Sistema Scotland: New Evaluation Shows Big Noise, Big Futures

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Sistema Scotland: New Evaluation Shows Big Noise, Big Futures

Ianne Currie, Evaluation & Monitoring Officer, Sistema Scotland


Students perform at event announcing study results, November 2022. Photo: Big Noise.

Sistema Scotland is excited to share the learning from a recently published evaluation report by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH). The report, titled Statistical Analysis of Educational Outcomes Among Big Noise Raploch Participants, finds that young people who take part in Big Noise Raploch are more likely to achieve positive post-school outcomes and are more likely to be in employment than those who have not participated in the program.

The report’s publication was marked in November 2022 in the city of Stirling, Scotland (of which Raploch is a community), where the findings were brought to life in front of an enthusiastic audience of stakeholders and community members.

Big Noise student speaks about the impact of the program on his life. Photo: Big Noise.

Sistema Scotland is a charity that supports children and young people to realize their potential, improving lives and strengthening communities through music and nurturing relationships. The charity’s Big Noise programs are targeted to provide immersive, long-term support in communities of greatest need, now engaging regularly with around 3,500 children and young people, from babies to over 18 years old, in six communities across Scotland.

The recently published GCPH report is part of a long-term longitudinal evaluation. Earlier phases of evaluation involved primarily qualitative measurements. This report is the first in the quantitative phase; it provides a statistical analysis of educational outcomes among Big Noise Raploch participants. Big Noise Raploch, established in 2008, is the longest-running Big Noise program in Scotland and, in its 15th year of delivery, is an embedded component of life in Raploch. Importantly for this study, Big Noise Raploch has matured sufficiently to produce cohorts of school-leavers.

The two outcomes analyzed by the GCPH report are:

Post-school Destination: what learners go on to do after leaving school. Positive destinations include “Employed,” “Further Education,” “Training,” and “Voluntary Work.”

Cumulative Tariff Scores: this score reflects the performance of learners in national examinations.

Key Findings

The report finds participation in Big Noise has a positive impact on both of these educational outcomes.

Participation in Big Noise leads to a significantly higher rate of positive post-school destinations: 98% of young people participating in Big Noise Raploch went on to positive post-school destinations, in comparison with 84% of the control group.

Participation in Big Noise generated a small positive impact on Cumulative Tariff Scores, when adjusted for sociodemographic factors.

This report resonates with earlier qualitative findings showing that taking part in Big Noise increases confidence, broadens aspiration, and develops resilience, based on the strong and long-term relationships that develop between participants and staff musicians.

Chris Harkins of GCPH presenting 2022 evaluation findings at launch event in Raploch. Photo: Big Noise.

Chris Harkins, Public Health Programme Manager at GCPH and the author of the report, said, “These findings are important because they represent our first analysis of long-term outcomes among Big Noise participants… As the pupils approach school-leaving age, Big Noise staff have worked intensively alongside schools to promote positive destinations after secondary school. This has now been borne out in the educational statistics we have analyzed… The latest findings… are positive, and further show that Big Noise has clear preventative impacts.”

William Stewart, a former participant at Big Noise Raploch, said, “Joining Big Noise really had a domino effect on my life. Big Noise was the first domino to fall, which led to playing the cello, and that led to performing, acting, panto, musical theatre, and everything else. If that first domino hadn’t fallen, nothing else would have. I would never have had that outlet for creative expression, I wouldn’t have had that confidence, and I wouldn’t have gained those transferable personal skills. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t been part of the program from a young age.”

Earlier Evaluation

This evaluation is built on the foundation of years of partnership between GCPH and Sistema Scotland. GCPH has been leading the independent evaluation of Sistema Scotland since 2013 and has committed to doing so over the life-course of Big Noise programs.

Central to the learning from earlier evaluation reports is that Big Noise outcomes are created by consistently delivering intervention shaped by seven principles. In turn, these principles generate seven impact pathways.

These pathways have been evidenced across the Big Noise programs by prior GCPH evaluation, such as the 2019 consolidating report People Change Lives.

Seven Delivery Principles. Big Noise program outcomes are built on:

  1. Longevity and commitment
  2. Quality relationships
  3. Inclusivity and accessibility
  4. Intensity and immersion
  5. Innovation and flexibility
  6. Collective and cooperative learning
  7. Excellence, aspiration, and inspiration

Seven Impact Pathways. These delivery principles manifest along seven impact pathways:

  1. Boosting engagement with education
  2. Developing and consolidating life skills
  3. Securing emotional wellbeing
  4. Building social skills and networks
  5. Respite and protection
  6. Developing participants as musicians
  7. Encouraging healthy behaviors

The latest evaluation report focused on the first pathway generated by Big Noise programs—boosting engagement with education. As the GCPH continues to analyze the outcomes for Big Noise participation, we hope to develop a wealth of data and learning illuminating the full impact of these programs.

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