Ocr Textiles Coursework

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D&T GCSE specifications From September 2017 (England)

There's no one exam board that is better than any other. They all have advantages and disadvantages and a department's choice of specification will depend on lots of different factors. The information below aims to help departments compare the D&T GCSE specifications, along with providing questions that might help teams reflect on what is best for their students. All information and summaries are our opinion only & departments should also do their own comparisons.  

Comparing the learning content in the D&T GCSE specifications

A detailed comparison of the learning content of the D&T GCSE specifications. It’s important to read the ‘About’ page first before using the document. 

Click on the image to download the document
Our document can be used & adapted by teachers in a department but it must not be used in any other way without permission. 

We created this document as part of our work as consultants to help us have an overview for the learning content for the D&T GCSE specifications. We work across all exam boards and needed a quick reference document when planning resources to suit all exam boards rather than having to constantly flick between several large documents. Although not specifically designed for teachers we’ve released it as teachers who have attended our courses have said they have found it useful (it’s most likely to be useful to teachers who have attended our courses as the format links to the way we deliver courses on the D&T GCSE). The ‘About’ page at the beginning of the document gives more detailed information on the document and how it might be used. 

Comparing the approach to the written exams

This document is our one page interpretation of the specs & sample exam papers. This is our opinion only & it’s essential departments do their own comparisons. 

Click on the image to download  the document

Our document can be used & adapted by teachers in a department but it must not be used in any other way without permission. 

  • All written exams are worth 100 marks & count as 50% towards the whole qualification
  • 15% of all written exam MUST be maths based questions (tested at upper KS3 level)
  • Science questions are also compulsory e.g. properties of materials, forces, levers etc.
  • All exams test ‘core’ principles which focus on broader materials and science content. All exams also have sections that focus on the student’s chosen specialist material.
  • Designing has been removed from the exam paper as it is seen as too subjective. This element is now tested in the Non Exam Assessment.
  • OCR (and to a lesser degree AQA and Eduqas) possibly have the most radical approach to the exam. This feels daunting but has its advantages.
  • Some exam boards are more forward thinking about D&T whilst others take a more  traditional approach. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and it is good we have different options moving forward to meet the needs of different students as well as the logistics of different departments.
  • It is important to think about the depth of knowledge required by different exam boards as some have a ‘long and thin’ approach whilst others have a ‘short and fat’ one. This will impact on the course structure and how things are taught. 

Questions to think about when comparing specs & exam papers:

  • Do questions reflect a modern approach to D&T?
  • Which spec integrates NEA knowledge with exam content so students see a link?
  • Are non stereotypical products/images used (especially ones that avoid gender bias)?
  • Do questions default to an RM bias when they could be inclusive of all material areas?
  • Do questions get students to regurgitate knowledge or do they focus on the application & analysis of knowledge?
  • How much ‘in depth’ knowledge of any area do students need to have for the exam? 
  • Which paper layout will suit your students? (e.g. do some papers have more to read than others? Are questions laid out in a logical way? When there’s choice is it obvious what these are & how to respond?)

Comparing the approach to the Non Exam Assessment (NEA)

This document is our one page interpretation of the non exam assessment for all specs. This is our opinion only & it’s essential departments do their own comparisons. 

Click on the image to download  the document

Our document can be used & adapted by teachers in a department but it must not be used in any other way without permission. 

  • NEA is worth 100 marks in total and 50% of the overall qualification
  • NEA is controlled assessment and can’t be taken home (although some specs allow research work to be done at home). The level of support allowed is tight and teachers must read the individual specs for specific details on what teachers can and can’t do e.g. AQA states templates, model answers and writing frames can't be used. 
  • All specs focus on an iterative approach with constant evaluation and testing.
  • Contextual challenges are released on 1st June each year and the NEA can’t be started before this. This is because all qualifications now have to be linear.
  • The contextual challenges will not have a materials focus & can be interpreted in any way. Students have to investigate the challenge and write their own design brief. Although in theory students should be able to interpret their design brief using any material the reality is many will be restricted by the classroom they are based in and the subject specialist they are with. Ideally over time departments will work towards an approach that will provide students with more freedom to use a variety of materials. Over time this broader content approach, and the ability to mix materials in one project, could help break down gender stereotypes surrounding materials and option choices.
  • Photos must be taken during the iterative & making process & of the finished product
  • Students produce a ‘prototype’ which is a highly finished product, made as proof of concept prior to manufacture, Working scale models of a system where a full-size product would be impractical is also allowed.
  • It is important to look at the assessment criteria particularly for OCR and AQA as both use a slightly different approach to the marking for the NEA, including the addition of new assessment sections. OCR’s table format approach is also different to how the other 3 boards layout their criteria but it has some advantages. 

Questions to think about when comparing the approach to the NEA:

  • Which grading approach suits your students best?
  • Which approach helps students understand grading criteria & how to get a high mark?
  • Which spec encourages a more investigative approach to NEA (and therefore a more natural one and one more in line with what D&T is) and a less linear model?
  • What are the implications of the rules for the level of support and feedback for each exam board e.g. for internal target set, data management, reporting?
  • Do you need any further clarification from the exam board about the level of feedback and support you are allowed to give students, particularly in relation to standard systems and procedures that exist in your school?
  • What exemplar work does the exam board have for the NEA? Does it reflect a realistic number of hours of work? Does it accurately reflect the marking criteria?

General things to think about

  • There's only one GCSE qualification called Design & Technology from 2017. The aim is to reflect D&T in the wider world where materials are combined together in products and where classifying materials into separate areas isn’t always helpful or relevant. The GCSE also aims to give a clearer definition of what D&T is to distinguish it more clearly from art and craft (although there will still be strong links and cross overs). 
  • Departments will take a variety of approaches to the GCSE and it does not automatically mean that all teachers need to be specialists in all material areas, nor does it mean that every classroom will have to cater for all specialisms. Some schools will be more radical than others in their approach and it will be up to individual schools to decide what is right for their students. It's likely that over time what departments offer will change as their vision for D&T develops and as staff skills and resources change.
  • Many students are likely to continue to specialise in one material area, with similar course content and set up to what we currently have. Many schools will for example offer options titles such as Design & Technology (Textiles), Design and Technology (Resistant Materials). The key will be that, where possible, departments offer broader opportunities to students who want this and that they aim to develop these opportunities over time for a wider range of students. 
  • The GCSE builds on KS3 and departments are encouraged to see KS3 as an integral part of the GCSE journey. Much of the content that is perceived as ‘new’ is actually already part of the KS3 2014 curriculum so in many cases it is already being taught. There is no reason why teachers have to learn and deliver a lot of new content outside of their specialism if KS3 is used effectively. 
  • The DfE focus is on a rigorous academic curriculum so both exam and coursework content will be challenging across all subjects, not just D&T.  In order to cater for a range of ability levels some elements are likely to feel very challenging.  
  • For the first time it has been recognised that science and maths play a key role in D&T and this is an important positive move to helping others understand what D&T is and how it links traditional ‘academic’ subjects. 
  • The maths content is already taught as part of the maths curriculum (upper end KS3) so D&T teachers don’t need to teach this separately. D&T and maths should work together to identify how they can support each other. 
  • It’s important to see things as part of a longer term plan – a department might choose a specification to meet the current restrictions of staffing, rooming etc. but work towards a different approach longer term.
  • It’s important to consider the range of specifications and not just to go with the board a department has always used. It’s also important to bear in mind that decisions should be based not on what teachers like to teach but on what will be relevant to young people going out into an ever changing high tech world.
  • Some of the broader content may feel like it isn’t relevant to some material areas but much of this is more relevant than it might at first seem, particularly with the changing nature of materials and technologies and how these might develop in the future. It’s natural to compare what we currently teach to the new content, to flag up what we have never taught, or what seems of limited value but, unlike most other curriculum areas, D&T doesn’t stand still so we have to take on board new ideas. This doesn’t make traditional knowledge and skills less relevant.
  • All students have to have a broader materials knowledge as well as specialist knowledge. The key essentials are laid out in the subject content but how each board interprets and examines this, is up to them. Some boards have more of a ‘long and thin’ approach to the learning in that students have to know more about a wider range of materials (the long bit) but with less depth of knowledge (the thin bit). This can feel daunting but it has its advantages especially as much of this can be covered at KS3. Other boards possibly have more of a ‘short and fat’ approach in that there is less broader content (the short bit) but more detailed testing on a specialist material area (the fat bit). Again, both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. 
  • The broader materials focus does not mean students have to be skilled at making products in all materials. The focus is on an understanding of the properties and uses of a broad range of materials. 
  • There is no one material area that should be seen as more or less relevant in the D&T GCSE. The single title qualification embraces all material areas and if any material areas are not available to students this therefore isn’t a true D&T course (don’t forget some of this content could be covered at KS3). 
  • Although staffing, rooming and resources will naturally play an important part in decision making be careful about basing decisions on teacher preferences and other limiting factors. Focus on what is right for students and their futures in 5, 10 and 20 years time in an ever changing technological world.
  • The 2 documents below map the learning content from all 4 specifications against each other. This may help departments compare the learning content and the level of depth that is required. The documents are complex and it’s important to read the information at the front of each one that explains how they have been created. 

Other questions to think about when comparing the specs:

  • Which spec interprets the original Subject Content the best?
  • Which spec is best at modernising D&T?
  • What spec meets the current (and future) needs of your students the best?
  • Which spec gives you the most flexibility to teach your vision of what D&T is?
  • Is the spec content up to date with accurate and contemporary examples?
  • Which spec follows on the best from KS3? 
  • How could content be covered at KS3 to help reduce pressure at KS4?
  • How much content has to be taught and to what level of depth?
  • How much detail in the spec do you want as guidance? Does the detail aid teaching and learning or reduce your flexibility and ability to be creative? 
  • Would a particular spec offer a good short term solution with a department working towards offering something different in the longer term?
  • Which specification flows the best into to A level and other post 16 options?

See the GCSE specifications on the exam board websites

Click on the links below to see the specifications & exam papers

OCR GCSE


Edexcel GCSE


AQA GCSE


Eduqas GCSE

Return to the D&T GCSE main page

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Contact:     Tel 01159 607061    Mob 07972 749240   Email julie@julieboyd.co.uk
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