Subject Knowledge, Including Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) Courses
Subject knowledge is a common cause for concern for career changer trainees but there are resources available for you to make a start on updating your knowledge, if necessary, and there may even be courses available for you to attend. See below for our suggestions on how you can begin to refresh your knowledge.
Look at the National Curriculum for your subject (including Key Stages 1 & 2 for Primary, even if you are training to teach Secondary, so you can see what pupils learn before transitioning to Secondary) and use it to help you identify any gaps in your subject knowledge so you can revise: www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum#programmes-of-study-by-subject
Use BBC Bitesize to help you revise your subject knowledge. If training to teach Secondary, we recommend you start with Primary i.e. key stages 1 & 2 (KS1 & KS2) BBC Bitesize (so you can understand what pupils are taught before they transition to Secondary school), then cover KS3, then finally GCSE, to help you understand how the ideas / concepts in your subject progress: www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize. Then use S-Cool to help with ‘A’ level revision: www.s-cool.co.uk
Finally, try some recent GCSE and ‘A’ level past papers from the 3 main exam boards (AQA, Pearson EDEXCEL and OCR) – the mark schemes are provided on the websites. Note that the National Curriculum at Key Stage 4 (KS4 i.e. GCSE level) is the same for all 3 exam boards, so we recommend you just do papers from one exam board e.g. AQA and then compare the style of questions to the other two:
Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course
Your offer of a place on ITT may include the condition to complete and pass a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course. This could be due to:
- your degree not being in the subject you are going to train to teach, but it is closely related
- you studied the subject at ‘A’ level, but not at degree level
- you have an unrelated degree, but relevant professional knowledge in the subject
- it's been some time since you used your degree knowledge
- you studied for a modern foreign languages (MFL) degree but need a second language at an acceptable level for teaching in schools.
We recommend that if your ITT provider hasn’t given you details about the SKE course you should complete, that you ask them about it now, because if you need to complete a longer SKE course over several weeks, you’ll want to ensure that you complete it before your course starts in September. Completing an SKE course will make you feel more confident about your subject knowledge and give you an insight into how your subject is taught. If you feel you need or want to do a SKE course, speak to your ITT provider.
SKE courses can vary in length, from an 8-week refresher or booster programme, to a longer programme up to 28-weeks long, and some can be completed part-time instead of full-time. Although it is possible to do a SKE course at the same time as doing ITT, remember that ITT courses are very intensive, so we wouldn’t recommend trying to complete an SKE course at the same time as training to be a teacher (and most ITT providers will expect you to complete the SKE course prior to your course start date anyway, for the same reason). The usual condition of an offer of a place on ITT is that you complete and pass your SKE course before you commence your ITT course. If your SKE course continues into your ITT course, you must complete and pass your SKE course before you can be recommended and awarded qualified teacher status (QTS).
SKE can be offered by a wide range of providers, including:
- a university education or subject department
- another school
- another ITT provider
- a 3rd party supplier, such as a training, subject or professional organisation
Due to COVID19, most SKE courses are currently being delivered online, though some SKE courses for practical subjects - such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Design & Technology (D&T) – may be delivered face to face to enable you to become familiar with handling equipment in a laboratory or workshop environment.
The Department for Education (DfE) funds SKE course fees, so there’s no cost to you for doing a SKE course, and you’ll be paid a tax-free bursary at the rate of £175/week whilst on your SKE course (if you are eligible for funding). Your SKE bursary will usually be paid on a monthly basis if you are on a longer SKE course (i.e. more than 4 weeks). Note that you cannot be paid an ITT bursary and SKE bursary at the same time. This means that if you don’t complete your SKE course by the start date of your ITT course, and you need to continue your SKE course into your ITT year, your SKE bursary payments will stop from the date your ITT bursary payments start (usually, the end of October). Note that funding for SKE courses is not available to candidates who have a degree in the subject they are going to train to teach which has been awarded in the previous 5 years. If this applies to you, you’ll be asked to pay the course fees for the SKE course yourself, which could be several £100s. If this applies to you, please let us know.
Note that for the 2020-21 academic year:
- Physics SKE courses will be funded by the DfE from January 2021
- SKE courses in all other subjects will be funded from April 2021
For more details about SKE courses, see: https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/explore-my-options/teacher-training-routes/subject-knowledge-enhancement-ske-courses.
For a list of SKE providers (the ‘SKE Directory’), see: www.gov.uk/government/publications/subject-knowledge-enhancement-course-directory