Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

Department for Business Innovation and Skills publish Mathematics Subject Knowledge Enhancement Programme Guide Academic Year 2013/2014

20 March 2014

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published the  Mathematics Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) programme guide 2013/2014.

In this programme guide, BIS notes that some people who apply for initial teacher training (ITT) with the potential to become outstanding maths teachers may not have enough specific subject knowledge to begin a mathematics ITT course. They set out who might want to do Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses, including:

  • those who have studied maths to a highly advanced level, but over time have lost some of the 'basics' needed to teach at secondary level
  • those who have studied a degree related to maths, rather than an exact match
  • those who have changed career and may have a related degree with a lot of knowledge.

SKE programmes are described as:

  • pre-ITT programmes to help applicants gain the depth of subject knowledge needed to train to teach their chosen subject
  • only applying to mathematics
  • only for pre-service, post-graduate programmes
  • specifically supporting programmes which allow trainees to teach maths to GCSE and level 3

ACME responded to the consultation on SKE programmes for 2013/2014 and beyond in June 2013. Some of the main points are summarised below:

  1. Importance of SKE programme: ACME urged NCTL to reconsider proposals, which if implemented ACME believes would significantly reduce this very cost-effective route to increasing the supply of well-informed and committeed teachers of mathematics. For many secondary teachers, SKEs are, and should remain, the appropriate first step in their subject-specific professional development.
  2. SKE course length: There is a continued and important need for 6 week, 13 week and 26 week SKE courses in mathematics.
  3. SKE provision: These need not be linked with specific ITE providers, but should be centrally coordinated, and developed with due attention to quality assurance, geographical spead, and economies of scale.
  4. Teacher supply: The chronic undersupply of competent and confidence mathematics teachers will not be addressed without provision of SKE courses, nor will effective and consistent delivery of new, demanding curricula and qualifications be possible.
  5. SKEs in parallel to ITE: If students are expected to complete a lengthy SKE course in parallel with their ITE course, either the core training or subject knowledge development would inevitably be significantly compromised.
  6. Online and distance learning: There is mixed evidence about the effectiveness of online and distance learning methods for such purposes. However, the experiences of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) and the Further Mathematics Support Network (FMSN) suggest that, for mathematics, these approaches are more effective in developing further the knowledge of learners already embedded in a mathematics (and mathematics education) culture, than they are in inducting learners into that culture in the first place.
  7. Allocation of SKE courses: Allocating SKE provision in proportion to the size of ITE provision is not a good model since it ignores variable demand. In fact, there is no need for upfront allocation of SKEs. An alternative model would be to maintain a central register of available 6, 13 and possibly 26 week courses, with ITE providers directing appropriate applicants to it and making offers of places conditional on successful completion of such a course. Uptake would then be on a first-come, first-served basis, with longer courses requiing early application if ITE course particiaption is not to be delayed. Provision should be allocated by formal tender.
  8. Quality assurance: SKE courses, whether from current or new providers, should be subject to both accreditation and rigorous no-notice inspection, since they are publicly-funded.

In the SKE Programme Guide, it is noted:

'in the academic year 2013/14 we are funding a maths Subject Knowledge Enchancement (SKE) programme to support applications to post graduate, pre service mathematics Further Education (FE) initial teacher training (ITT). The funding is available to all providers of ITT to enable suitable applicants to commence their ITT in 2014/15. There is a finite budget available for SKE in the academic year 2013/14. The funding will be allocated on demand until exhausted'.

Some further detail is set out:

  • Applicants should start and ideally complete the SKE programme by September 2014 before taking up their initial teacher training for the 2014 to 2015 academic year. It will be possible to continue both in parallel and complete the SKE after September, but applicants must start the SKE programme before 1 August 2014.
  • They are funding SKE programmes up to a maximum of 20 weeks. They are currently only funding SKE for mathematics in FE ITT.
  • The content of an SKE is set by the training provider in conjunction with the applicant.
  • They write that SKEs may be delivered by university subject departments, another ITT provider, a third party supplier, or the SKE may be delivered in-house. The course is flexible and can be delivered throught full-time classroom-based study, part-time classroom and evening/ weekend study, part-time distance learning or a combination of all.
  • Rather than being a course or a qualification, the programme guide states that SKE is a funding programme to support the development of candidates to ITT, particularly in subjects where there is a shortage of teachers. The provider who requests the funding can spend it as they see fit in order to meet the needs of the applicant. This may mean requiring them to complete a course of study, either run by their ITT provider or run by another institution. Alternatively it could mean using your existing staffing to provide the learning for example through a guided tutorial arrangement, or it could be achieve through a distance learning package. Providers and applicants can decide how this is best achieved.
  • SKE and ITT are separate, in that they are funded separately. However it is stated that they assume that if a provider supports an applicant to undertake an SKE then you have offered them a place on your ITT programme subject to their completion of the SKE. Providers who use UCAS Teacher Training will usually make a conditional offer based on the complete of the SKE.
  • There is no requirement for the SKE to be formally assessed or certificated; although the ITT provider will want to be assured that the trainee has achieved all that they need to at the end of the programme. It is for providers to decide how this is best achieved.

Funding of SKE programmes comes from BIS, and is managed by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), which is part of the Department for Education (DfE). ITT providers who are in receipt of HEFCE funding, or registered with the SFA as Registered Training Providers, and who are delivering post graduate, pre service maths training to at least GCSE level will be able to request funding for SKE.

Funding rates for SKEs are set out in more detail in the document. Questions about eligibility and purpose of the SKE scheme should be directed to BIS via the email address

They set out in some detail and offer examples of how they believe that SKE courses could support recruitment to ITT.

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