Unpacking the new design and technology GCSE

To prepare for the new design and technology qualifications, we spent a lot of last summer going through the OFQUAL guidance for the new GCSE, and working backwards to prepare the key stage 3 schemes of learning.

Our aim is to give a good background to the core principles in years 7 and 8, supporting the three year GCSE courses that we teach. Year 9 for us is the beginning of the specialist technical knowledge, building on the core principles.

We have five teachers in our school with material specialisms in product design, textiles, resistant materials and food. We are teaching the new food GCSE, the new design and technology GCSE and technical awards in materials technology and fashion. We're hoping to introduce a technical award in visual communication the following year, to further widen our subject base.

To ensure that our subject knowledge is up to date, we've developed a network of teachers in both our own and other schools, and are putting together a timetable of self-led CPD to ensure we all have the basics of the core knowledge. We've made links with our mathematics and science departments to support the crossover content. We're also making good use of STEM Learning’s CPD - three of us have booked on different courses so far this year!

What have been the challenges for your department?

We teach a three year course and preparing year 9 students for the new GCSE, whilst waiting for specifications to be finalised, has been a challenge. There has also been a need to rapidly update our key stage 3 curriculum, which made our summer term busier than ever.

What approach will your department take to teaching the new content?

Our aim is to cover as much of the core material during year 8 as possible - we're really working on making key stage 3 count. For the students taking the GCSE route, our specialist teachers have produced short units of work for year 9, allowing students to upskill with whichever teacher they have on their timetable - we aren't always able to swap teachers in, but we have a relatively open-door approach, and welcome questions from students from other groups.

What opportunities do you think that the new curriculum will provide your school?

Endless ones! I'm looking forward to seeing students being able to move off in more and more personalised directions, taking the contextual briefs and really making them their own. I think the ability to draw on their own knowledge and interests, and skills that overlap other areas of design and technology, will see the outcomes getting better and better over the coming years.

I'm really hoping all of this effort will be the kick start to a much more collaborative way of teaching and planning - I'd like to see everyone sharing what they know and supporting each other as much as possible.

About the author

Lucy Spencer is head of department at The Deepings School in Peterborough. You can find her on Twitter here.

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