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‘What did the Romans ever do for us?’ ‘Well, apart from plumbing, concrete, roads, central heating, law and order, and the modern day calendar, ...’. The characters in that Monty Python sketch thought of the Romans as a distant irrelevance, unaware that much of what they took for granted, and many of the things that made their lives better than they otherwise would be, were in fact attributable to the Romans. In the same way, you hear ringers talk about the Central Council as something remote, and of no interest to ‘ordinary ringers’. Like the Romans, the Central Council has been around for longer than modern ringers can remember, and also like the Romans, it was responsible for much that modern ringers take for granted.
The popular image of the Council is of an elite group that spends one weekend a year arguing about esoteric things like method definitions and rules for peals. The reality is very different. The annual Council meeting, and the networking and fringe meetings that go on over the weekend, are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the Council’s work is done by its officers and fifteen specialist committees, all the time in the background. Between them, they contribute to almost every aspect of ringing.
Four committees are relevant to training. The Education Committee is the main one. The others are:
The CC Education Committee is almost 50 years old, and it is one of the largest. Its terms of reference are:
Full information is available of the Committee’s website: http://cccbr.org.uk/services/education/
For many years, the Education Committee ran a general ringing course that included a tower leadership module. In the mid ’90s, it switched to a new course focused on the skills needed to keep towers going (called MTM = Management, Teaching & Maintenance). It also introduced a course on (teaching and learning) listening skills. Almost all of its courses are delivered in collaboration with local ringing societies. Local people act as assistant tutors, and may then be able to run similar courses themselves. In total there have been nearly 30 listening courses, and nearly 40 courses on teaching.
On a weekend course, students cover tower management and any two modules of: teaching handling, teaching call changes, teaching methods, teaching raising and lowering in peal, and conducting. Cut down single day courses can also be run.
The committee is pioneering a new form of ‘course’ – distance learning – for conducting. This grew out of an original ODG idea, but has since evolved. Students are linked to mentors with whom they can communicate by e-mail (or phone) over an extended period as they develop their abilities and need help.
The Education Committee has been responsible for most of the educational products currently sold by CC Publications. Many are books, but they also include audio and video, on tape and disc. Where there is an identified gap in the repertoire, or where there is scope for alternative treatments or innovative products, the Committee aims to produce something to meet the need, either by creating it, or by sponsoring someone else with a good idea. Notable examples of internally produced products include The Tower Handbook, Learning Methods, The Learning Curve(s), Listen to Ringing CDs and The Tutor’s Companion (teaching bellhandling) DVD. An example of promoting a good external idea was Kaleidoscope Ringing.
The most important current project is The New Ringer’s Book. This will replace the current Beginners Handbook (which in its original version, was one of the Committee’s earliest publications).
Other items in the pipeline are a book about teaching ringers, which draws on research into how people learn new skills, and a ‘Tower Captain’s Resource’ (containing guidance notes, crib sheets, wall charts and ‘teaching gadgets’) to help people run more stimulating, effective, more and enjoyable practices.
A committee of twelve people cannot single handedly train ringers in 5000 towers! A key aim is to spread good practice that other people can apply.
The Network for Ringing Training (NRT) was set up in 2001, to raise the profile of training as a distinct activity within ringing, by forming a community of mutual support among those who train ringers. Its most visible activity is a members’ e-mail list (used by about 60% of members). Periodic indexed summaries of the discussions are available to all members. There have been two NRT conferences, and a third is being planned for later 2007. The ultimate vision is of a self perpetuating network of people interacting with each other on the ground, as well as remotely, but that has not yet emerged.
The Framework for training ringers is complementary to NRT. It provides a starting point for a systematic approach to training in a band. It is comprehensive, but not prescriptive. It sets out aspirations for all aspects of the management and conduct of training, but leaves freedom on how to achieve them, within whatever local situations apply. The Framework has been well received, and its use will be promoted more widely, including enlisting the support of ringing societies.
The committee tries to maintain occasional, informal contact with people responsible for training in local societies, by allocating several societies to each member, who then tries to make periodic contact.
Looking outside ringing, the Committee has built relationships with those youth movements that include ringing among their activities (Scouts, Guides and Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme) and published several articles about it in The Ringing World.
The Committee tries to break new ground, not just to do more of what it has already done.
Current ‘unsolved problems’ include:
Finally, hot off the press, the President of the Central Council set up a working group, spanning several committees, to explore ways to enhance the future of ringing by investing more in ringers (ie recruitment, training and retention) as well as in bells. The group has identified many ways this could be done, and will propose to the 2007 Council meeting, to set up a charitable ‘Ringing Foundation’. It would seek funds from public bodies, accept donations and legacies from individuals, and channel the money into projects and initiatives with the twin aims of better training of ringers and better public awareness of ringing.
John Harrison, November 2006 (Presentation to ODG training meeting)
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