New Materials Technology Technical Award: practical skills with woods, metals and polymers

Published: Tuesday 14 Jun 2016

We’ve developed a new Technical Award in Materials Technology which, along with the new GCSE in Design and Technology, replaces the outgoing Resistant Materials GCSE. The new qualification will be available for first teaching in September 2017. It is intended for learners interested in using materials in a practical way, and understanding the working properties of those materials.

Learners will have the opportunity to develop skills in making high quality products using woods, metal and polymers (plastics). They will be expected to make a range of products, prototypes and samples, applying technical and practical expertise to ensure that the product is fit for purpose. They will have the opportunity to use traditional skills and modern technologies.

Technical Awards are practical, vocational qualifications available to 14-16 year olds to take alongside GCSEs. If approved by the Department for Education, a single award will be equivalent to a GCSE qualification and will count towards performance tables. They could then be included in Progress 8 as part of the non-Ebacc open group of subjects.

Course content

Our new qualification enables learners to:

  • develop a broad knowledge of materials, components and  technologies
  • develop practical skills to produce high quality functional prototypes and/or products
  • develop decision making skills through both independent, team and collaborative work
  • communicate their decisions effectively to a third party
  • be able to read, interpret and work from drawings, plans and instructions
  • be able to produce working drawings and production plans
  • develop an understanding of quality and how this can be achieved by making to fine tolerances
  • use materials efficiently in relation to cost and environmental impact
  • demonstrate safe working practices
  • use key technical terminology related to materials and processes
  • develop the knowledge and understanding to evaluate and refine their own skills
  • develop an awareness of industrial practices and employment opportunities.

All learners will be taught and assessed in the same way, and there is no need to split your class into Level 1 and Level 2.

Assessment structure

There are two internally-assessed units, and a third unit that is externally assessed:

Unit 1: Skills Demonstration (30%)

Learners will produce a portfolio of small made outcomes to demonstrate core skills outlined in the specification. These skills include:

  • team working
  • marking out
  • cutting and shaping
  • forming, bending and laminating
  • casting and moulding
  • quantity production
  • the use of powered machinery
  • heat and chemical treatment
  • joining techniques (welding, soldering, wood joining, solvent welding)
  • using CAD/CAM systems
  • using finishing techniques
  • quality control and maintaining accuracy.

Unit 2: Extended making project (30%)

Learners will undertake an extended project that showcases the skills they have developed in unit 1. The brief for this will be set by AQA.

Example briefs learners might receive:

  • Create a piece of jewellery.
  • Create a child’s toy from sustainable materials.
  • Create a piece of furniture for the home.

The project will be marked against the following criteria:

  • planning and development
  • making
  • testing and evaluation
  • communication

Unit 3: External assessment (written exam – 40%)

Learners will be assessed on the following topics:

  • Materials and their working properties
  • Processes and manufacture
  • Environmental and sustainability issues
  • Health and safety issues
  • Systems and control
  • CAD and CAM
  • Industrial practices
  • Employment opportunities

Why choose AQA

Insight from teachers:

I particularly like the focus on making and practical skills.

Rachel Owen, Head of Design and Technology, Fairfield Girls’ School, Manchester

The specification is well laid out and easy to understand with clear marking  criteria.

John Murphy, Head of Design and Technology, The Avon Valley School, Rugby

Where this award leads

This Technical Award is designed to equip learners with the practical skills in Materials Technology that they need to progress to further general or vocational study. They’ll develop a broad understanding of the sector, so they can make informed decisions about their career opportunities.

Learners will also develop valuable transferable skills including communication and collaboration.

We’ve worked with post-16 education providers to ensure that Technical Awards count equally alongside GCSEs when applying to do further study in either general or vocational qualifications.

Support and resources

We’ll be submitting our draft qualification to the Department for Education in September 2016, when we’ll share the draft specification with you. We’re also planning a series of free support events throughout the autumn term, alongside a full set of resources.

Design and Technology Technical Award qualifications

We have developed a suite of four Technical Awards in the following subjects:

These qualifications complement our GCSE in Design and Technology and Food Preparation and Nutrition.

Contact us

Our subject team is here to help. Sign up for updates on our new Technical Awards, or contact Amanda Luby and the customer support team on 0161 957 3334 or by email at

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