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Tomorrow's technologies

TEACHING the new national curriculum programme of study for design and technology at key stage 4 becomes statutory from August 2001. GCSE specifications have been written to be consistent with, and encapsulate the spirit of, that programme of study - some developed from current syllabuses, others developed for the first time. They will be with schools late this term.

The new specifications build on established good practice. They provide candidates with the opportunity to display how the products and systems they have designed and made improve the quality of life. Candidates will be able to demonstrate how they have solved problems in the design and production process creatively and how they have combined practical skills with their understanding of aesthetic and environmental issues.

This is not new, however. The specifications will extend opportunities for all pupils to respond to "user needs", whether their projects are linked to their own interests, industrial practice or the community.

An important focus of the new programme of study is the requirement for pupils to use ICT as an integral part of Damp;T. Provision has been made within the specifications for the assessment of computer aided design and computer aided manufacture. Assessment opportunities will also be provided for candidates who use ICT-based sources for research and for those who use control software or simulate production using ICT.

Design and technology can provide tremendous opportunities for working with others, so provision will be made during internally assessed coursework for candidates wishing to work in groups.

Specifictions may also draw on the appropriate knowledge, skills and understanding that all pupils will have developed during KS3. This could include the application of a range of modern materials, including smart materials. The awarding bodies will provide support and exemplification for teachers.

QCA has gathered overwhelming evidence that coursework demands have been too great, particularly on the most able pupils. To address this issue, internally assessed coursework, though still including a 3D product, will now require a concise portfolio or equivalent ICT evidence, or both, and materials submitted cannot exceed 40 hours of work for the full GCSE. The awarding bodies will advise further on this.

There is now only one attainment target for Damp;T, but each specification has assessment objectives which set out how candidates can demonstrate their capability within it.

After the syllabus rationalisation process, combined courses are no longer available and syllabuses with a small number of candidates have been withdrawn, but all the principal focus areas remain.

The importance of Damp;T is celebrated in the National Curriculum Handbook as a means of preparing pupils to participate in tomorrow's rapidly changing technologies. The new GCSE specifications recognise this and offer candidates a supportive assessment process that encourages them to become innovators in tomorrow's rapidly changing technologies.

Ian Williams is principal subject officer for design and technology at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 83 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QA. Tel: 020 7509 5555. Website:

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