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This year’s Design & Technology GCSE intake is the first cohort to sit the new GCSE. The new qualification is 50% practical and 50% theoretical, with a written exam to be completed at the end of the two-year course.
Having spoken to many different schools, it seems teachers and students are most concerned with the new grading system (moving to 1 to 9 instead of A* to E). But it’s also important to consider the way the exam is dealing with materials.
How material knowledge is being assessed
As before, students need to submit notes about their practical. These must include sketches, ideas around costings and, crucially, details and justifications for materials used. This means that students must be fully aware of the pros and cons of every material they select, and able to justify their choices.
The written exam at the end of the course will also contain questions around materials, meaning students must have a comprehensive knowledge of different materials and their uses.
Focus on specialist processes and tools
Marks on the practical include an assessment of quality, which means use of specialist processes, tools and equipment, and the viability of the final product. Students, therefore, must be confident working with a wide range of materials and must understand the appropriate processes for different kinds of wood.
Examiners will be particularly looking for skills in creating complex and curved shapes. Students who create curved projects (such as rounded chairs or rocking chairs) and demonstrate capabilities in shaping will likely excel in this area.
Choosing the best materials
D&T teachers should not only concentrate on encouraging students to work with and learn about a variety of materials, but they should also offer materials that enable students to create the kind of work examiners are looking for.
Birch, flexi plywood and flexi MDF help students to demonstrate a variety of skills. The birch plywood (for example 0.8mm and 1.5mm thickness) is incredibly thin so can be shaped easily and laminated up to the desired thickness. This means they’re great for curved projects and allow students to showcase both lamination and shaping skills.
The Flexi Ply is available in 3mm, 5mm and 8mm and the Flexi MDF comes in 6mm and 9mm but due to the nature of their construction both are easily bent to very small radius. Again this makes them ideal for demonstrating specialist skills.
Make the most of your budget
Encourage students to mock up their designs using poplar plywood rather than birch or flexi plywood. Although poplar is too thick for complex curves, it’s great for prototyping because it has a lower density therefore easier to laser cut.
Also look to purchase partial sheets of materials to make your budget go further. For example, instead of buying an 8x4 sheet of flexi plywood and another 8x4 sheet of birch, buy half or quarter sheets of each to spread costs and prevent waste.
For more information about how Timberite can help you maximise your D&T budget – or to order the materials your students need – contact us today on 01227 765011 or via our contact us page.