Skip to main content
  1. Home
  2. Apply for teacher training

When Francis felt frustrated

Illustration of a woman with her hands on her head looking frustrated. Around her head are icons of exclamation marks and question marks showing her confusion. The the left of her it says 'When Francis felt frustrated.

Previously, we designed guidance to tell candidates they have to do a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course before their teacher training.

We conducted usability testing the designs with 7 participants. We also sent a survey and received 232 responses from people who had received an offer with a condition that they do an SKE course before their training started.

Some of the findings we uncovered were about the wider SKE policy and the friction it was causing users of Apply for teacher training and wider. Some of the areas of friction were around:

  • choosing an SKE course
  • applying for an SKE course (a separate process to applying for teacher training)
  • receving the funding for an SKE course
  • the content of SKE courses

We wanted to capture these findings in a way that would help people empathise with candidates and providers. So, we wrote a story…

When Francis felt frustrated

Francis has a degree in Pharmacology, and dreams of teaching chemistry and making it fun!

She applies to a secondary teacher training course in chemistry. To apply, she has to fill out a form.

Illustration of a woman sitting at a desk at her laptop. Behind her is an image of a teacher training application form. In the top right corner of the illustration there is a label that says 'Form 1'.

Francis gets an interview from a training provider called Fresh Teacher Training.


Before her interview, Francis fills out a second form called a ‘subject knowledge audit’.

Francis starts to fret that she doesn’t know enough to teach.

Illustration of a woman reading a book. Behind her is a form called 'Chemistry Subject Audit' in the top right corner of the illustration it says 'Form 2'.

A recruitment officer from Fresh Teacher Training reviews Francis’ subject knowledge audit.

It takes time and it’s hard to assess if Francis knows enough chemistry.

Fresh Teacher Training decides Francis might need a ‘subject knowledge enhancement’ (SKE) course.

Her degree in Pharmacology doesn’t exactly match to chemistry.

Interview day

The interviewer tells Francis she could do an SKE course based on her subject knowledge audit.

The interviewer feels:

“Francis is going to be so prepared!”

Francis feels:

“So much to do, I’m a little scared!”

Francis says “Yes” to the SKE course in the interview but feels under pressure.

Illustration of a woman sitting at a desk looking at a laptop. Behind her is a man showing her something on the laptop.

Getting a teacher training offer

Fresh Teacher Training makes Francis an offer to train to teach with them!

The offer comes with the condition that Francis does a 12-week SKE course before her training.

12 weeks is all the time left before Francis starts her teacher training.

Illustration of a woman looking at a laptop. The laptop is showing her the offer she's received for a teacher training course.

Francis starts to fret (again):

“It’s 25 hours a week, how will I fit this in around my job as a waiter”

“12 weeks, that’s 3 months. I guess I won’t have much holiday after working so hard at university. I’m tired already”

“Wait, is it free?”

“Where do I do this course, how do I begin? I don’t have much time to waste”

Francis accepts her offer.

“Better than no offer at all!”

Illustration of a woman sitting at a table with her laptop in front of her. Behind her it shows a page from the teacher training application form. The page shows the woman accepting an offer for teacher training.

Information overload

Fresh Teacher Training sends Francis some information about SKE courses.

They give her lots of options on where to do her SKE course, but strongly encourage a training provider called ExtrA Learning Trust.

Francis researches all the options. She looks at the SKE directory on GOV.UK but she can’t tell the difference between each course.

Francis joins some forums looking for any reviews on different SKE courses.

Some reviews are fabulous, some are frightening.

Illustration showing a woman looking confused while she looks at a computer. Behind her it shows a page from the GOV.UK SKE directory.

Francis eventually chooses ExtrA Learning Trust that Fresh Teacher Training originally recommended.

She goes to the website and fills out another form.

Illustration showing a woman hunched over a laptop looking tired. Behind her is an image of another form she has to fill out. In the top right corner of the illustration it says 'Form 3'.

“Fiddlesticks” says Francis,

“I’ve already given this information when I applied for teacher training”

And then…

“Oh no, another subject knowledge audit?”

ExtrA Learning Trust receives the form from Francis. They fill out a different form to get funding from the Department for Education.

They ask Francis to send her degree certificate and proof of her home fee status.

“Not again” says Francis.

Illustration of a woman looking angry and frustrated. Behind her is an image of another form she has to fill out for her SKE course. In the top right corner of the illustration it says 'Form 4'.

Starting the SKE course

Francis starts her SKE course online. She does it alone and mostly in the evenings after work.

There’s a lot to do and she must write long reflection essays at the end of every week.

Francis feels frustrated that she’s not spending enough time doing practical chemistry exercises.

Illustration of a woman sitting at a window at night. Her laptop is balancing on her knees as she works.

Surprise payment

Randomly, ExtrA Learning Trust asks for Francis’ bank details, she’s not sure why.

Francis finds out she will get £175 a week to do her SKE course.

It’s less than she earns as a waiter and she’s halfway through her SKE course already.

“Bit late, but ok”

Francis fills out another form to provide her bank details.

Illustration of a woman sitting with her laptop on her lap. Behind her is an image of a form asking for her bank details. In the top right corner if the illustration it says 'Form 5'.

It’s been 3 weeks since Francis gave her bank details. She wonders when she’ll get paid.

She’s doing less hours waiting tables because of her workload. Finances are tight.

Fresh Teacher Training doesn’t know anything about the SKE bursary when she asks them.

After a few weeks, Francis suddenly receives her SKE bursary backdated from when she started, followed by more regular payments. “Phew!”

Illustration of a woman who looks happy. Around her head are icons of different currencies like the dollar, pound and euro.

Time to start teacher training

Just before her teacher training starts, Francis goes to Florence! She’s saved up a whole year for this.

Francis falls behind on her SKE course work and must finish it during the first 2 weeks of her teacher training.

Suddenly, the SKE bursary payments stop. She didn’t know you can’t get the bursary if it overlaps with teacher training.

Francis feels frustrated!

Illustration of a woman looking frustrated with her hands on her head. Around her head are icons of exclamation marks and question marks to show her frustration.

Francis makes some friends on her teacher training course. They also had to do an SKE course.

Everyone has different things to say about their SKE course – from different lengths to different content.

Some thought they were fabulous, some thought they were frightening.

Francis loves her teacher training course, but she’s relearning things she did in her SKE course.

Francis feels frustrated (again).

– The End

Illustration of a woman looking sad and dejected.

Sharing our work

We shared this story with other user centered design professions and with policy colleagues. The team that run the SKE policy are bringing all the research done on SKE courses (including ours) to look at improvements to the policy at various stages in a user’s journey.