Response to DfE consultation on D&T GCSE content (part 4)

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. Part 3 looked at the first appendix in the consultation which outlines Links to Mathematics and Science. This fourth and last post considers the second consultation Appendix which describes the proposed Contextual Challenges that will form the basis of the non-examined Assessment (NEA).

We’ll be putting up a further post to share our views on the linked Ofqual consultation about how the new D&T GCSE should be examined.

  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


We have two concerns. The first is that the number of contextual challenges to be offered in a specification is limited to three whereas eight possible challenges are listed in Appendix 2. We think it is important that schools have as wide a range to choose from as possible even though it is likely that any one school will only make a selection (say three or four) available to its students. This will allow schools to match the contextual challenges chosen to the ethos of the school, the concerns of its community, including industry partners and the expertise of its staff. Further we would want Awarding Organisations to have, over time, the freedom to extend the list of contextual challenges.

Our second concern is that there is insufficient explanation of the nature of the individual challenges – they are presented as little more than titles. We suggest that some indication of possible outcomes is given, as indicated below:

Extending human capacity. Possible outcomes could include: exploration, such as remotely controlled devices to visit, record data and/or take samples from a range of hostile/distant environments; to enable human beings to perform beyond their current capacity both physically and cognitively;

Responding to the unexpected. Possible outcomes could include: the provision of short/medium term shelter, clean drinking water and communication with the outside world;

Improving living and working spaces (environments and objects). Possible outcomes could include: models for elements of intelligent sustainable living, working, social, leisure and civic spaces; objects (products and systems) to improve or enhance the functional, emotional or aesthetic experience, physical comfort in a variety of situations or emotional security in times of stress; inclusive design;

Securing the future. Possible outcomes could include: safe disposal of objects or substances; minimising waste; utilization of waste; elimination of waste; systems to help individuals, small communities and/or business to reduce their carbon footprint;

Protecting people and products. Possible outcomes could include: individual protection for people in different situations (leisure pursuits, different occupations, travelling); protecting possessions from theft; keeping individuals or groups free from harm; tamper proof packaging; personal protective equipment and clothing;

Promoting health and wellbeing. Possible outcomes could include: systems and devices to be used in the wild, in rural areas, in urban areas, and be concerned with individuals, groups and/or communities; sports or fitness aids; improving the health and hygiene of individuals and communities; to include as many people as reasonably possible, in the design of products and systems (e.g. consider visual, cognitive, motor impairment, etc.);

Expressing personal and social identity. Possible outcomes could include: apparel, adornments, accessories and/or cosmetics in the context of occasion, culture or personal intent; artefacts linked to social and cultural events;

Developing communities. Possible outcomes could include: facilitating disadvantaged communities to develop; encourage self-help and sustainable solutions to real-life problems; develop social and community cohesion; encourage and support leisure and tourism; inclusive design;

We feel these added descriptors are helpful in guiding Awarding Bodies about the nature of the kinds of task that candidates might undertake and they emphasise that any of the contextual challenges can be approached from any of the traditional D&T material areas as well as, we hope increasingly, by combining materials from these areas.

There is a further section of the consultation that asks:

Equalities Impact

In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, public bodies must have “due regard”, when making decisions, to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations, in relation to relevant protected characteristics. It would therefore be very helpful to understand if, in your view, there is any potential for the subject content to have a disproportionate impact upon any student with relevant protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It would be particularly helpful to understand if any respondents have evidence to support concerns they may have about such impacts.

  1. Do you think that the proposal has the potential to have a disproportionate impact, positive or negative, on specific students, in particular those with ‘relevant protected characteristics’? (The relevant protected characteristics are disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.) Please provide evidence to support your response.
  1. How could any adverse impact be reduced and how could the subject content of the GCSE be altered to better advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who do not share it? Please provide evidence to support your response.

We don’t have any comment to make on these questions, but will be interested to hear if colleagues feel that there are any disproportionate impacts of the kind described – and, if so, how these might be reduced.


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