Examination reform: new single title draft D&T GCSE and A level specifications published

Published 1st June 2016

It has been a long time coming but now at least we have the draft copies of the new single title D&T GCSE and A level specifications for first teaching in September 2016.  Publication follows nearly two years of consideration, including 3 public consultations and face to face meetings with a variety of stakeholders. We are not quite there yet, as the awarding organisation’s submissions are being scrutinised by Ofqual. As yet the D&T Association has been unable to get Ofqual to tell them who Ofqual have appointed as their D&T expert scrutineers. Ofqual just as DfE, have no D&T subject experts in permanent positions of employment.  The D&T Association believes that experts are needed in order for the specifications to be interrogated against the agreed subject content and assessment regulations.  These experts need to be fully conversant with the recent developments in the subject emanating from the review and be familiar with the overall intentions underpinning the reform of D&T examination courses.

As is always the case with the introduction of significant change, there are concerns being expressed as to how to implement the revised examination model.  The move to a single title is a significant development but one that arguably should have happened many years before. This concern is understandable but what has been published, by and large should be no surprise to anyone who has followed the development and agreement of the revised subject content published toward the end of 2015.


The headlines that all specifications address are:

  • A single title GCSE Design and Technology
  • Examination 50% Non Examined Assessment (NEA) 50%
  • A contextual challenge completed by students from 1st June in the year preceding the examination taking approximately 40 hours
  • Subject content organised into Designing principles and Technical Principles
  • The requirement to study the ‘core principles of D&T with in depth knowledge developed in at least one of the main categories of materials
  • An increased focus on iterative design processes and the encouragement of creativity, innovation and risk taking
  • The value of the production of prototypes
  • Mathematics and science content included
  • Mathematics to account for 15% of the marks in examinations.

Quick links

Below are the links to the relevant Awarding Organisations websites where you can download their draft specifications and support materials.

AQA GCSE Design and Technology

Edexcel GCSE Design and Technology

eduqas GCSE Design and Technology

OCR GCSE Design and Technology

A level

The reform of A level has resulted in 3 endorsed titles under the heading Design and Technology.  Whilst each of the titles conforms to the same A level subject content, the 3 different titles allow for specialisation. The titles are:

  • Design engineering
  • Fashion and textiles
  • Product design

Some schools have bemoaned the loss of system and control at A level. Currently only one AO is still offering this at A level and together with the current GCSE titles, this will no longer be available.  Entries for this had been falling with the last two years A2 entry being less than 300 candidates.  It is hoped that the design engineering route will prove attractive to more schools and students and provides a route for those students wishing to develop expertise in electronics and control systems within a design and technology context.

We also welcome the inclusion of an A level route for those students wishing to pursue textiles technology.  The fashion and textiles title builds on the skills, knowledge and understanding within D&T GCSE, which itself provides great opportunity for students to learn about and use textiles when addressing challenges, they are set. The D&T Association is concerned however that some schools are considering changing from GCSE D&T to Art and Design Textiles. It believes that this will not provide the basis on which to study both AS and A2 D&T fashion and textiles.

Quick links

Below you are the links to the relevant Awarding Organisations websites where you can download their draft specifications and support materials.

AQA As and A2 Design and Technology specifications

OCR AS and A2 Design and Technology specifications

Edexcel AS and A2 Design and Technology specifications

eduqas AS and A2 Design and Technology specifications

Exploring the specifications at the D&T Association summer school

Day one of the D&T Association summer school held at WMG Academy for Young Engineers on 7th July 2016, will focus on the new specifications.  All four awarding organisations are attending and will be presenting their individual specifications to delegates assembled together. This will be followed by a presentation from the Association’s executive on resources being produced to support schools with the changes during the next year and beyond. In the afternoon, specific workshops have been scheduled, each looking at an aspect of the new requirements and subsequent D&T practice.

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