help you. Once you have passed your ITTS module (don't panic it's just a relaxed assessment, you may not even notice if it is your mentor who is assessing you!) you can be confident teaching in your 'cluster' and take some of the pressure off the overworked person who has been doing it all by themselves for years.

So what if the answer is 'Yes' and you are happy and confident teaching? In that case, what can you do for ITTS? Could you be a mentor? It's not a difficult task, and not a huge commitment in terms of time, but it could make so much difference to a tower or an area. A new teacher, confident in what they are doing could mean an active band in a tower instead of 'once a month ringing for service if we can get enough people'.

In the 21st century most young people think that planning something 20 minutes in advance is a long term appointment, so being told (as I heard in a tower not long ago) that it would take '3 or 4 months, sometimes more' to ring a bell unaided is unlikely to motivate them.  Neither is giving them 10 minutes a week of practical instruction and expecting them to spend the other 80 minutes sitting in the tower absorbing the ringing jargon and theory by osmosis. The aim should be to give learners as much rope time as they want with consistent, competent teaching and have them ringing reasonable rounds and call changes in six weeks not 12 months.  I appreciate that not everybody is going to be ringing surprise minor within a year of walking into a tower, however they are taught, but surely to ensure the 'future of change ringing' all we need is people who enjoy their ringing and therefore promote it as an excellent hobby to all their friends, and who can ring good rounds and call changes for services — anything else is a bonus.

For more information about ITTS and ART contacts please see or I will be happy to chat about it.

Claire Penny

Anybody interested in what the HWRC does can look at the Centre's website. Should you want to take a look at the place itself, I have little doubt the organisers would be delighted to show you around. Contact details are:-