A number of teachers have been asked by the leadership teams to review alternatives to GCSE. Some people have been claiming that these are easier to pass, or that they are for the less able or students with SEND. This is misguided.
‘Technical Awards are distinct from GCSEs and they complement and supplement the academic offer. They must, however, offer an equivalent level of rigour and challenge as GCSEs’ (DfE)
‘Rigorous and appropriate assessment arrangements, including external assessment, help to ensure that Technical Awards offer a comparable level of challenge to GCSEs’ (DfE)
GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition is also an applied subject but the context for the learning is general. VCerts and Technical Awards are vocationally focused. These are not second rate courses, or below GCSE performance! For some students, placing their learning in the world of work engages them, but it does not make it easier – as many at the age of 15 will never have been in a working kitchen or catering environment. Working in an unfamiliar context is more challenging. They are not easier, they are different, and may suit different learners.
The assessment is not easier – it is scrutinised by OFQUAL (the same as GCSE). Level 2 Technical Awards are the same performance level as Level 2 GCSE in the qualifications framework. Some courses allow a candidate to ‘drop down’ to Level 1, so that you do not have to decide in advance which Level to enter them for, which may be helpful (and cheaper than double entry).
In GCSE, the NEA and written exam marks are added together, so that a learner who does less well on the paper, may still pass if they do well in their NEA. This would not be true in a Technical Award where learners have to pass all the elements to pass the qualification, including a written paper.
In deciding if this award is more suitable for your students than GCSE, take a close look at the Sample Assessment Materials (SAMs) published for each and any guidance/mark schemes. Try out the papers on your current cohort and see how they do and where they struggle.
‘[OFSTED]Inspectors found instances, in around 10 of the schools visited, where students with special educational needs and/or disabilities struggled to explain what they knew in response to theory-based written examinations. In these cases, schools were not working closely enough with examination boards to find alternative methods to enable students to convey what they know and can do’. (Ofsted, Meeting technological challenges? Design and technology in schools 2007–10)
This is an extension of the type of coursework covered at GCSE but in this case you design the brief to be answered and research, trial and develop solutions considering how your products meet the desired needs. The following is a list of possible coursework tasks although any area of interest can be studied:
- Vegetarian Christmas lunch at a local restaurant
- Foods children can help to prepare
- Balanced foods on a budget for students
- Children's birthday products using natural colours and flavours
- School meals reflecting Jamie Oliver's advice
- Duke of Edinburgh expedition foods for vegetarians
- Soups reflecting a multicultural society
- Restaurant standard delivered meals, which clients can put finishing touches to, for dinner parties
- Breakfast foods for people on the move
Students find this is an interesting and worthwhile course as so many aspects have a huge relevance in a changing society. All of the key skills of communication, application of number, information technology and problem solving are integral parts of the course and will help learning and performance
Students who have studied this course elsewhere have used it to access higher education courses in food and retail management or hospitality and catering. The broad and varied course content also lends itself to courses in food science and recipe development for large organisations. There are a number of universities offering food based courses across the country.
The food industry is an ever growing sector of our economy with hundreds of new food products being developed every year! Employment in the Food Industry is diverse and includes areas such as:
- New Product Development
- Sensory Testing
- Environmental Health
- Consumer Services and Advice
- Food and Environment Legislation
- Packaging and labelling
- Resourcing ingredients
- A buyer for a large supermarket
REMEMBER WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE TO EAT!