Design and Technology GCSE Review update

Published 3rd December 2015

The DfE have announced today that it has changed the proposed date for first teaching of the new Design and Technology GCSE examination courses from September 2016.  This delay is to allow further time for the development - firstly of the Subject Content and also the revised Assessment Objectives.  First teaching will now be from September 2017 with first examination in summer 2019. The announcement can be viewed here

Hear from Andy Mitchell on the update here.

This is good news. A great deal of work has been done to develop the new Subject Content, which informs the writing of the Specifications by Awarding Organisations (AOs), but to complete the task in the time available has proved very challenging. As is always the case with curriculum and examination developments, the Department for Education (DfE) plans for documentation relating to significant reform, to be with schools preferably at least a year before implementation. It is anticipated that the delay of one year will allow for this and also ease the pressure with respect to both development and implementation. We can take this as the DfE wanting to get right any changes that are necessary.

Food technology

No announcement has been made as to the proposed implementation of a new GCSE to replace Food Technology, referred to as Cooking and Nutrition in the Draft Subject Content. The D&T Association continues to have serious reservations over the change that effectively removes food technology from the D&T curriculum at KS4 as a material with which students can design and make.  It recognises the views of many of its members who objected to this change. We will continue to explore ways in which food technology can be taught. The substantial response made to the DfE during the recent consultation, details our concern. We await with interest how AOs will interpret whatever the new requirements are in the subsequent specifications.

On-going review process

The DfE and Ofqual ran public consultations in the 2014 autumn term.  These were were supported by the D&T Association running six consultation events, at which we were able to collect the views of over 250 members. These helped inform the response the D&T Association submitted which was also made public on our website. Since then, the DfE have considered the responses from stakeholder organisations, institutions and individuals which are informing the developments to the draft proposal. The D&T Association has continued discussion with DfE and been kept informed of progress.

It is widely recognised that this review provides a much needed opportunity to modernise the subject at both GCSE and GCE level and make a difference to the D&T experience young people have.  This view was widely supported by members and others that we have spoken to over the past months. This development follows on from and builds upon the recently implemented changes to the National Curriculum D&T programmes of study, which have been well received in schools. The D&T Association made a significant contribution in the writing of these and wishes to make an on-going contribution to curriculum reform. We believe this will require involvement in a series of further meetings with stakeholders and AOs to build on the progress that has already been made. There is already significant agreement on for example, changes to the way design processes are both taught and assessed and also the nature and in particular the use of contexts as starting points for designing and making activity. 

Design and technology perhaps more than any other subject has a rapidly developing body of knowledge on which D&T activity draws. This is one of its attractions for young people who relate particularly well for example to the use of digital technologies. This is in part why the redefining of the subject and its assessment at Key Stage 4 has presented additional challenges compared to the review of other subjects.  In addition, assessment of students’ D&T capability has always been controversial. The models used have not helped the subject’s development and have contributed to the application of an artificial approach to the process of product development that misrepresents genuine D&T activity. For these reasons, those who have been involved in the process so far are in agreement that a delay of one year is a prudent course of action.

Single or multiple titles

One of the decisions still needing to be made concerns the number of D&T titles. In line with simplifying qualifications, the move to slim down the number will certainly lead to a reduction from the current list of seven.  Now with food being addressed under its own heading and having its discrete Subject Content published separately, it remains to be seen how best the subject’s breadth can be accommodated. The D&T Association together with others has advised that continuing to subdivide D&T (which is the subject) into discrete material specific examination specifications is not in the best interests of D&T nor does it enable it to meet its purpose. This was defined most recently in the National Curriculum and the Draft Subject Content.  Rather it believes that it is necessary to develop a model that allows students to make use of whatever materials and processes are most appropriate to the challenge in hand. At the same time it would be perfectly possible for students to pursue the development of specialist knowledge as appropriate.

A level

Comparatively little attention has so far been given to addressing the review of A level as priority was given to GCSE first. This delay will help ensure the timelines are aligned and GCSE provides an appropriate basis on which A level builds.

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