The benefits of teaching maths with art and design

Derek Johnson, Director of the School of Art and Design at West Suffolk College, on how embedding maths into art and design teaching opens wonderful creative doorways:

“Anybody who works in further education (FE) in 2016 will be only too aware of the focus on English and maths. As the Director of a school of art and design with over 400 FE students, I often feel that a huge part of my and my team’s working life is taken over by chasing attendance and achievement in Functional Skills and GCSE. Our funding depends on it, the shadow of Ofsted looms over it, and our overall quality seems to be determined by it. In short, it’s a big deal…a really big deal!

I hear a lot of negativity from parts of the sector, some students and even parents. Let us take a step back though…before this drive we had students leaving education without a chance to improve their English and maths skills or grades. In fact, there was a culture where English and maths were even seen as something totally unconnected to art and design. However, I believe that if approached with an open mind and positive ambitions, the change can improve the quality of education and, in turn, the futures for our students.

The changes over the past few years have made us think, pushed us to revaluate how we deliver our programmes and construct our timetable. It has been a challenge to say the least. In our Art School at West Suffolk College, we have embraced the change and raised standards of technical and creative skills as a result.

Mathematical drawings are influencing and informing our students’ 3D assignments. One exercise involves mapping fir cones according to the Fibonacci sequence, then measuring the geography of the subsequent drawing through a study of coastline fractals using dividers made with cocktail sticks and liquorish strips. The work of mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot (1967) is a wonderful contextual reference for this and the resulting designs become powerful building block for architectural concepts. The process involves demanding mathematical systems – but it is genuinely loved by our students.

Embedding maths in art pine cone image

Mapping fir cones according to the Fibonacci sequence


At our school we have gone one step further by developing an in-house award called the ‘MARS Award’ (Maths, Art, Religion, Science). This grew from a project we did in 2013 when a Level 3 assignment based on the Hindu god of Shiva and the CERN Large Hadron Collider went internationally viral – it was really crazy! Since then all our FE students in term 2 undertake the MARS project, which embraces all the wonders of the wider world into a rich and powerful set of assignments. We work collaboratively with our science school and there are winners on each course and then an overall winner – judged by an invited panel. The award was won in 2016 by Lauren Jones, a second year Level 3 Graphic Design student who explored the periodic table through religion, mathematics and reinventing the symbols as a result. Incredibly sophisticated work – all a result of enjoying the opportunity of DfE changes.”

Want to find out more? Derek Johnson will be a facilitator at our Teaching Maths and Art continuing professional development event on 20 February 2017.

A day in the life of a FAD student

The UAL Awarding Body team learnt first-hand what it’s like for students taking their qualifications, when they went back to college for the day. The team spent Friday 7 October being Foundation Diploma in Art & Design (FAD) students at Central Saint Martins (CSM).

The team-building day was designed to help staff to better understand the needs and priorities of UAL Awarding Body’s customers and students. Led by Associate Lecturers Georgia Steele and Alaistair Steele and Chris Roberts (Programme Director for FAD at CSM), the team engaged in a range of typical activities that CSM’s FAD students are set, including: object-based learning, prototyping and drawing and design. The day culminated in each team member designing their own object and selecting a specialist pathway with the support and advice of teaching staff. Chris Roberts, CSM’s Programme Director for FAD explained:

It was a pleasure to devise a schedule for this staff development day for the UAL Awarding Body team. Knowing that the levels of experience would vary we tried to use activities and objectives that where achievable by all but that were very much in the spirit of the foundation course. We adapted existing projects and attempted to give the staff a realistic view of how a Foundation student at Central Saint Martins would approach their learning experience.

For many team members, this was their first experience of post-16 art and design education. Summing up the day, UAL Awarding Body’s Director Ross Anderson said:

I really wanted to help everybody at UAL Awarding Body to understand what our tutors and students do every day, and to appreciate some of the things that are particular to a high quality arts education. The better we understand our tutors and students, the better we can support them and ensure they have a great experience with us. Also, I thought it would be great fun, and thanks to Chris, Georgia and Alaistair, it definitely was!

Thanks again to the CSM FAD team for an insightful and enjoyable day! You can view a selection of photographs from the day below…

DSC_0063 IMG_9961 IMG_9908 IMG_9898 IMG_9744 IMG_0640 IMG_0013 DSC_0188 DSC_0157 DSC_0125 DSC_0072

All photos by Anuka Ramisch.

Successes for deaf students studying at City College Brighton


Four students from Hamilton Lodge, a school for deaf and hearing-impaired children in Brighton, have excelled on the UAL Awarding Body Level 2 Creative Media Production & Technology course since moving into mainstream education at City College Brighton and Hove.

Oliver Chettle, Louie Sivyer, James Blake and Aaron Cuff all achieved Distinctions for their stand-out work including a modern-day recreation of the famous chase scene from ‘Brighton Rock’. Oliver, whose work was recently exhibited at UAL Awarding Body’s Origins 2016 exhibition, was also named as the college’s ‘Digital Arts City Achiever’.

“It’s fantastic news that all four of us got Distinction grades on our course,” says Oliver. “I loved the course, particularly the photography unit. I think because I am deaf, I’m used to seeing everything around me in more detail maybe, than a hearing person. I’m not distracted by noise around me so I can really focus on my work. Maybe it’s the same for the others. The teaching staff and my student support worker have been fantastic. The City College staff are very deaf-friendly and inclusive and they really helped me settle in and work with hearing students too which was good because it took me out of my comfort zone and helped my confidence.”

Course tutor Jim Lee added “The four students from Hamilton Lodge who studied on the Level 2 Creative Media course this year were a joy to work with. They’ve all shown an incredible thirst for learning and a creativity and flair in everything they’ve done. They’ve also made outstanding projects both during the year and for their final pieces and are all now in a great position to move forward to higher level courses”.

Image: Hamilton Lodge students with tutors. Courtesy of City College Brighton

New Level 4 Professional Diploma in Technical & Production Practice for the Creative Industries


UAL Awarding Body’s first Professional Diploma qualification has now been accredited by Ofqual. The specification for the Level 4 Professional Diploma in Technical & Production Practice for the Creative Industries is now available on our website.

The UAL Level 4 Professional Diploma in Technical & Production Practice for the Creative Industries has been designed to provide students with the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to work in the production arts industry. It is a one year qualification designed to be a fast track into employment and will open up the possibility of further progression into Higher Education.

The qualification will be piloted in 2016/7 by the new National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries.

About the Professional Diplomas
UAL Professional Diplomas are specialist technical qualifications which provide vocational learning at Level 4. They are developed in collaboration with Creative and Cultural Skills and representatives from industry, universities, further education colleges and employers to meet the Occupational Standards for the sector.

For more information please see the qualification specification. If you are  interested in delivering the qualification in the 2017/8 academic year, then please registering your interest by sending an email to Kitty Jenkins –

Image: Wimbledon degree show 2011 BA Costume Design, Raechyl Esther – With Wild Ecstasy. Copyright Guy Archera

Certification update – August 2016


This year, students will receive our new and enhanced certificates, with an updated design and printed on higher quality security paper. Each student’s certificate will be delivered to you in a UAL Awarding Body envelope ready to issue or post. We’ve left the envelopes unsealed to allow you to include your own letter and/or marketing material.

Following the successful completion of this year’s external moderation, we have now finalised all results for students on Level 3 qualifications and are pleased to confirm that these have been submitted to UCAS. Results will be made available to universities from Friday 12 August, ahead of A level results day on Thursday 18 August. This process is automatic so Level 3 students will not require certificates to secure university places.

Level 4 results are not processed by UCAS. If any of your Level 4 students have not yet received their qualification certificate and need it to secure a university offer, please contact us directly using the details below and we will provide an official transcript direct to the student and/or university as required.

So far, we have printed 34,000 certificates and most centres will receive their certificates within our published time frame. Due to an earlier technical issue, which is now resolved, we have a slight backlog that we are working hard to clear. We apologise in advance for the any instances where there might be a slight delay.

If you have any urgent requests for certification, for example international students who require them for visa applications, please let us know and we will do our best to prioritise them.

To get in touch, please either email or call us on 0207 514 9851.

Origins 2016 – Winners and photos


This year’s Origins exhibition, held at the Menier Gallery near London Bridge, was a great success. Over 600 people came to view the work of 105 artists from 48 different colleges around the country.

Acclaimed artist Bob and Roberta Smith delivered an impassioned speech about the importance of art in education and society, and handed out prizes to six student for outstanding achievement.

Huge congratulations to all of the artists exhibited, we wish you all the best in your creative futures.

A selection of images can be found on the UAL Awarding Body Facebook page.
This year’s prize winners are as follows:

Level 1 Art, Design & Media – Hemant Bhardwaj, BMet College
Hemant Bhardwaj

Level 2 Art & Design – Charlie Clover, Suffolk New College
Charlie Clover

Level 2 Creative Media – Carla Binder, Canterbury College
Carla Binder

Level 3 Art & Design – Emily Higgs, City College Brighton
Emily Higgs

Level 3 Creative Media – Bradley Cocksedge, West Suffolk College

Foundation Studies – Natasha Parker Edwards, Barton Peveril College
Natasha Parker Edwards

Origins 2016 – you’re invited

Now in its sixth year, Origins is a celebration of the exceptional work being produced by students undertaking UAL Awarding Body qualifications at further education institutions nationwide. 

Origins social

The exhibition showcases work by students studying for UAL Awarding Body’s Creative Media and Art and Design qualifications (including FAD) at Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4. Hundreds of pieces of work were submitted by teachers from the 130+ institutions that deliver UAL Awarding Body qualifications nationwide. The exhibition will feature work by 104 students from institutions across England, plus one from the FLA School of Arts in South Korea. For many of the students, this is the first time they have exhibited outside of a school or college environment.

Origins will run from 27-30 July 2016 at London’s Menier Gallery (closest tubes London Bridge and Borough). The exhibition is free to attend and open to the public at the following times:

  • Wednesday 27 July 2016 (11am-6pm)
  • Friday 29 July 2016 (11am-6pm)
  • Saturday 30 July 2016 (11am-3pm).

We hope to see you there!

Sainsbury Review of Vocational Education and the Post-16 Skills Plan


On Friday 8th July, the Department for Education published the long-awaited Sainsbury Review of Vocational Education, together with their response, the Skills Plan. The Skills Plan accepts the recommendations of the Sainsbury Review and sets out plans for wide-ranging reforms to technical and professional education. These include the introduction of new ‘routes’ through Further Education, including one in ‘creative and design’, and the franchising of each route to a single awarding body.

UAL Awarding Body welcomes the DfE’s desire to improve the qualifications and experiences on offer to young people, and will engage positively with these reforms over the coming months and years. We also look forward to further conversations with the DfE about ‘applied general’ qualifications, the category which all of our Level 3 qualifications fall into.

You can find a summary of the reports on the TES website and you can access the full documents on the website.

Image: Theatre Design, Wimbledon College of Arts. Photo: Ivan Jones

Update to Level 3 qualifications – Total Qualification Time and revised Guided Learning Hours

We recently updated our Level 3 Diploma and Extended Diploma qualifications to include a value for Total Qualification Time (TQT). TQT includes all the time needed to gain a qualification, including teaching (Guided Learning Hours, or GLH), assessment and other study e.g. independent study.

The need for qualifications to have a TQT value is due to Ofqual’s move from the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), which was introduced in October 2015.

The RQF is designed to help people to understand qualifications, providing detail on the challenge and size of each regulated qualification and how it compares in relation to other same level qualifications. It is a single, simple system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by Ofqual. It’s like a bookcase in a library, with qualifications indexed by their ‘level’ and ‘size’. Further information on the changes introduced can be found on the website.

Qualification Level
Levels indicate the difficulty and complexity of the knowledge and skills associated with any qualification. There are eight levels supported by three ‘entry’ levels.

Qualification Size
Size refers to the estimated total amount of time it could typically take to study and be assessed for a qualification. This can be anything from a matter of hours to several years of study and different students can take different amounts of time to study for the same qualification. Size is expressed in terms of Total Qualification Time (TQT). The part of that time typically spent being taught or supervised, rather than studying alone, is known as Guided Learning Hours (GLH).

Revised GLH and new TQT
Ofqual asked all awarding organisations to allocate TQT values for qualifications that have (or are expected to have) tariff points by 30 June 2016. We therefore reviewed the notional learning hours of all UAL Awarding Body Level 3 qualifications, and identified the need for additional GLH for introductory and summative units to be delivered effectively. The grids below summarise the changes and the new TQT for all of our Level 3 qualifications:

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.59.27

The updated specifications are available to view and download online, or you can contact the UAL Awarding Body marketing team to request hard copies:

We will be reviewing the size of our Level 1, 2 and 4 qualifications in the coming months and will assign Total Qualification Time for all the qualifications offered by 1 December 2017.


Revised Level 3 specifications for Music Performance and Production and Fashion Business and Retail


We are currently revising the Level 3 Music Performance and Production specification and the Level 3 Fashion Business and Retail specification.

The new specifications will have external assessment, and all references to it, removed as the qualification will not appear on the Department for Educations’s 16-19 performance tables.

The new version will be available soon and we will notify all centres when they are ready. These new specifications should be used for teaching in September 2016 – please recycle any version 1.0 copies you may have.

If you have any questions, please contact