Sistema Scotland, the charity that runs and delivers the Big Noise programme, welcomed an independent evaluation report published by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH). The report, entitled People change lives: consolidating fiveyears of evaluation learning from Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise centres in Stirling,Glasgow and Aberdeen draws upon five years of rigorous, detailed research to define a range of important impacts that participation in Big Noise has on children and young people.

Reflecting on the evaluation findings, report author Chris Harkins, senior public health researcher at the GCPH, said: “We have consistently observed positive impacts on Big Noise participants across the different centres. Alongside the development of impressive musical skills, participants have increased their confidence, discipline, academic skills, happiness, sense of belonging and fulfilment. Big Noise also promotes positive peer groups and healthy behaviours. At the heart of these impacts lies the relationship between Big Noise musician staff and participants. The musicians become such a positive influence on the children and young people taking part.

“Being around Big Noise you do get a sense of the fun, the enjoyment and the mutual respect within this relationship, and indeed the value that the participants place upon it. The design of the Big Noise programme is perhaps unique, allowing this relationship to develop based on consistent daily contact over many years as participants face the challenges and rewards that come from being part of an orchestra and performing regularly.”

People change lives focuses on the long-term, encouraging, trusting and supportive relationship between the Big Noise musician and participant, where the musician acts not only as an educator, but also as a mentor and a role model, supporting positive behaviours and life choices. This also helps to encourage mental and emotional wellbeing and the avoidance of damaging behaviours.

Benny Higgins, chair of Sistema Scotland, said: “We face many challenges in our country over the next few decades; but there is none that is more important than giving all children support and confidence. The Big Noise centres use music as a vehicle to support their communities. But our endeavour is about so much more than music.

“It is a source of great pride to digest the findings of this report. We celebrated our tenth anniversary last year. We will remain focused, however, on supporting more children in more ways over the next decade and beyond.”

Sistema Scotland works to transform lives through music, targeting some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities with its Big Noise programme. Big Noise Torry was established in 2015. Now a team of 12 musicians works with over 500 babies and children every week, assisted by 7 support workers and 15 local volunteers. As People change lives highlights, the delivery of Big Noise Torry has been tailored to maximise cross-over impacts on the development of academic skills and school attainment.

There has been enhanced focus on counting, phonetics, storytelling and singing within Big Noise provision, with a view to enhancing participant literacy and numeracy skills. Big Noise Torry also offers multiple opportunities throughout the year for families to become more involved with the programme and to feel part of their child’s development through Big Noise. ‘Take a musician home for tea’ is an approach used across the Big Noise centres. It involves one or two musicians going to a child’s home after school and with the child, putting on a mini-concert for their family. Family lessons are also offered during the holiday clubs, where parents and guardians can join their child for a lesson. Indeed, half of school teachers surveyed in Torry also noticed increased parental involvement in their child’s schooling and development in the families whose children participate in Big Noise.

In addition to the impacts on children, young people and their families, the report highlights that Big Noise is also a community beacon, bringing the wider community together at regular local concerts and events.

Councillor John Wheeler, education operational delivery convener for Aberdeen City Council, said: “It has been thrilling to witness the joy, skill, and dedication of the Big Noise musicians who have become a source of enormous pride not just for the schools and parents but to the community as a whole and to the rest of the city.

“Just as encouraging are the plans for Big Noise Torry to have its own youth board encouraging participants shaping the project’s development and governance. Aberdeen City Council encourages our children and young people to become involved in shaping the city’s future and we are keen to ensure that their voices are listened to. This is one of the lynchpins in our working towards becoming a Unicef Child Friendly City.

“We want all our communities in Aberdeen to enjoy prosperous futures and we are committed to providing the best outcomes for our children and young people. Big Noise Torry is a tangible proof of that commitment”.

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