Response to DfE consultation on D&T GCSE content (part 3)


Part 1 of this series of posts focused on the general questions at the beginning of the consultation document and then on the content of the Technical Knowledge and Understanding section of the content. Part 2 examined the Designing and making principles section of the content. In this third post we’ll consider the first appendix which outlines Links to Mathematics and Science.


  1. Is the revised GCSE content in design and technology appropriate? Please consider:
  • Whether the amount of content in the qualification is appropriate and, if not, whether you have any suggestions for removing or adding content

CONCERNING LINKS TO MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE (Appendix 1)

We welcome the requirement to use of mathematics and science in students’ work in design & technology alongside the other subjects mentioned in paragraph 2.

There are three reasons why it is important that students are able to use their knowledge from science and mathematics in design & technology:

  1. To enhance their understanding of the knowledge base of the subject
  2. To inform and justify their own design and making decisions
  3. To evaluate/critique the design decisions of others

With these purposes in mind, we think the table presented in Appendix 1 while providing useful examples may in fact limit the extent to which students are enabled to use science and mathematics in design & technology.

We propose two possible alternatives to the table provided in Appendix 1.

The first, which we prefer, is based around a set of statements as opposed to a table of examples and provides the necessary specificity without the limitations of the particular examples currently presented in Appendix 1

The second alternative, which we include because we suspect that the DfE may require a more formal subject mapping, is a table that starts with the content of design & technology and identifies the broad areas of National Curriculum science and mathematics that are relevant to those as opposed to starting with the science and mathematics and finding aspects of D&T to match, which seems to be the approach driving Appendix 1. This will help in avoiding a situation where there is token use of science and mathematics ‘just for the sake of it’.

We’d be really interested to hear views on the comparative (and absolute…) merits and weaknesses of these proposals.

Links to Mathematics and science: Proposal 1

Through their work in design and technology students must apply relevant knowledge, skills and understanding from key stage 3 and 4 courses in the sciences and mathematics. They should use the metric and International System of Units (SI) system but also be aware that some materials and components retain the use of imperial units. They should know the use of prefixes and powers of ten for orders of magnitude (e.g. tera (1012), giga (109), mega (106), kilo (103), centi (10-2), milli (10-3), micro (10-6) and nano (10-9)).

Students should, where it informs their designing, making and technical knowledge:

  1. Devise scientific investigations and collect data to inform their design decisions
  2. Use data from investigations by others including that obtained by large-scale data mining to inform their design decisions
  3. Collect data through observing, recording, questioning, interviewing and apply statistical techniques such as averaging, means, distributions, scatter-grams, probability to understand users needs and wants to inform their design decisions.
  4. Use knowledge of algebraic formulae to understand the performance of structures, mechanisms, electrical circuits, electronic circuits, and programmable circuits and make decisions about key features in their own designs
  5. Use knowledge of the physical and chemical properties of matter to understand the behaviour of structural and mechanical components and make decisions about their composition in their own designs
  6. Use knowledge of translation, reflection, rotation and tessellation to develop patterns and manipulate structural forms in their own designs.
  7. Use knowledge of 2D and 3D geometry to understand the form of structures and make decisions about key features in their own designs
  8. Use graphical techniques to understand the form and function of structures and make decisions about key features in their own designs
  9. Use arithmetic techniques to cost their design proposals.

Links to Mathematics and science: Proposal 2

Through their work in design and technology students must apply relevant knowledge, skills and understanding from key stage 3 and 4 courses in the sciences and mathematics. They should use the metric and International System of Units (SI) system but also be aware that some materials and components retain the use of imperial units. They should know the use of prefixes and powers of ten for orders of magnitude (e.g. tera (1012), giga (109), mega (106), kilo (103), centi (10-2), milli (10-3), micro (10-6) and nano (10-9)).

Ref D&T Subject content Applicable maths and science content
Technical Knowledge and Understanding: Materials and structure
1.1 Categorisation of a range of materials including: paper and card, fabrics, metals, timbers and timber products, polymers, composites, modern and smart materials, and the knowledge that different materials have different properties including mechanical, thermal, electrical, magnetic, optical, chemical, and sensory. Describe metals and non-metals and explain the differences between them on the basis of their characteristic physical and chemical properties

Describe the conditions which cause corrosion and the process of corrosion and oxidisation

Describe the composition of some important alloys in relation to their properties and uses

Compare quantitatively the physical properties of glass and clay ceramics, polymers, composites and metals, explain how the properties of materials are related to their uses and select appropriate materials given details of the usage required

Describe and compare the nature and arrangement of chemical bonds in ionic compounds, simple molecules, giant covalent structures, polymers and metals

1.2 The way in which the selection of materials is influenced by functional, aesthetic, availability, cost and ethical factors Describe the basic principles in carrying out a life-cycle assessment of a material or product

Translate information between graphical and numeric form

1.3 Use their knowledge of stock forms, types and sizes to calculate and determine the quantity of materials required. Recognise and use expressions in decimal and standard form

Calculation of area and volume

1.4 The impact of forces and stresses on materials and objects and the ways in which materials can be reinforced and stiffened Forces: associated with deforming objects; stretching and squashing – springs; with rubbing and friction between surfaces, with pushing things out of the way; resistance to motion of air and water

Forces measured in newtons, measurements of stretch or compression as force is changed

Technical Knowledge and Understanding: Achieving function
2.1 How mechanical and electrical power is stored in order to choose and use appropriate sources of power to make products and systems work Describe the main energy sources available for use on Earth (including fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, bio-fuel, wind, hydro- electricity, the tides and the Sun), compare the ways in which they are used and distinguish between renewable and non- renewable sources
2.2 The functions of mechanical devices, to produce different sorts of movement, changing the magnitude and direction of forces Describe examples in which forces cause rotation; define and calculate the moment of the force in such examples and explain how levers and gears transmit the rotational effects of forces
2.3 How electronic systems provide functionality to products, including: switches and sensors to respond to a variety of input signals and devices to produce a range of outputs including light, sound and motion Recall that current (I) depends on both resistance (R) and potential difference (V) and the units in which these are measured; recall and apply the relationship between I, R and V, and that for some resistors the value of R remains constant but that in others it can change as the current changes; explain the design and use of circuits to explore such effects – including for lamps, diodes, thermistors and LDRs.

Calculate the currents, potential differences and resistances in DC series circuits; represent them with the conventions of positive and negative terminals, and the symbols that represent common circuit elements, including diodes, LDRs and thermistors.

2.4 The use of microcontrollers and coding to embed functionality into products in order to enhance and customise their operation Understand how numbers can be represented in binary, and be able to carry out simple operations on binary numbers [for example, binary addition, and conversion between binary and decimal].
Technical Knowledge and Understanding: Critique
3.1 The impact on industry, enterprise, sustainability, people, culture, society and the environment of new and emerging technologies, production techniques and systems Presentation of data, diagrams, bar charts and histograms.

Plot, draw and interpret appropriate graphs

3.2 How the critical evaluation of new and emerging technologies, in contemporary and potential future scenarios, from different perspectives, such as ethics and the environment, informs design decisions Presentation of data, diagrams, bar charts and histograms.

Plot, draw and interpret appropriate graphs

3.3 That alternative processes can be used to manufacture products to different scales of production and require critical evaluation Translate information between graphical and numeric form
Designing and making principles: Generating design ideas
1.2 Identify and understand client and user needs through the collection of primary and secondary data Presentation of data, diagrams, bar charts and histograms.

Plot, draw and interpret appropriate graphs

1.4 Investigate factors, such as social and economic challenges, in order to identify opportunities and constraints that influence the processes of designing and making Presentation of data, diagrams, bar charts and histograms.

Plot, draw and interpret appropriate graphs

Designing and making principles: Developing and communicating design ideas
2.3 Develop, communicate, record and justify design ideas, applying suitable techniques, for example: formal and informal 2D and 3D drawing; system and schematic diagrams; annotated sketches; exploded diagrams; models; presentations; written notes; working drawings; schedules; audio and visual recordings; mathematical modelling; computer-based tools Visualise and represent 2D and 3D forms including two dimensional representations of 3D objects

Plot, draw and interpret appropriate graphs

Use ratios, fractions and percentages

Use angular measures in degrees

Calculate areas of triangles and rectangles, surface areas and volumes of cubes

Designing and making principles: Making design ideas
3.1 Select and work with appropriate materials and components in order to produce at least one prototype and/or product. In doing so, demonstrate an understanding of the physical and working properties of materials; the source and origin of materials; and the ecological and social footprint of materials Describe metals and non-metals and explain the differences between them on the basis of their characteristic physical and chemical properties

Describe the conditions which cause corrosion and the process of corrosion and oxidisation

Describe the composition of some important alloys in relation to their properties and uses

Compare quantitatively the physical properties of glass and clay ceramics, polymers, composites and metals, explain how the properties of materials are related to their uses and select appropriate materials given details of the usage required

Describe and compare the nature and arrangement of chemical bonds in ionic compounds, simple molecules, giant covalent structures, polymers and metals

Describe the basic principles in carrying out a life-cycle assessment of a material or product

3.2 Use appropriate and accurate marking out methods including: measuring and use of reference (and datum) points, lines and surfaces; use templates, jigs and/or patterns; work within tolerances; understand efficient cutting and how to minimise waste Use angular measures in degrees
3.5 Understand and use appropriate surface treatments and finishes for functional and aesthetic purposes Describe the conditions which cause corrosion and the process of corrosion and oxidisation

[Note that those D&T subject content statements where we are not proposing links to maths and science content do not appear in this table.]

Part 4 of this series of posts has now been published and looks at the proposed contextual challenges in appendix 2.

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