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HRH The Duke of York hosts cyber experts of the future

The 40 CyberFirst Girls Competition 2019 finalists enjoyed afternoon tea at WIndsor Castle.

Image of His Royal Highness, The Duke of York and some of the finalists from the CyberFirst Girls Competition 2019 at Windsor Castle

  • The Duke of York hosted finalists of NCSC’s CyberFirst Girls Competition at Windsor Castle
  • CyberFirst graduates now employed by GCHQ
  • National Cyber Security Centre looking to combat stereotypes facing cyber-security industry

Recently (24 May 2019), The Duke of York hosted 40 of the UK’s most promising young female cyber experts at Windsor Castle.

The winners of the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) CyberFirst Girls Competition 2019, Hertfordshire’s Royal Masonic School for Girls, saw off competition from around the country to crack a series of tough challenges.

The annual CyberFirst Girls Competition is open to girls in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland and Year 9 in Northern Ireland, covering the 12-13 age group. They are tasked with completing a series of challenges involving skills required by GCHQ experts.

Women currently only make up 11% of the global cyber workforce and CyberFirst Girls aims to combat stereotypes with the hope of sparking a life-long interest in the girls who take part.

The Duke of York, recently said

“At a critical point in your education, the NCSC CyberFirst Girls Competition has encouraged you to make decisions about your future and helped you all to see that girls can do as much if not more than you realised or ever considered.

“During this process you have had your eyes opened to the possibility of pursuing a career in cyber security, and remember, there is nothing you cannot do. Congratulations on all that you have achieved and I wish you every success in your chosen paths.”

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, recently said:

“Whether it be coding, cryptography or networking, cyber security is featuring in the news daily. Ensuring the UK has the necessary skills to not only meet today’s demand but one which is only going to grow is hugely important.

“This year’s finalists demonstrated huge amounts of skill in reacting to the cyber challenges we set them at the final in Edinburgh. I hope they have enjoyed today’s visit to Windsor Castle.”

“There are a host of free courses and bursaries available for anyone who is interested in contributing to keeping the UK safe.”

CyberFirst Girls has proved hugely successful, with more than 24,000 pupils taking part since its inauguration in 2016.

This year’s final was held in Edinburgh in March, and the pupils were set a series of puzzles and challenges incorporating the skills used daily by GCHQ experts. The challenges were designed to help develop, nurture and encourage more pupils to think about a career in cyber security.

This year’s competition saw a considerable increase in participation from 2018, with 11,802 pupils taking part – a 162% rise on last year.

Alongside the latest competition, this year also sees GCHQ take on as full-time employees some of the girls who originally benefitted from the CyberFirst Girls programme, for example through receiving bursaries.

Testimony from the CyberFirst Girls 2019 winners

A student from the 2019 winner The Royal Masonic School for Girls, Hertfordshire

“The competition has definitely inspired me to develop a career in cyber security, especially in GCHQ. When I am older I either want to be a Computing teacher, an Intelligence and Data Analyst or a Covert Technical Operations Specialist. I think cyber security is fascinating and an essential part of any website, app or company.”


“The girls were really engrossed by the puzzles, so the level of challenge was excellent. Not to mention the amazing weekend in Edinburgh, particularly dinner in Edinburgh Castle. These 4 students, well 3 of them definitely, will probably take GCSE Computer Science now.

“It was an absolutely amazing few days. It almost felt like a dream. Edinburgh Castle, competition day. What an amazing experience for us and the students. Competition day was a very tense experience, as our school kept on fluctuating between 1st and 5th most of the day! As we neared 2.30pm and stabilised at the top, my anxiety levels rose as I felt we had a real chance of overall victory. 

“I would tell other girls that they should definitely try the competition, because we didn’t believe we could do it, and we won. It’s always worth a chance.”

A teacher from the 2019 winner The Royal Masonic School for Girls, Hertfordshire

Further information regarding the CyberFirst Girls competition can be found here:

The 2019 Finalists were:

  • Watford Grammar School for Girls, Hertfordshire
  • Beverley High School, East Riding, Yorkshire
  • Oxford High School GDST
  • Denmark Road High School, Gloucester
  • Chelmsford County High School for Girls, Essex
  • The Tiffin Girls’ School, London
  • St Catherine’s College, Armagh
  • Withington Girls’ School, Manchester
  • Queen’s School, Chester
  • Royal Masonic School for Girls, Hertfordshire

Notes to editors


  • Following a week-long online phase in January, and a finals day in Edinburgh in March, The Royal Masonic School for Girls were crowned CyberFirst Girls Competition 2019 champions.
  • Led and inspired by the National Cyber Security Centre (a part of GCHQ), CyberFirst is a programme of opportunities and support helping young people explore their passion for computers and technology and introducing them to the fascinating and critical world of cyber security.
  • The CyberFirst Girls competition is a high profile intervention by the NCSC to allow 12/13yrs old girls the opportunity to explore cyber related challenges first hand.
  • The 2019 CyberFirst Girls Final can be viewed here:

National Cyber Security Centre

  • The UK Government is fully committed to defending against cyber threats and address the cyber skills gap to develop and grow talent. The NCSC was created as part of the five year National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) announced in 2016, supported by £1.9billion of transformational investment.
  • The NCSC provides a single, central body for cyber security at a national level and is the UK’s technical authority on cyber. It manages national cyber security incidents, carries out real-time threat analysis and provides tailored sectoral advice.
  • GCHQ is the parent body for the NCSC, meaning that it can draw on the organisation’s world-class skills and sensitive capabilities.


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