Managing the Controlled Element of the NEA


Return to the Organisation & Admin of the Non Exam Assessment page to see all resources

Non exam assessment

50% of the D&T GCSE (9-1) qualification consists of a Non Exam Assessment (NEA) and this is a formal controlled assessment completed by students in lessons over a number of months. There are strict regulations set out by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) on how the NEA can be approached and how it is supervised. For some schools the strategies used to deliver controlled assessment for the legacy GCSE may need to be reviewed with the new rules in mind. It is important these rules are taken very seriously by teachers, students and schools as a whole as breaking them would be malpractice with severe implications for all concerned. 

What are the regulations when completing the NEA?

The JCQ regulations set out the expected standards and procedures for approaching the NEA. Each exam board has slightly different interpretations of the rules so it’s important teachers check on the specific details for their particular exam board. 

The document below summarises the the NEA rules for the D&T GCSE for all exam boards. It is our own working document created to give us an overview of the rules as we support teachers across all boards. Information has been taken directly from each specification & has not been adapted. It can be used as a quick reference but teachers should always read the full specification and refer to the JCQ regulations.

Summary of NEA restrictions page 1

Download this summary document with some of the key rules and regulations for all exam boards

(You may need to adjust your printer settings to fit the document onto an A4 page)

Although the rules are slightly different for each board, reading information on all boards can help teachers fully understand the ‘spirit’ and intention of the JCQ regulations. This can be useful if teachers find the original JCQ rules confusing and are unsure whether how they are approaching the NEA is in line with the rules or not (but teachers should always make sure they follow the rules specific to their exam board.

The following key points are taken from the AQA GCSE specification. These are provided here as a quick example of some of the important rules that need to be taken into account. 

  • Students are free to revise and redraft their work but teachers can only give generic written or oral feedback, for example, giving general advice on what resources might be used, as well as giving general reminders of key sections that might be included.
  • Teachers can’t correct a student’s piece of work with specific guidance.
  • Teachers can’t provide templates, model answers or writing frames.
  • Where it has been necessary to go beyond the allowed level of support teachers have to record this additional input and take this into account when marking work.


Is the folder page limit and the number of hours allowed for the NEA part of the new regulations?

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Both the page limit and the number of hours for the NEA are for guidance only (and indeed some boards don’t give limits). The guidance is provided to help teachers understand the type of work and level of challenge for the NEA.

Whilst the folder length and number of NEA hours is not enforceable teachers are advised to use these guidelines where they exist as spending more or less time on the NEA could potentially disadvantage students as it might lead to work not having the right focus. This might also reduce the amount of time students spend on preparing for the written exam. OCR sums this up as follows : 

This time allowance is for guidance only and does not constitute a maximum or minimum requirement, but it should be noted that excessive time spent on this component could be detrimental to the level of the learner’s work if it were to lose relevance and focus to the context and brief.

What strategies can teachers use when approaching the NEA restrictions?

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  • On our CPD courses we recommend a number of tried and tested strategies that help teachers and students be better prepared for approaching the NEA in a manageable way and some of these are mentioned below.
  • The NEA is formal assessment so treat it as such. Although it is not an exam, treating it in a similar way makes enforcing the rules easier. Signs outside rooms where NEA work is taking place that say ‘exam in progress’ or ‘formal assessment - do no enter’ can, for example, get this message across to students and staff helping to emphasise the importance of the NEA. Teachers might even want to consider doing 5 - 10 minutes of some types of lessons in silence to further emphasise this point.  
  • Consider how students are supported with feedback. In particular our courses look at the use of a coaching approach for reviewing and feeding back on work in order to keep support general and to prompt students to think for themselves.
  • Use strategies that model good use of lesson time e.g. cuttings for moodboards can be collected as homework with the presentation and analysis done in school.
  • Consider how best practices in the NEA can be modelled. On our courses delegates are introduced to the idea of a ‘parallel lesson’ where key words and concepts relevant to the NEA are taught separately and students independently apply this learning to their own work during a series follow up formal NEA lessons. It’s important, however, that the parallel lesson is distinctly different to the NEA and that it doesn’t make direct reference to the live contexts or to the live work that students are doing. It’s important the parallel lesson isn't about giving an outline that students later follow but that it focuses on embedding a wider understanding of key concepts. It can be useful, for example to approach the parallel lesson through a focus on theory content, linking this to the designing and making elements of the specification. This maintains a clear separation from the NEA but helps students ‘revise’ key words and concepts.
  • Although the amount of feedback the teacher can give is limited students can self assess their work against exam board criteria and can also assess each other. The use of student ‘experts’ in key areas of the design and making process can be helpful with this, although care needs to be taken that any decisions that are made are done by the student that is being assessed and that the peer reviewer acts in a reviewing role only. Our courses look at a number of ways of developing these self and peer review skills, including the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy for students to create their own success criteria. 
  • It’s important to review the KS3 curriculum to see how it feeds into the GCSE and to ensure students develop the appropriate skills. This includes designing and making skills students will need, as well wider skills such as the ability to work independently, being able to manage time and work at a faster pace, along with thinking strategies strategies that help students solve their own problems. The ‘speed designing’ strategy delegates experience on our courses is particularly successful in achieving all of these.
  • KS3 is also an important time for students to develop a strong understanding of the bigger picture when designing rather than seeing individual pages in isolation e.g. understanding what might come under the heading of ‘research’ rather than just knowing about individual sections such as moodboards and product analysis. Quick starter activities regularly repeated across KS3, for example, where students are asked to describe key elements of the design process, along with activities where students have to name 5 success criteria for different sections, can help develop a muscle memory that will support students when approaching their NEA.

For information on courses that expand on these strategies and ideas look at the course calendar or email 

What information does your school need to be aware of about the NEA?


It’s important your school is aware of the stricter NEA regulations and the impact they might have on school policies, in particular those relating to marking work, feeding back grades to students and parents, and giving students help and advice.

The NEA contexts are released on 1st June in year 10 and the work can’t be started before then. It’s essential the school understands that students who are removed from lessons for any reason may be severely disadvantaged as it may be logistically impossible for them to make up lost time.

It’s essential the KS3 curriculum provides students with sufficient time to develop the skills they will need at GCSE when approaching the NEA. It’s also important to consider that whilst schools may restrict students in the materials and equipment they're able to access because of the logistics of rooms and staffing, where possible students should be able to develop design solutions that use the most appropriate material. This will require time to develop a broader range of skills at KS3, as well as consideration of how this might logistically be managed at KS4. 

Departments might also want to consider sharing this information with parents so they understand what support their child can be given, the implications of breaking the rules as well as the importance of good attendance.

Use of social media

There are also strict regulations on how social media can be used for ‘live’ work by teachers and students. Find out more here. 

Return to the Organisation & Admin of the Non Exam Assessment page to see all resources

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