First findings from a long term study of the charity Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise orchestras in Stirling’s Raploch and Glasgow’s Govanhill show convincing evidence of positive change to children’s lives. Researchers conclude the programme represents a good investment for society. 

The findings, from a team led by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, include evidence that Big Noise:

  • improves confidence, pride and self-esteem
  • has the potential to support participants to lead fuller and healthier lives
  • has the potential to quickly generate greater social benefits than the costs of delivery
  • participants have higher school attendance
  • offers respite and protection to the most vulnerable
One participant told the study team: “You’ve got music behind your back pushing you.”

The ongoing research is overseen by an expert panel, which is chaired by the Chief Executive of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Angiolina Foster CBE.

Speaking at a press conference in Govanhill today she said: “Established approaches are not meeting some of the challenges in our society. It is essential we learn from innovative programmes like Big Noise. These first findings are impressive and fascinating. It is clear that over the next few years we could see even more exciting outcomes, as the oldest Raploch children sit their exams and leave school. We will continue to track what impact Big Noise is having on this new generation, seeking not only to detect changes but explain them.”

There are three components to the summary findings published today:
  • Short- and medium-term findings of the orchestras’ impacts in Raploch and Govanhill have been organised into themes and “logic models” which map expected impacts to be measured in decades ahead. This work was carried out by the GCPH with input from Audit Scotland. It included fieldwork with approximately 250 people including 120 children and young people. This component of the evaluation also sought to understand important elements of Big Noise delivery which underpin the impacts observed.
  • A health economic cost-benefit analysis of Big Noise Govanhill carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University.
  • An assessment of the quality of education provided by Big Noise Raploch. This was carried out by Education Scotland. Please note this component was published  in January 2015.
Professor Carol Tannahill, Director of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health said: “This evaluation strongly endorses Sistema Scotland’s approaches to delivery: the short and medium-term impacts of the programme evidenced at this stage of the evaluation are very encouraging. What is also certain is that Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise programme has the potential to significantly enhance participants’ lives, prospects, health and wellbeing through a variety of identified pathways in the long-term. Any endorsement of Sistema Scotland is also an endorsement of a range of local partners who contribute to the delivery of Big Noise, and of the commitment shown by the schools in both Raploch and Govanhill.”
“It is worth emphasising that while Big Noise can appear to the casual observer to be like many other arts or music programmes, we encountered a number of factors which, when taken together, potentially make it unique – including its ambition, longevity, intensity and inclusivity. We also recognise the quality of relationship between Big Noise musician and participant as being vital to the reported impacts, both observed presently and theorised as we look to the future.”
An economic assessment of Big Noise Govanhill concludes the programme is a worthwhile investment, and may be producing outcomes of higher value than costs by the sixth year.
Professor Cam Donaldson, Yunus Chair in Social Business and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University said: “projections underline that Big Noise Govanhill represents a worthwhile investment, and that the short-term benefits of the programme observed and reported by the GCPH and Education Scotland, based on this economic modelling, have the potential to translate favourably in economic terms as early as year six of programme delivery.”
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “This evaluation shows that Sistema Scotland is making a real difference to the lives of the young people who are taking part in the Big Noise Centres in Raploch and Govanhill, boosting their confidence, widening their horizons and even demonstrating higher school attendance.
“The success of this project shows culture has huge potential to transform lives and tackle inequalities. The Scottish Government is working to ensure that everyone in Scotland, particularly our young people, has an opportunity to access, enjoy and participate in cultural activity. Sistema Scotland is making a real impact and I’m delighted to learn more about the success Sistema Scotland is having in our communities.”
The first Big Noise orchestra started in Raploch, Stirling in 2008. A second launched in Govanhill, Glasgow in 2013. A third will open in Aberdeen’s Torry this summer.
Inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema movement founded by Maestro José Antonio Abreu in the 1970s, it aims to equip children to reach their full potential.
The work is backed by a variety of public and private funders including Stirling Council, Aberdeen Council, the Scottish Government and a number of trusts, foundations and individuals including players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Sistema Scotland Chairman Richard Holloway said: “When I saw El Sistema in action in Venezuela I thought, we must at least try this in Scotland. Let’s see if it works. So we embarked with strong hope but no certainty.  I think today’s findings by independent experts in many fields show very conclusively that these orchestras can make a better Scotland – a fairer and happier country with the potential of its children fully realised.
“The heroes in all this though are the children in Raploch and Govanhill who are showing us all the way.  While I am proud that our organisation and its wonderful staff, our funders and partners have put in place the right conditions, it is the children and young people who deserve most credit. It is their hard work that has led to these first signs of change, and will lead to even greater triumphs in the future. So Bravo Raploch. Bravo Govanhill!  Your tune is only just beginning.”
Stirling Council Leader Johanna Boyd said: “This study is a fantastic
endorsement of Big Noise and everything it has done for Raploch. At
Stirling Council, we are immensely proud to have been a key partner of
Big Noise Raploch since its launch in 2008. These findings confirm what
we already knew – that Big Noise is about so much more than the music,
and our young people are learning confidence and resilience that will
help them succeed across all areas of their lives.”


Keep up-to-date with all the latest events.

Click here to sign up to our e-newsletter!

This site uses cookies, for more information please read our Privacy Policy.