Independent report highlights success of Big Noise Torry

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A new independent report has underlined the impact of the Big Noise programme on the lives of children and young people.

Big Noise Torry is one of four projects delivered by Sistema Scotland nationwide, with Stirling and Glasgow also well established venues and Dundee added in 2017.

Aberdeen City Council has invested significantly to bring Big Noise to the city and the advantages have been highlighted in the report by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, which brings together five years of research.

The report found Big Noise helped children and young people to:

  • Increase confidence, discipline, pride, and aspiration;
  • Improve team-working, communication, and leadership;
  • Enhance academic skills including listening, concentration, and creativity;
  • Increase resilience, happiness, sense of belonging and fulfilment;
  • Develop strong musical skills;
  • Increase uptake of physical activity and healthy eating, avoidance of damaging behaviours;
  • Develop of positive social groups, peer relationships and cultural engagement;
  • Benefit from respite and protection for vulnerable participants.

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.”

Big Noise Torry was established in 2015. Now a team of 12 musicians works with over 500 babies and children every week, assisted by seven support workers and 15 local volunteers.

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. Family lessons are also offered during the holiday clubs, where parents and guardians can join their child for a lesson.

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.

Councillor John Wheeler, Aberdeen City Council’s Education Operational Delivery Convener, 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.”

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.

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.”