SarcAndSpark
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Subject knowledge enhancement courses or SKEs are a relatively recent invention, designed to help teachers improve their subject knowledge before starting a degree course. They are aimed at people who:

-Studied a closely related subject at degree level.

-Studied the subject at A-level but didn’t study it for their degree.

-Have significant professional experience in a subject area but have not studied it at degree level.

-Have not used their degree level subject knowledge for some time.

SKEs are only available for certain subjects, mostly those where there are a shortage of available teachers. Currently (July 2018) SKEs are offered in:

-Biology

-Chemistry

-Physics

-Maths

-Computing

-Design and Technology

-English

-Geography

-Modern foreign languages

-Maths

-Primary maths.

How do I get a place on an SKE course?

Usually, SKE courses are only open to people with a conditional offer for initial teacher training (ITT). The offer will be conditional on passing the SKE.

If you’re applying for an ITT place, but you’re concerned your subject knowledge isn’t up to scratch, you can indicate that you’d be interested in/happy to complete an SKE. A good way to do this is to mention it in your personal statement, or you could bring it up at interview. I don’t think mentioning it in your personal statement affects your chances of getting an interview- I mentioned it in mine and I was invited to three interviews and got three conditional offers.

You may be asked to complete an SKE even if you haven’t mentioned it on your application.

Once you’ve got your conditional offer, you can then apply directly to SKE providers. There’s a list available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/public...urse-directory or your uni might recommend a specific provider.

You can’t apply to an SKE course before you have an offer for ITT.





How long does an SKE take to complete?

Courses vary in length, and your uni will usually specify the length of SKE they want you to take in your offer. The most common course lengths are 8 weeks, 16 weeks and 28 weeks, but some other options are available.

However, on my course, the timings were flexible and based on 25 hours of work a week. You could work harder and finish more quickly or take more time to finish if you were also working/travelling, as long as your meet SKE deadlines and any deadlines set by your offer.

In reality, many people finish the course in the required number of weeks doing less than 25 hours a week. However, you do need to log the correct number of hours to keep receiving your bursary.

Is there funding for SKE courses?

SKEs are funded by the Department of Education, so you don’t have to pay any fees. If you meet certain criteria, you are also entitled to a £200 a week bursary. My bursary was paid in monthly instalments, and I had to complete the required number of hours to receive it.

Can I work while completing an SKE?

Yes, you’re allowed to work alongside completing an SKE. Personally, I didn’t find completing the assignments too challenging or time consuming and could definitely have worked alongside completing the course. On my course there were several people who did this, as well as people who completed the course while looking after children or having other family commitments.

I did a distance learning course, which gave me a lot of flexibility about when I worked. My subject was biology, so there were two weeks of optional practical sessions to attend- but these were truly optional, and there was an alternative module available to allow non-attendees to complete the course.

What did the SKE course involve?

I did the VidLearn SKE, run by University of Sussex, which I think is widely recommended by a lot of ITT providers. I’m not sure how much variation there is between courses but this was my experience of the 16 week course.

The course was split up into modules, with a few (2-4) video lectures for each module to watch. We were also provided with an A-level textbook which included chapters on all the modules. To pass each module, we had to pass a multiple-choice assessment and produce two assignments: a summary presentation about the subject content and a written reflection on how we found the module.

The assignment was probably the most challenging part, as it involved summarising the module content and presenting it as you would to a class. However, over the course of the SKE, I grew more confident in what my tutor was looking for and felt able to produce some useful summaries. I don’t think these summaries as they are would be useful for teaching a class, but some sections could form the basis of future lessons or might provide a useful starting point.

We had a tutor available via email to contact if we had any problems, and he was very helpful. The university also provided us with a forum to talk to other learners and the tutor also set up a whatsapp group to allow us to connect with each other.

Overall, I found the experience really positive. I reinforced knowledge of some topics I hadn’t studied for a long time, and also got to think about how I might teach these topics to a class. The practical, university based sessions, were also really useful.

Personally, I didn’t find the course difficult to pass and I felt it was a good opportunity to refresh my subject knowledge before starting the PGCE.

If you have done an SKE or are completing one now, I would love to hear your experiences good and bad. It would be great for future students to hear which providers good and which ones people have had less good experiences with.

Alternatively, if you’ve got any questions about SKEs, then please feel free to ask them in this thread!
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makan
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I did an 8-week Spanish SKE with Canterbury Christ Church and got a huge amount out of it. I hadn't studied the language for many years and you need a second language for an MFL course so you can at least teach beginners. Most of the SKE was self-study using Rosetta Stone, and there were weekly online conversation classes with students at a similar level. I'd say there aren't any short cuts to getting good in a language quickly and studying genuinely did take me 25 hours per week - it was tough fitting it around work and other commitments but worth it in the end. I looked at other SKE providers and they seemed more focused on teaching skills, whereas I felt I needed to work specifically on the language.
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by makan)
I did an 8-week Spanish SKE with Canterbury Christ Church and got a huge amount out of it. I hadn't studied the language for many years and you need a second language for an MFL course so you can at least teach beginners. Most of the SKE was self-study using Rosetta Stone, and there were weekly online conversation classes with students at a similar level. I'd say there aren't any short cuts to getting good in a language quickly and studying genuinely did take me 25 hours per week - it was tough fitting it around work and other commitments but worth it in the end. I looked at other SKE providers and they seemed more focused on teaching skills, whereas I felt I needed to work specifically on the language.
Thank you for sharing your experience I can see that a language SKE would be very different to the SKE I did, so it's great to hear other perspectives.

Even though it sounds hard work, it sounds like you also had a good experience.
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Robertocds
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I am a bit unsure of the path to take with my PGCE application and subjects. I did well in GCE's but didn't take A levels. I went into Nursing and have had a long and varied career in several clinical specialities culminating in getting a first in my Public Health Nursing Degree and going on to do an M level practice teaching module. During my career I have been lucky enough to be able to take a few years out as a career break and went off to live, work and study in Spain and took my Spanish language exams in Malaga. In enquiring about taking a PGCE I have been given a premier plus advisor to support me in my application but am not clear which way to go. I have a Spanish language qualification which I took out in Spain in 2003 and I enjoy Spanish but am rusty - two local Universities have said that I am eligible to apply for a PGCE to teach Spanish but that they would require me to do a French SKE alongside a Spanish SKE as two foreign languages are required (I haven't spoken French since my O levels and unlike Spanish could not hold up a conversation now!). My other option would be to go for an SKE in Biology as my career from 18 years old has revolved around my knowledge of Biology and over the years as I have specialised I have significantly built on that knowledge and taught it in an academic setting. I love both Spanish and Biology but can't do both and although I don't have any concerns about my ability to learn, I wonder whether enhancing two languages at once would be too much of a tall order? On the other side I realise that I am rusty on the plant side of Biology but could deliver a lesson in human or animal biology tomorrow. Has anyone had any experience of taking a dual language SKE or a Biology SKE without a Biology specific degree? Any info or feedback would be so welcome at the moment.
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by Robertocds)
I am a bit unsure of the path to take with my PGCE application and subjects. I did well in GCE's but didn't take A levels. I went into Nursing and have had a long and varied career in several clinical specialities culminating in getting a first in my Public Health Nursing Degree and going on to do an M level practice teaching module. During my career I have been lucky enough to be able to take a few years out as a career break and went off to live, work and study in Spain and took my Spanish language exams in Malaga. In enquiring about taking a PGCE I have been given a premier plus advisor to support me in my application but am not clear which way to go. I have a Spanish language qualification which I took out in Spain in 2003 and I enjoy Spanish but am rusty - two local Universities have said that I am eligible to apply for a PGCE to teach Spanish but that they would require me to do a French SKE alongside a Spanish SKE as two foreign languages are required (I haven't spoken French since my O levels and unlike Spanish could not hold up a conversation now!). My other option would be to go for an SKE in Biology as my career from 18 years old has revolved around my knowledge of Biology and over the years as I have specialised I have significantly built on that knowledge and taught it in an academic setting. I love both Spanish and Biology but can't do both and although I don't have any concerns about my ability to learn, I wonder whether enhancing two languages at once would be too much of a tall order? On the other side I realise that I am rusty on the plant side of Biology but could deliver a lesson in human or animal biology tomorrow. Has anyone had any experience of taking a dual language SKE or a Biology SKE without a Biology specific degree? Any info or feedback would be so welcome at the moment.
Hey

It sounds like you do have some good options open to you. I think a lot of career changers into biology are rusty on either the plant or animal side of things depending on their career. Are you aware that if you do a Biology PGCE, you will also be expected to teach chemistry and physics to at least KS3 (13/14) but possibly to GCSE? Would you be comfortable with this?

It is also worth looking at employment opportunities- although both biology and MFL are shortage subjects, science is a core subject whereas many students drop languages when they start their GCSE. This can mean there are less MFL jobs available in your local area.

Have you spent any time in schools recently at all? This might help you decide which subject you would prefer teaching?
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Robertocds
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Thanks for your reply - it makes perfect sense. Just to satisfy myself that I am doing the right thing (and to have a holiday) I went back to Spain for a break and returned for a week to my old language college for a week intensive and came back home to a few weeks of Rosetta Stone French. I have since pulled out all my old school books and had a look at the current GCSE text books for Physics, Chemistry and Biology and on balance I know I would be better going for Biology than languages even if I need to teach the other sciences. To be honest, I have really enjoyed revising all this and feel far more confident in my knowledge. No time has been wasted as I can speak pretty good Spanish again now and have got a good handle of French too . Decision made so now for the application
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by Robertocds)
Thanks for your reply - it makes perfect sense. Just to satisfy myself that I am doing the right thing (and to have a holiday) I went back to Spain for a break and returned for a week to my old language college for a week intensive and came back home to a few weeks of Rosetta Stone French. I have since pulled out all my old school books and had a look at the current GCSE text books for Physics, Chemistry and Biology and on balance I know I would be better going for Biology than languages even if I need to teach the other sciences. To be honest, I have really enjoyed revising all this and feel far more confident in my knowledge. No time has been wasted as I can speak pretty good Spanish again now and have got a good handle of French too . Decision made so now for the application
Sounds like you have had a good time on your break and you feel a lot more confident about your subject knowledge in science.

Good luck with your application!
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mnstar79
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Hi,

Has anyone done an SKE in German perhaps?
I am fluent in French and I am doing an SKE in German as second language.
However, my German is pretty basic.
Is the SKE in German?
Do they also test the level of your language?

Thank you for your help!
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mnstar79
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Hi,

Has anyone done an SKE in German perhaps?
I am fluent in French and I am doing an SKE in German as second language.
However, my German is pretty basic.
Is the SKE in German?
Do they also test the level of your language?

Thank you for your help!
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by mnstar79)
Hi,

Has anyone done an SKE in German perhaps?
I am fluent in French and I am doing an SKE in German as second language.
However, my German is pretty basic.
Is the SKE in German?
Do they also test the level of your language?

Thank you for your help!
Hey, my SKE was in the sciences, not a language so I'm not sure how helpful this will be. For the SKE I did, you do have assessments at the end of each topic, but they were multi choice and easy to pass. I imagine the teaching will be a mix of English and German- it's designed to be accessible, and then you'll have to produce resources (the type you'd use with a class) which I guess would be in a mix of English and German.

You have a tutor so if there's anything you don't understand, they should be able to help!

Good luck!
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mnstar79
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Thank you! 😊
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Kodes
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Do you have to complete the SKE before you start your training or can they overlap?Thank you ☺️
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greenwichpaul
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Does anyone have experience of Eureka courses?

I've agreed with my placement school that I'll do an SKE in order to teach Physics A level, as I've got the GCSE stuff pretty much under control. Word at Nowteach, which I came thru, is that Eureka is good; they seem versatile in terms of modules and timing, but I can't find anyone who's done Physics with them. Any thoughts?
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by Kodes)
Do you have to complete the SKE before you start your training or can they overlap?Thank you ☺️
Usually completing and passing your SKE is a condition of starting the course, so usually you'd be expected to pass everything by August 31st. If you don't think this will be possible, you'll need to agree something different with your training provider.

(Original post by greenwichpaul)
Does anyone have experience of Eureka courses?

I've agreed with my placement school that I'll do an SKE in order to teach Physics A level, as I've got the GCSE stuff pretty much under control. Word at Nowteach, which I came thru, is that Eureka is good; they seem versatile in terms of modules and timing, but I can't find anyone who's done Physics with them. Any thoughts?
Hey, I don't have any experience, but if they are recommended by your training provider then that seems like a good place to start.

I did my SKE which was also science based via VidLearn and had a pretty positive experience with them if you're unsure about Eureka though.
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salsa_82
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Hi after the SKE do you still qualify for the full teaching bursary in the SKE subject area - even though my actual degree is a completely different subject?cheers
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eilish1903
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I'm currently doing an SKE with the University of Reading as part of the conditions for my offer. I have a 2:1 bachelors degree in Biochemistry, but my course was mostly microbiology and molecular biology, so I am a bit rusty on some chemistry topics such as history of the periodic table and the rock cycle. I did A Levels in all three sciences but that was almost 5 years ago now, so my KS3&4 knowledge is a bit outdated. Especially with the changes to exams and the subject specifications.

My SKE consists of 300 hours of documented work (12 week course) which has to be collated in a ring-bound folder and submitted one week before the PGCE course starts and two compulsory practical weeks, one in GCSE required practicals and one in A Level required practicals.

The folder has to contain an initial audit of your confidence in all the topics covered in KS3&4 sciences, an action plan for how you plan to improve your subject knowledge, a time sheet documenting how you completed the 300 hours of work, all the work completed over the 300 hours and for each topic you go over, you're expected to attempt some questions at the start of your revision, make notes, revision material, etc, and then attempt some exam based questions and then comment on how you now feel in the topic and identify any areas of weakness that still remain. You are also expected to include and reference any teaching/learning materials that you come across while going over topics that you think are useful and comment on why you think they are beneficial. You are also expected to complete past exam papers in all three sciences across the two key stages and if you are specialising in a particular science, e.g. I'm specialising in biology, you are expected to do the same for any A Level topics you don't feel confident in.

In the practical weeks we have to carry out all the required practicals under the new specifications, produce a write up and analyse the results, which also goes into our folders and is submitted at the end of the course.

Before you submit your folder, you also have to perform another audit to reassess your confidence levels and identify any remaining areas of weakness and what you plan to do to improve this throughout your training year.

There is also an optional free online course run by the University of Reading that all the current PGCE applicants were recommended to complete with FutureLearn on supporting successful teaching in secondary education that touches on various areas such as the importance of TAs in the classroom, unconscious bias, managing students expectations, types of teachers, different types of learners, effective communication and learning and how to ask the right questions. They also run a similar one aimed at primary education.

For anyone interested in this free course, it can be found here:
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/...ning-secondary
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SarcAndSpark
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Thanks for sharing your experience eilish1903 I'm sure people will find it useful!
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greenwichpaul
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(Original post by salsa_82)
Hi after the SKE do you still qualify for the full teaching bursary in the SKE subject area - even though my actual degree is a completely different subject?cheers
presumably salsa is ok now, but for the benefit of others - yes you do. It's possible to get SKE bursary, teaching bursary/scholarship depending on subject plus a full maintenance and fees loan, should you want.

Update on my Eureka 12 Week Physics SKE, which I wanted to do to teach at A level:

It was pretty good, partly because of my allocated tutor, with whom I had one hour every fortnight.

Everything is online, via Blackboard, and there are some good resources. (My context, btw, is that I did my electronics/robotics degree centuries ago, but recently helped my son with his A level). However, these resources are patchy, and the interface is glitchy. Some areas aren't covered, for instance atomic particles. A few areas are great, with lots and lots of papers which will really drill down into what you know - so in some areas, like Work Function, I'm really confident. Other areas, like Induced EMF, are very patchy. (Sorry for physics jargon, but want to give scientists some idea). I knew about half the A level syllabus already, and would be confident teaching about 20 per cent. The Eureka course maybe added another 15 per cent to what I generally know, and about 5 per cent to what I could teach. So it's helpful but it's not going to transform you into an A-level teacher. All the assessment is done via essays/journal entries, via which you document your learning.

My main regret was the lack of personal contact, which seems usual with online degrees. So often, talking with my tutor, she'd zero in on weaker areas and we'd work through stuff together. I also loved hearing about her teaching experiences. The course was worthwhile for that alone. But if I'd had access to a uni-related course, in a classroom, that would have been preferable. Another plus, was that it definitely helped me get my Institute of Physics scholarship!

Has anyone else mentioned the ludicrously long wait for your bursary money? Mine was nearly two months in arrears, no idea if that's standard.
Last edited by greenwichpaul; 2 months ago
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yoshimax
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Does anyone know anything about SKE funding for international students? I've found like three pages that say it's not funded but there's almost no info about it online. I can't find the cost either.
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by yoshimax)
Does anyone know anything about SKE funding for international students? I've found like three pages that say it's not funded but there's almost no info about it online. I can't find the cost either.
I'm afraid I don't! Your best bet may be to contact some distance learning providers directly. The one I used was VidLearn- run by the Uni of Sussex, but TES also offer one.
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