Will your year 8 students be ready in time for the new GCSE?

Published 3rd December 2015

Andy Mitchell reflects on why it is important that key stage 3 courses are developed in readiness for the new Food preparation and nutrition in 2016 and D&T examination courses starting in 2017.

The consultation on the revised GSCE Design and Technology subject content closes on 26th August 2015.  In due course the DfE will publish its findings and the final documents that Awarding Organisations (AOs) will use to develop their new examination specifications for first teaching in September 2017.  We already know about the arrangements for food technology with the decision having been made about the new title Food preparation and nutrition, new content and specifications for first teaching in September 2016.

Perhaps one of the most important features of the PoS is that they put down a marker for the subject.  They provide a revised definition of exactly what D&T is and the purpose behind all young people studying it.  Obviously this is affecting what the post 14 D&T examination courses will include.

In terms of food technology and its place within the PoS, the D&T Association successfully argued to retain food as a material to use when designing an making and did not agree with separating out the content under the heading Cooking and nutrition.  But the decision to remove the use of food at GCSE D&T has been made by DfE and this will undoubtedly impact on the nature of food technology work at KS3, with schools gearing their food teaching toward the examination requirements.

For those schools that teach GCSE, although we do not yet have all the detail, there are a number of aspects representing good D&T teaching and learning that we can be fairly confident will be present in the new specifications.

For example, we know that there will be a single title D&T GCSE with no endorsed routes. With respect to designing and making tasks we know that this will be known as non-examined assessment (NEA) and will probably consist of one designing and making project that will students will be set approximately half way through their two year course. This will probably require students to explore a given context from which they will develop their own brief.

Students will need to be familiar with a wider range of materials and their properties, the use of mechanical devices, and including having a basic knowledge and understanding of how electronics systems work including the use of programmable components. The latter is perhaps the single feature that is causing most concern in many school but represent less of a challenge  to schools, if over the past 2 years they have been developing their schemes of work to cover the KS3 PoS requirements.

The AOs will need to change the way designing and making are assessed - perhaps this is the most exciting opportunity the reform brings. The new requirement for students to understand and apply iterative design processes to explore, create and evaluate a range of outcomes is significant. The use of these approaches and how they are to be evidenced for assessment purposes requires a rethink of current assessment methodology. We really hope that AOs grasp this opportunity and develop their assessment requirements to reflect the spirit of the document.

Undoubtedly, the new GCSEs will require schools to change what they do and this will mean an investment in time and in some cases resources – both commodities that are frequently in short supply. The D&T Association will be developing various support and resources to support teachers in the forthcoming months. It also provides subject leaders with a strong case for requesting new resources.

The current year 8 students (year 9 in the case of Food, cooking and nutrition) will be the first cohort to study the new GCSEs. It follows that we need to be addressing now what changes might need to be made in key stage 3 teaching to prepare them best.

A longer version of this article will be published in the autumn term issue of D&T Practice

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