Recognising the diversity of the people in the story of science

Published: Monday 30 May 2022

Our Curriculum Manager for Science, Adrian Wise, gives us an insight into what the team is doing to ensure our qualifications are inclusive and recognise the diversity of the people who are part of the story of science.

Our philosophy at AQA is ‘science for all’: we believe that the study of science helps us all understand what is happening in the world around us and make informed choices about the way we interact with other humans and the environment.

We need to be sure that our students receive an education that is inclusive regardless of disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other part of a person’s identity. This is as true of the teaching of science as any other subject.

The core aim of scientific study is to objectively explain the phenomena of the universe and science is often perceived as a subject without bias. The phenomena we are trying to explain are ‘universal’, meaning they affect everyone and everything without bias.

But because we are all human the ways we study, talk about and teach science are very much open to bias, however unintentional.

Building more inclusive science specifications

In the sciences, we’re at the start of a journey to ensure that our specifications and resources reflect today’s students’ lives and experiences and give them opportunities to see relevance in the subject matter.

We began by looking into the A-level specifications, and intend to continue with the GCSE specifications.

We’ve been working with representatives from King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Sheffield and the University of Warwick to better understand how our A-level science specifications – and the curricula on which they are based – could be improved to be more inclusive.

We’re reassured that they believe the core of what we do is sound. But they’ve also given us some great ideas on areas where we can improve, for example how the efforts and perspectives of international scientists are represented, and how we can work to improve accessibility of our assessments for a neuro-diverse student population. Some things we can start doing now, but other things will need further exploration to be sure they are implemented meaningfully.

Inclusivity and our current specifications

Our Assessment Design experts have been reviewing the language used to talk about people in our exam papers, to make them more inclusive. For example, using neutral language such as ‘the student’ or ‘the scientist' instead of making gender decisions.

We’re also reviewing our schemes of work, to highlight areas where more inclusivity and diversity can be incorporated into teaching to engage students.

Shaping future specifications

Some major themes are:

  • recognising the diversity of the people who are part of the story of science, which includes for example looking globally
  • the language we use to talk about topics relating to the human body, such as sexual reproduction
  • how the impact of science (and technology derived from it) may not affect all people equally.

We need to listen to feedback from the teaching community, and identify how we can help deliver, or signpost, the support needed to make meaningful and positive changes to science education.

Challenges and opportunities

Many of the themes arising are complicated because they cross traditional boundaries between subjects (such as science and geography in the extracting of resources needed for modern technology) or history (lack of acknowledgement of scientists who are female and/or non-white). It is really important for the future, to encourage cross-subject thinking, such as in the arena of climate change.

Working together to help every student realise their potential

Learned bodies such as the Royal Society of Biology, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics, amongst others, already have campaigns to highlight and challenge diversity in science teaching.

We will be working with stakeholders like these, to ensure any curriculum reform is the best it can be for a modern and rapidly changing world.

We want to hear from people who are experts in the areas they believe are underrepresented in school science education, so that we can ensure our specifications are accessible to all.

We recognise the wealth and experience that teachers have and would like to channel this to help improve the quality of science education. We would really appreciate any thoughts and ideas you can share so that we can build them into future reformed qualifications. Some of you have already been in touch, and we hope to continue these discussions as we work together to shape the science curriculum. You can share your thoughts and ideas by emailing or

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