Today’s the day! Publication of the GCSE Contextual Challenges

Published 1st June 2018

Today sees the much heralded, on social media at least, Non Examined Assessment Contextual Challenges that will be used to assess 50% of the marks for the new single title GCSE Design and Technology (D&T).  Teachers everywhere will be waking up to check on their phones what their chosen Awarding Organisation has come up with and what will provide the focus of their student’s work for the next few months.  Each will publish three. There will be very little detail and some will consist of just a few words.

It’s a big day as it signifies a change in the way we expect young people to develop and demonstrate their design and technology capability.  Some might argue, a development that should have happened many years ago.  The contexts are there simply to provide a stimulus for student’s creativity but above all, provide them with much more ownership of and as a result of interrogating the contexts in a variety of ways, the exact nature of the challenge or tasks they set themselves. The process from start to finish reflects much better that which takes place in the real world, where new products, systems and environments are created and evolved to meet the needs of identified users.

Although there is a degree of apprehension with respect to how it will all work, I have every confidence that D&T teachers will as they always do, ensure that their students approach the tasks in appropriate ways. There is no need to rush. There remains plenty of time between now and mid-spring to build in the approximate 40 hours recommended as a guideline to complete the task. The release date of the 1st June is for teachers and allows them to prepare for presenting the tasks to their students. Most will leave it a little while but it really is up to them.

It’s an exciting day but of course one that carries with it some concerns – as the introduction of anything new in the world of public examination always does. This is largely due to the amount of discussion that has taken place concerning the changes made in the Joint Council for Qualifications  (JCQ) regulations, concerning what is and what is not permissible.  This is with respect to both supporting and subsequently exhibiting student’s outcomes from the NEA. As the deadline for submitting non-examination assessment marks for the GCE and GCSE June 2018 examination series was last month, the JCQ publication Instructions for conducting non-examination assessments for the academic year 2017/18 has now been removed from the JCQ website.

The version for the academic year 2018/19 will be uploaded to the JCQ website within the next two weeks.

 In the past, although schools and teachers have always been cognoscente of the regulations, these have been less exacting and certainly, as we are led to believe, less closely enforced. Let us be under no misunderstanding, Ofqual the regulator working under instruction from the Secretary of State, is intent on ensuring validity of assessment and that regulations are followed. It is absolutely essential that all those involved with teaching and assessing the new GCSE are familiar with these regulations and consult these alongside those provided within each examination specification. The moderation process will seek to identify any misconduct and attempts to unfairly assist candidates through the provision of templates etc.  It’s not complicated. The rules are clear and should provide the answers to most questions that teachers have. Clarification should however always be sought through a school’s Examination and Assessments Officer and if necessary, the Awarding Organisation itself.

Over the past few weeks, the Association has been in conversation with many individuals all expressing a degree of concern as to how regulations are in danger of being breeched in particular through the use of social media and sharing of materials. These have included both representatives of the Awarding Organisations themselves, teachers and senior leaders in schools. In response there have been some very helpful discussions and some significant postings that have helped to clarify the situation. Behind the concern is the possibility that if significant malpractice were to occur, then this vital assessment element of the GCSE could be withdrawn – just as we have seen it removed mid-course from GCSE computing! I have every confidence that the community will of course apply the regulations correctly.  They are by no means unfair and still allow the professional teacher to facilitate their students in demonstrating their very best ability. I very much look forward to seeing the results next year.


Andy Mitchell - Deputy Chief Executive - D&T Association

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