Children’s Lives Transformed in Aberdeen Regeneration Area

19 June 2017

A pioneering social change programme is helping to transform the lives of children in an Aberdeen community through music, according to research into Big Noise Torry published today (Monday 19th June 2017).

The research reveals that Big Noise Torry has enhanced participants’ ability to learn in school, as well as improving emotional wellbeing. The independent study, led by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), also identifies improvements in the confidence and esteem in those taking part, as well as the acquisition of a range of social and life skills.

Big Noise, which is run by the charity Sistema Scotland and supported by Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government, provides free, immersive, instrumental music tuition, as well as an orchestra programme, to pupils and pre-school children in Torry’s Walker Road and Tullos Primaries, during and after school. It currently works with more than 500 local school children aged 3 to 9 years in Torry, which is ranked as one of the most deprived areas of Scotland.

Today’s report, which researched 130 of the children, describes the initial findings from a long-term study of the impacts of three Big Noise centres in Stirling, Glasgow as well as Torry. The GCPH report found after only 18 months, Big Noise Torry is a large scale, high quality, social intervention which is already positively impacting on the lives of children. Key findings of the study which was funded by NHS Health Scotland and supported by Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, include:

  • Teachers reported improvements in academic and behavioural skills including listening, concentration, creativity, communications, cooperation, emotional intelligence and conceptualising goals.
  • School attendance rates are higher among Big Noise Afterschool participants than for other pupils. Although there may be a range of factors at play here, this finding is consistent across the three current Big Noise sites.
  • 100% of the children who were asked to draw a picture of how they felt expressed consistent feelings of happiness, enjoyment and pride in playing their instrument and being part of Big Noise.
  • Big Noise is working with some of the most disadvantaged children including those from low income families and pupils “looked after” by the local authority. Pupils of ethnic minority background and with English as a second language are also equitably represented within Big Noise provision.
  • The programme is well embedded within the Torry community and is underpinned by close working with schools and a range of delivery partners. Big Noise musicians and staff are described by partners as skilled, dedicated and passionate.

In 2015/16 Aberdeen City Council provided £243,000 to support Big Noise Torry, with a further £82,000 coming from Creative Scotland, private trusts, foundations and donors.

The findings of the Torry study, are similar to research carried out in the two other Big Noise Centres in Govanhill (Glasgow) and Raploch (Stirling) by the GCPH in 2015. Sistema Scotland, was set up in 2008 and draws its inspiration from the El Sistema programme in Venezuela. A further Big Noise centre will open in Douglas, Dundee in Autumn 2017.

Chris Harkins, Senior Public Health Research Specialist at GCPH said: "Our research demonstrates that the Big Noise Torry programme is already having positive impacts on the wellbeing, education and learning of participants as well as on the development of important social and life skills.

"We found that the strong partnerships which exist with local schools and the broader community, the intensity and accessibility of Big Noise alongside the teaching methods used by the musicians, are pivotal to the positive impacts observed to date. Importantly Big Noise is effectively engaging children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Looking to the future, if the programme continues to engage with children and the community in this way, it will have a central role to play in the regeneration of Torry over the long term."

Cllr Jenny Laing, Leader of Aberdeen City Council said: "Aberdeen City Council is delighted to support Big Noise Torry as part of our broader regeneration programme to tackle inequality and disadvantage among children and build strong communities.

"We are particularly pleased with the strong partnerships Big Noise Torry has built within Walker Road and Tullos Primary Schools and the wider Torry community. By working alongside our dedicated teachers and committed parents and carers we are delivering the best possible curriculum to pupils and giving them the best start in life.

"Our vision is for a more prosperous future for all those we serve in Aberdeen and this project demonstrates the innovative approach we are taking. The outcomes are clearly extremely positive and the investment in the next generation is a very positive one."

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said:

"I would like to congratulate Sistema Scotland on the impact Big Noise Torry has had on pupils in such a short period of time. The Scottish Government is committed to closing the poverty related attainment gap in education and ensuring that every child has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of their background, household income or where they live.

"By supporting projects such as Big Noise, we aim to focus on pupils living in areas with the highest concentrations of deprivation, to ensure that all of Scotland’s children and young people reach their full potential."

Nicola Killean, Chief Executive of Sistema Scotland added: "We are now building a convincing body of evidence across all our Big Noise centres which clearly demonstrates that children from the most disadvantaged communities can gain significant life-changing skills by learning to play an instrument and being part of a Big Noise programme. Children are growing in confidence, improving their concentration, team working & communications skills. We now have more than 2000 children across Scotland participating in Big Noise from babies to school leavers, with a fourth centre opening in Dundee this year. Our next step is to begin tracking school leavers who joined Big Noise 10 years ago to establish what destinations they are moving onto, and to continue to sustain the work and monitor the impact long term."

The GCPH has described the key to the Big Noise programme design as seven delivery principles including longevity and commitment, developing meaningful relationships, inclusivity and accessibility, intensity and immersion, innovation and flexibility, collective and cooperative learning and excellence, aspiration and inspiration.




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