Subject knowledge enhancement: an introduction

Information about subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) support for initial teacher training (ITT) recruitment.

This guidance is for:

  • subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) providers
  • initial teacher training (ITT) providers
  • School Direct lead schools

If you’re an applicant to an ITT course, visit our SKE page on the Get into Teaching website.

You can use the subject knowledge enhancement: course directory to find a suitable provider.


As a School Direct lead school or an ITT provider, you may see applicants who have the potential to become outstanding teachers but need to increase their subject knowledge before the teachers’ standards can be met. SKE courses can help you to feel confident that the applicant can obtain the minimum subject knowledge standard to be recruited.

The Department for Education (DfE) currently funds SKE courses in five secondary subjects:

  • chemistry
  • computing
  • languages
  • mathematics
  • physics

PE applicants can also access an 8-week SKE in an Ebacc subject where an SKE course is available, and they meet the eligibility requirements.

Dual language SKE courses

Applicants who need to complete a dual language SKE course should take:

  • a short 8-week course in their main language
  • a longer course of up to 28 weeks in the other language

Only applicants who have received a conditional offer in a languages ITT, which specifies the completion of a (dual) SKE course as a condition of their offer, will be eligible for a dual language SKE course.

SKE eligibility

To be eligible to undertake a DfE-funded SKE, applicants need to:

  • meet the eligibility requirements to train to teach in England
  • accept a conditional offer which specifies the requirement to complete an SKE course

Applicants who have a degree, postgraduate degree or joint degree awarded in their chosen ITT subject within the previous 5 years, are not eligible to complete a DfE-funded SKE course. DfE does not fund SKE courses for individuals who have already obtained qualified teacher status (QTS).

SKE bursary

Applicants may also be eligible to receive an SKE bursary if:

  • they have at least a bachelor’s degree 2:2 classification in their degree subject or have a master’s degree or PhD
  • they are undertaking their SKE course before starting ITT, or up to the point they start ITT if their SKE course overlaps with ITT
  • they are entitled to support under the student finance criteria (with the exception of non-UK applicants undertaking languages or physics)

If a participant is undertaking an SKE course in parallel with their ITT, they are not eligible for a bursary.

SKE bursaries cannot be claimed retrospectively after completion of ITT. Where a provider becomes aware of an applicant withdrawing from ITT before their SKE is complete, their SKE course and SKE bursary should stop.

SKE eligibility for non-UK applicants

Applicants undertaking a face-to-face SKE need permission to study in the UK. Candidates on an existing visa should check that their visa allows them to study. If they do not already have a visa or relevant permission, they will:

  • need to apply for a visitor visa to undertake their SKE course
  • be restricted on the type of provider and duration of their course if SKE is delivered face-to-face (maximum of 26 weeks)

If undertaking an SKE course online from inside or outside the UK, there are no restrictions on the type of provider and the maximum course duration remains at 28 weeks. No immigration permission is required for non-UK applicants studying online from outside the UK, but those already within the UK should ensure they hold an appropriate visa.

The SKE bursary is only available to non-UK applicants who are undertaking a tuition fee-based ITT course in England and are eligible for support under the student finance criteria. This is dependent on their immigration or residency status.

Non-UK applicants who are funding a tuition fee-based physics or languages teacher training course in England, are eligible for an SKE bursary regardless of if they are entitled, or not entitled, to support under the student finance criteria. This also applies to School Direct salaried courses in physics and languages, up to the point they receive a School Direct salary.

How to know if an applicant needs SKE

The need for SKE is usually identified by a school or provider during the recruitment and selection process. This could be:

  • when the applicant is undertaking school experience
  • during discussions with the applicant before they apply
  • from the application form
  • during the applicant’s interview

Applicants may need more specific subject knowledge to begin an ITT course if they have:

  • a different but related degree to the subject they want to teach
  • studied the subject at A level but not degree level
  • an unrelated degree but relevant professional knowledge in the subject
  • studied for a languages degree but need a second language at an acceptable level for teaching in schools
  • a degree in the subject but have not used their degree knowledge for more than five years

Referring a participant for SKE

Applicants must have freedom of choice regarding their SKE provider and should use DfE’s SKE provider directory to aid their choice. ITT providers may support participants but must not make it a condition of their ITT offer to undertake an SKE course with a particular institution.

Once an applicant has chosen their SKE course provider, their SKE provider will ask the ITT provider to complete a referral form to ensure a consistent approach to collecting applicant information. The SKE provider will then enrol the applicant onto a course and claim funding from DfE.

How SKE courses are provided

DfE-funded SKE courses are only provided by providers who have a framework agreement in place and are listed on the subject knowledge enhancement: course directory. They can vary in duration from an 8-week refresher or booster programme through to a 28-week programme, with a week equating to 25 learning hours.

All SKE courses must be completed before qualified teacher status is recommended.

SKE courses can be:

  • completed before or alongside ITT courses (given the time commitments, we recommend starting and completing an SKE before commencing ITT)
  • undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis
  • delivered online, through distance learning, face-to-face learning or through a mixture of these approaches

SKE funding

For all SKE courses in the 2023 to 2024 academic year:

  • programme costs are funded at a unit fee up to £200 per week per participant
  • subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, the participant bursary funding is £175 per week per participant

Contact us

Subject knowledge enhancement

Published 10 November 2014
Last updated 11 April 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated to remove 5 subjects from the SKE package: primary maths and secondary biology, English, religious education and design and technology.

  2. Updated for academic year 2023 to 2024.

  3. Updated following policy updates to the eligibility criteria for non-UK applicants.

  4. Updated to academic year 2022 to 2023 and other minor wording edits.

  5. Updated following the replacement of grant funding for subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) with a multi-provider framework agreement.

  6. Removed information about funding for physics SKE courses being available from January 2021 and funding for all other SKE courses being available from April 2021 as this is now out of date.

  7. Added a link to the tender to deliver Subject knowledge enhancement (SKE).

  8. Removed geography from the list of covered programmes. Updated information about which applicants are eligible for SKE to begin an ITT course. Updated bursary information for the 2020 to 2021 academic year and timings of course availability.

  9. Added a link for further information about the opportunity in future for multiple providers to design and deliver subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses.

  10. Added an instruction not to start any candidates on 2020 to 2021 SKE courses from 1 October 2020.

  11. Added updated information about the the funding arrangements for SKE courses, in response to the implications of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  12. Added information about changes to the commercial model for the SKE programme, starting in the 2020 to 2021 academic year, including how to apply through the tender process to deliver DfE-funded SKE courses from October 2020 onwards.

  13. Added religious education to the list of covered programmes. Change to text relating to SKE funding. Removed link to the SKE operations manual and added details of how to request a copy.

  14. New funding rates for the academic year 2015 to 2016

  15. Read new information on SKE for the academic year 2015 to 2016.

  16. Added contact details

  17. First published.