Working with Schools

Running a ringing day in a secondary school

The Sir Henry Floyd school is a co-ed grammar school in Aylesbury with a wide catchment, extending to Milton Keynes. The school organises an activities week each year during July when students are off timetable and are offered a wide range of activities. CS is a geography teacher at the school and during 2014 organised a one day introduction to ringing course at the Aston Clinton Ringing Centre for which six, year 8 and 9 students signed up, all for no cost.

The students were assigned to three tutors (including CS) for the hands on practice. The idea was to build the up the publicity prior to arranging tutors who would, ideally, be able to continue with training should any student be interested in continuing at a local tower.

The day started just after 9.00 and finished mid-afternoon during which time the students were told about health and safety issues, went up to the belfry and saw the bells, had a demonstration of change ringing on tower and handbells, and were given hands-on lessons mainly on the tower bells but also on hand bells. Each student brought their own lunch. Although there were varying degrees of progress by the end of the session each student could more or less handle a bell on there own. At least one of the students was known to have continued learning to ring at her local tower; it was important to follow up potential interest. All the students agreed it was a good day.
CS said it was important to have a bell ringer on the staff to organise the day. The ‘facilitator’ wouldn’t necessarily need to be a highly competent ringer but should be able to make the day interesting and safe.

It was thought that year 6 could be the best target group (last year of Primary school) as they were probably less inhibited about peer knowledge of an interest in bell ringing. Primary schools would also have a smaller catchment compared to a secondary school. Mention was made of an initiative at a private boys school in Amersham . There was also an initiative at Waltham St Lawrence last summer with 4 groups of approximately thirty, 5 – 11 year olds had four activities during a day (emphasis on skills), one being bell ringing. 90% of the participants thought bell ringing was the best. Eight children were trained after school to ring for a carol service, this was achieved with ringing backstrokes to rounds, seven subsequently continued with evening sessions.

With thanks to Caroline Stonham

Running an after-school ringing club in a secondary school

Susan Read had undertaken an ITTS course and to become accredited need to teach bell handling. The private Abingdon School incorporated two, one hour school club slots each day with transport arranged after sessions. One ringing teacher was keen to run a ringing club in collaboration with St Helen’s, Abingdon, being close to the School; there was already one keen pupil ringer who had given presentations on ringing to his year group.

The Tower already had an established young ringers practice with a number of experienced helpers, easy going bells and a simulator and are able to run an additional weekly practice as well as more regular School holiday practices/courses which in some cases consolidate what the young ringers are ringing at their home tower.

Tony Crabtree (Shrivenham) said practices are also arranged at Longcot which give opportunities for more young ringers to come together. Cakes and biscuits are always appreciated. A teacher is required to be present during the School practices, noted to be the case for the Magdalen College School club also.

The School Club does not provide recruits for the tower (the boys come from far and wide) and the weekly practices are barely sufficient for teaching bell handling. The practices are great fun however and benefit the young ringers from both the school and the tower, generating enthusiasm in both groups.

With thanks to Susan Read

Assembly talks to primary schools

John Harrison said schools are very keen to have talks from outside speakers for assemblies and goes back to each school every four years. Important to have pictures and props (e.g. cardboard bell), hand bells and to be able to relate them to scale and actual size as well as what they sound like playing tunes and call changes.

With thanks to John Harrison

General discussion about working with schools

Children of this age do not appear to think of bell ringing as “uncool”. The intention is to educate rather than recruit.  Other aspects to put across are the human involvement and bell ringing as a skilled activity is very worthwhile. The presentations include an element of audience participation. Each year St Gile’s, Reading run an open session for children from various faith schools. In general, children are not aware that humans are involved with the ringing of bells. Presentations can either be hands on or putting across an awareness of what’s involved. Susan Read said that handbell clubs ringing carols/tunes could be a good introduction to simple change ringing. Most schools probably have chime bars if handbells are not available. Tony Crabtree (Shrivenham) said that a set of eight toy, tuned handbells could be bought on-line for about £30 (e.g. ‘Tiger Handbell Set’). Some pressure not to teach young recruits on heavy bells. Important to allow young ringers to be able to progress. Sometimes better to suggest delaying further instruction if progression is not evident, e.g. if the height of a child is the main problem to making progress (in some circumstances lack of height may be compensated for by good style). Boxes must be of a good size on carpet, i.e. a non-slip floor finish. The amount of draught can be an issue as well as bell weight. The general tower environment must be welcoming. Some churches may not allow young children under a certain age to ring due to their insurance policy.

With thanks to ODG Training Meeting – January 2015