The opportunities and challenges of the new design and technology GCSEs

Calthorpe Park School design and technology

There are only a few months until the changes to the design and technology GCSEs will be implemented. Preparing new and effective Schemes of Work can be challenging. To help, we chatted to David Hainsworth, a Head of Department at Calthorpe Park School, who discussed how their department is preparing for the changes.

Our department has five full-time teaching staff, currently offering GCSEs in resistant materials, systems and control, graphics, and food. Under the new curriculum we will be offering GCSE’s in food preparation and nutrition and design and technology. We will also be considering Technical Awards when more information becomes available.

We have just started a three year GCSE programme so our current Year 9’s will be the first to take the new GCSE. My current Year 9’s are doing three rotations this year, a term each in resistant materials, systems and control and graphics to build up knowledge in all areas of design and technology.

In Years 10 and 11 they will spend more time in their favourite option, e.g. resistant materials, but will still rotate through the other two areas, i.e. systems and control and graphics, to keep that breadth of knowledge in preparation for the exam.

I am planning for my pupils final year projects to include components from at least two areas e.g. instead of just making a bedside table (resistant materials) it would include programmable mood lighting (systems) or an advertising brochure (graphics).

For our pupils, we are expecting that the new design and technology GCSE will provide a wider breadth of knowledge and the chance to experiment and learn about all of the subject areas.

Although I am lucky to have a team of teachers that are flexible, we do have particular specialisms that we have expert knowledge in and are comfortable teaching in, so to begin with pupils will rotate to a particular teacher to learn about a particular area. However, I am planning to bring in some team teaching so teachers within my department can sit in and learn more about the other areas within design and technology.

What is your department doing to prepare for the new curriculum?

To prepare for the new curriculum, I have been on courses at the National STEM Learning Centre in York (which are fully funded and very informative) and have attended awarding body meetings on the new curriculum and main changes. I relay the information gathered to my department and Senior Leadership Team in meetings. We have started to review all of our current projects in both key stages 3 and 4 to see what we need to adapt and add to satisfy the new curriculum.

As a department, the key challenge for us is time. There is lots to do with reviewing current projects and developing new Schemes of Work. We are also working hard to communicate with other subject teachers. Many colleagues are amazed to hear that we will have an exam worth 50%, mathematics will account for 15% of the exam, and the making part of the pupil’s final year project will only be worth 15% of their overall grade.

What opportunities do you think that the new design and technology GCSE will provide?

For our pupils, we are expecting that the new design and technology GCSE will provide a wider breadth of knowledge and the chance to experiment and learn about all of the subject areas. I have told the students that they need to be good “all-rounders” and not to have a fixed mind-set of just wanting to work within one area. So far some of my pupils are very excited, others are a little more apprehensive, so time will tell! Personally I’m keeping positive and trying to plan to the best of my abilities to make the new curriculum a success within my school.

Some ideas to get you started

In preparation, David has created some resources to use for a festival project as part of his Year 9 Scheme of Work.

In May and July 2017, STEM Learning is running Preparing to teach the new design and technology GCSEs. This two-day course will support your department to implement the new GCSE from September 2017.

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