By Emma Swift

I have spoken to a number of teachers and leaders about how I have started the journey of improving diversity and representation in the science curriculum across the MAT I work for. Here are 5 steps to support you in beginning this process.


1. Role models

Adding context to the narrative

Look at the representation within your curriculum. As science teachers we have to talk about the scientists who have contributed to significant discoveries in science, and the majority of these are white men. It is important to teach the stories of scientists who have changed our view of the universe, however it is also important to take the opportunity to talk to students about the social and economic reasons why science was mainly investigated by men in the past. It is also important to highlight the occasions when women or Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) have made contributions which were hidden or erased from the record.


Paralleling stories

You can also take opportunities to parallel the contributions of underrepresented groups (BAME, female and disabled scientists) when you teach the traditional scientists and their individual contributions.  Do you talk about Rosalind Franklin when talking about Crick and Watson? Or Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s discovery of pulsars when looking at space discoveries in parallel with Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter?  When can you take the opportunity to highlight scientists whose contributions are not highlighted by the specification? Can you talk about Lise Meitner when talking about fission or Rachel Carson when speaking about bioaccumulation?


Gatsby Benchmarks

The Gatsby benchmarks encourage us to challenge stereotypes and seek to raise the aspirations of students and highlight the relevance of how your curriculum links to careers. By ensuring that your curriculum represents significant contributions that all groups have made and are making to the advancement of science, you also can fulfill a wider school commitment to excellence in careers.

The broadening of the domain to include a wider range of scientists will teach students the importance of STEM subjects for gaining entry to a wide range of careers and the hope that by seeing themselves represented in the people that they see, will in turn allow them to see themselves in those careers.



And of course look to have more diverse displays, below are some examples of poster sets that are free and available to support.


2. Check your pronouns and your names

A simple way to see if your resources are diverse is to check your pronouns. Do you tend to use ‘he’ when talking about doctors and astronauts in questions? And how often as staff do we do the same thing when teaching? When writing questions are the names representative of society as a whole or is there an imbalance in the gendering or the ethnicity?  There are lots of really great resources to challenge gender stereotyping in science from the IOP.


3. Different examples – challenging stereotypes

When you use images to represent situations are they white, able bodied men? If so is there opportunity to swap these out to show a more representative image of British society. This includes the opportunity to increase the challenge and challenge misconceptions when teaching topic like genetics. Would the use of an example with a mixed race (biracial) family when teaching genetics open the door for a more complex discussion about polygenic rather than single genetic manifestation of human variation?

Following on from the use of images you can look to highlight the contributions of peoples with protected characteristics in questions. When writing speed questions for example absolutely use Usain Bolts 100 m record breaking time, however could you also include Jonnie Peacock’s 2016 Paralympic win in Rio in 100 m T44 of 10.81s.

If using swimming as an example, could you use Ellie Simmonds world record breaking swim at the Rio Paralympics, where Ellie defended her Gold medal for the 200 m individual medley setting a new world record, the first below 3 minutes at 2:59.81?

Obviously these are only two examples but as you move through your curriculum you will see multiple examples to include disabled, female or BAME representation. Try and avoid the only positive representations of BAME people being in sport.


4. Problematic people

There are a number of people who we should teach about as they made significant contribution to science. However some of these people had some problematic views on both race and gender. The majority of these scientists’ views can be explained through the context of the time in which they lived (Darwin and Carl Linnaeus to name a few).  However some of them like James Watson continue to make claims which are problematic and uses science to support these views. It is important to address these views with the students and challenge them. Challenging his views and views like these is part of my commitment to being anti-racist.

There are lots of great books about race, gender and science, and the following are three that I really enjoyed. Speak to the literacy coordinator: could they be included on any school reading lists?

  • ‘How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality’ by Adam Rutherford
  • ‘Inferior: The true power of women and the science that shows it’ by Angela Saini
  • ‘Superior: The Return of Race Science’ by Angela Saini


5. Sensitivity around language

Look at the language you use particularly around sex and gender and empower teachers to feel confident in using correct terms. This comes up when teaching topics like chromosomes, which could be an opportunity to highlight the difference between biological sex and gender, which in turn might ensure that all students are included. Try to ensure that all staff (and students) use a common language when talking about things like people who are intersex. Ensure that all staff feel confident to talk about topics like intersex knowledgeably. Good websites to help with these issue are Educate and Celebrate and Schools Out.

A lot of this work is just about auditing what you have and swapping or adding things in. It is definitely a journey and will develop over time. It is really helpful to include diversity in any curriculum review.