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UK schoolgirls secure victory as champions of NCSC cyber skills contest

Teams of schoolgirls from across the UK have been crowned cyber security champions, in a nationwide competition which put their cyber security skills to the test.

Above: The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Nova South, London.
Image by Simona Flamigni / copyright Shutterstock

The 2023/24 CyberFirst Girls Competition, run by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), saw the largest number of girls taking part since its inception
    
Teams used range of cyber skills to compete in code cracking, decrypting messages and solving puzzles in a contest which seeks to inspire young women to pursue careers in cyber

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More than 12,500 girls across the UK took part from in the 2023/2024 CyberFirst Girls Competition, which is run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, with 13 teams claiming the top prize.

The competition, saw the most teams and schools take part since its inception seven years ago, with 3608 teams from over 750 schools participating. The competition aims to encourage girls aged 12-13 to consider pursuing an interest in technology and introduce them the idea of a career in cyber.

The winning teams for the 2023 / 2024 competition are:
St Kentigern's Academy (Scotland)
Archbishop McGrath Catholic High School (Wales)
Glenlola Collegiate (Northern Ireland)
Congleton High School (Northwest of England)
Durham Johnston Comprehensive School (Northeast)
King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls (West Midlands)
The South Wolds Academy & Sixth Form (East Midlands)
Watford Grammar School for Girls (East of England)
Skipton Girls' High School (Yorkshire and Humberside)
The Crypt School (Southwest)
Nonsuch High School for Girls (Southeast)
The Henrietta Barnett School (London)
Oxford High School GDST (Independent Schools)

In this year’s competition, girls across the country tested their cyber skills in cracking codes, decrypting messages, and solving coding puzzles.

The contest is designed to encourage girls to explore the world of cyber and technology, helping to address the lack of diversity in the UK cyber workforce, where women currently make up just 17%.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said: “Congratulations to all the teams who took part in this year’s CyberFirst Girls Competition, they’ve shown some incredible talent, teamwork and dedication.

“A special mention to the respective winners, whose success is not just a triumph in the competition but a great demonstration of breaking barriers and addressing the need for greater female representation in the cyber security industry.

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“I’d like to thank all the teachers, for the incredible effort they put in to inspire their students and our industry partners for their efforts in making the competition so successful.”

The winning teams from each region have been invited to a grand prize winning dinner and celebration day taking place early next year.

In addition to the winning schools, Deloitte have donated 250 laptops to 30 schools across the UK that have participated in the competition. This is aimed at boosting pupils’ learning journey as well as supporting the wider drive to close the digital skills gap.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition is the NCSC’s flagship cyber security contest for schools, which opens annually to girls in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland and Year 9 in Northern Ireland. Since it launched in 2017, around 70,000 girls have taken part.

The CyberFirst programme offers a range of free opportunities aimed at offering young people the skills, opportunities and exposure they need to thrive in cyber security.

More information about CyberFirst opportunities can be found on the NCSC website.

 

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