Design and Technology GCSE Subject Content Published

Published 3rd December 2015

Today the DfE have published the outcomes of its consultation on GCSE reform: design and technology. This includes the final version of the reformed GCSE design and technology subject content. This content informs the writing of the Examination Specifications developed by the Awarding Organisations (AOs).  This process has already begun but now the AOs can complete their proposals, draft versions of which we expect to be able to see sometime in the new year. Subject to them being approved by Ofqual, final specifications should be available to schools around Easter 2016 – allowing over one year for planning and preparation before first teaching in September 2017.

The Association along with other stakeholders has contributed to the development of the subject knowledge and believes that that the revised subject content provides AOs with the stimulus  to develop examination specifications that better meet the needs of young people, employers and the country. The responsibility now lies with them, to grasp the opportunity and make sure that the new specifications reflect developments in the subject. They must set out realistic approaches to designing, encourage design risk taking and innovation, and remove the tyranny of the ubiquitous paper based portfolio required for the non examined assessment component, that has for too long dominated students’ coursework.

The content also informs the provision of the essential associated continued professional development for teachers. The D&T Association will now work with the AOs to make sure that the CPD it is planning for next year, provides schools with the necessary support well in advance of first teaching.

Also published today are the results of the Ofqual consultation into the assessment of GCSE design and technology: Developing GCSEs in design and technology for first teaching in 2017

This confirms that:

  1. The New GCSEs in design and technology will not be tiered.
  2. New GCSEs in design and technology will allocate 50% of total marks to exams, and 50% to non-exam assessment.

They set out the 4 new assessment objectives (AO).  Again, the D&T Association were consulted and some but not all of our advice has been heeded. In particular, the allocation of aspects and their weighting across AO 1-3.   In addition, AO4 refers to design and making principles.   We hold the  view that assessing designing through examinations is not appropriate for a variety of reasons including artificial constraints of time, location, practices that necessarily have to be imposed to facilitate this. 

We think it is a mistake to combine the technical principles with the designing and making principles in AO4. Designing and making is well covered in AOs 1-3 and it is important to have an AO that is clearly focused on the technical principles. This comes back to earlier discussions during the consultation process, referring to the need to clearly demonstrate that the subject has a well-defined epistemological base and the expectation that candidates demonstrate knowledge of this in the GCSE. We can however see that elements of AO3 might be best tested through the exam for example  critiquing.

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