New specifications: Getting your head around DFE subject content before looking at exam boards

28th July 2016 at 14:05

Subject Genius, GraceEardley, Getting your head around DFE subject content before looking at exam boards

It’s a turbulent time for film and media teachers, but let’s rejoice in the fact we are still able to teach these subjects, as there was a point when it was looking like film and media were both headed for the Govian scrap heap.

It’s July and the exam boards are about to submit their draft specifications to OFQUAL. These will be available to read at some point towards the end of the month, but be careful. It’s very unlikely that these initial drafts will be approved on first submission. So be careful and keep checking.

In this piece I’m going to try and help other film and media teachers get their heads around the changes that the DFE are enforcing in their subject content, and then in my subsequent posts I will attempt to submit overviews of each exam board’s specifications for film and media at both GCSE and A-level.  I am doing this firstly to try and help other media and film teachers make the best choices for their centres and for their students, but also as my own way of getting my head around the new specs.

From what I have heard from all the exam boards they have been doing some superb work in making the troublesome and prescriptive dictacts from the DFE manageable and teachable for us.  So kudos to the all the developers of the new specs.

Subject Genius, GraceEardley, Getting your head around DFE subject content before looking at exam boards

Here are some FAQs and some of the basics of the DFE documents.

So what is the DFE subject content?

The subject content is a document published by the DFE and plays a crucial role in the development of specifications from the exam boards, basically everything that is in the subject content has to be in the specifications. The first draft was submitted for consultation in February and over 100 people gave their views and many teachers objected to some of the changes, but not a great deal was changed and the final documents are hyperlinked at the end of this post.

So What are the major changes for film and media from 2017?

1. Be prepared to lament group work in both subjects. The DFE subject content document states that group work is out, however there are ways around this. It seems that students can still work in groups, but marking needs to be on a purely individual basis. When specifications are published I think we will have more guidance on this.

2. Film as a medium can no longer be a main focus in media studies courses. The idea is that film and media will be 2 distinct subjects.

3. The weighting of coursework is different. 70% of weighting will be on the final exam and 30% on NEA(this is ‘non examined assessment ie coursework to you and me)

4. Media will have a large number of specified theorists – at A-level, 22 at the last count! Propp, Mulvey and Blumer and Katz are all cited as compulsory for GCSE.

5. Film will have more of a historical approach and there will seems to be a focus on historical perspectives and British film.

6. There will be much less focus on industry and institutional contexts for film studies.

7. At GCSE 8 media areas need to be covered. These are: television
, film
, radio, newspapers, magazines, advertising and marketing 
online, social and participatory media, video games 
and music video. 

Hopefully this gives you a bit of a starting point.


Here are the DFE documents:


A level media:

GCSE media:

A-level film

GCSE film


Grace has been teaching media, film and English for 4 years and is subject leader for Media Studies. She was nominated for the TES Inspirational Teacher of the Year Award in 2014.