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:
-Design and Technology
-Modern foreign languages
-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/publications/subject-knowledge-enhancement-course-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!