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Schoolgirls beat 8,000 rivals to qualify for grand final of national CyberFirst girls' challenge

Schoolgirls beat 8,000 rivals to qualify for grand final of national CyberFirst girls' challenge

TEAMS of schoolgirls from all over the country have progressed to the grand final of a national contest to find the UK’s best cyber security talent of tomorrow.

They travelled to the heart of Westminster yesterday to pit their technological wits against girls from nine other schools at the final of CyberFirst girls' competition.

The competition has been organised by the National Cyber Security Centre, a part of GCHQ, to generate more interest amongst young women in the increasingly important field of cyber security.

The finalists come from teams of four representing;

  • Oxford High School (Oxford)
  • The Tiffin Girls School (Kingston)
  • Queen’s School Chester (Chester)
  • George Heriot’s School  (Edinburgh)
  • Kings of Wessex Academy (Somerset)
  • Pershore High School (Worcestershire)
  • South Wilts Grammar School (Wiltshire)
  • The Henrietta Barnett School (Hampstead)
  • Hanley Castle High School (Worcestershire)
  • Lancaster Girls Grammar School (Lancaster)

Alison Whitney, the deputy director for digital services at the NCSC, said:

“It is fantastic to have representation in the final from across the UK, and we wish all the teams the very best for the national final.

“I would recommend working in cyber security to any young woman hoping to make a positive impact on the world.

“Cyber security is increasingly important to help people live and work online, and we hope CyberFirst girls will help young women develop skills that could lead to a dynamic and rewarding career.”

More than 8,000 girls aged 13 to 15 accepted the NCSC’s challenge to take part in the online rounds, and by qualifying for the grand final all of the teams have already finished in the top 0.5% of entrants.

The final will transform a historic government building in Westminster into a live-action cyber centre to test the girls’ security skills through a series of challenging scenarios, before they are asked to present their findings to real-life experts from NCSC and industry.

The winning team will take home individual prizes and their school will receive IT equipment to the value of £1,000. 

They will be presented with the prizes by Miriam González, founder of Inspiring Girls International and a partner in the law firm Dechert.

Miriam González said:

“I am truly impressed by the talent of the girls who have taken part of the competition and I do hope that many of them pursue a career in the technology field.

“Inspiring Girls International is proud of collaborating with CyberFirst girls, a wonderful initiative to inspire young women that shows to them that cyber security can offer a very interesting career for both, men and women, who are willing to make an impact in our society.”

The government is fully committed to defending against cyber threats and address the cyber skills gap to develop and grow talent. A five year National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) was announced in November 2016, supported by £1.9billion of transformational investment.

The NCSC was opened by the Queen in February 2017 and provides a single, central body for cyber security at a national level. It manages national cyber security incidents, carries out real-time threat analysis and provides tailored sectoral advice. 

School quotes

Jackie Cahalin, Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School:

“I am delighted that Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School students have made it through to the national final of this exciting competition.

“We had over 100 students enter which shows the level of interest and enthusiasm for Computer Science and Cryptography.”

Ian Keary, The Tiffin Girls’ School:

“This event has captured the imagination of the girls and helps break down barriers as to what girls can achieve and do in the workplace, as well as raising the profile of an important aspect of national security.

“We are delighted for Bronte, Cordelia and Katie on their tremendous achievement in qualifying for the national final.

“We are very proud of their success and that of all the large number of Year 10 computer science students. Well done girls!”

Cameron Wyllie, George Heriot’s School:

“Everyone at George Heriot’s School is delighted with the success of our girls.

“We are very proud they are the only school team from Scotland to make it through to the final in London and we wish them every success.”

Dr Lisa Hall, Kings of Wessex school:

“We are delighted that ‘The Queens of Wessex’ team are through to the national final. We are so proud of our girls and wish them every success.

“As a team, they are a highly intelligent group who worked exceptionally hard over the first phase of the competition, totally determined to overcome the challenges.

“CyberFirst has given them an amazing opportunity to use their skills on real problems, develop confident and to encourage them and their peers to consider computing as a career.”

Diana Hawkins, Hanley Castle High School:

“We are thrilled that four of our most talented female students have won through to the national final.

“This is a marvellous opportunity for them to build their confidence and believe in themselves and we are proud and excited for each and every one of them.”

Del Cooke, Henrietta Barnett School:

“We are really thrilled that our students have done so well in this prestigious competition.

“They came across the competition themselves and begged to be allowed to enter.

“We are so proud that they have got through to the final!”

Judith Carlisle, Oxford High School:

“Our girls really enjoy a tough challenge and an opportunity to be stretched.

“The CyberFirst girls' competition has certainly done this and they are very much looking forward to the final.”

Michele Chilcott,  South Wilts Grammar School:

“We are very pleased for our students to have made it to the final of this prestigious event.”

Clive Corbet, Peshore High School:

“Everyone associated with Pershore High School is so proud and excited at the successful involvement of our girls, so ably supported by Mrs Rhodes, in the CyberFirst competition.

“Cyber security is vital to the future success and safety of our country.”

Damian McKeown, Queen’s School:

“Globally, cyber security is a hugely important area, as we see from the news every night.

“Competitions like this help to equip our pupils with the knowledge, skills and inspiration needed to enable them to make the most of the opportunities that exist.

“It is certainly an exciting world to be part of and I am very proud of the way the girls have risen to the challenges.”

Notes to editors

The location of the final cannot be published until the grand final begins, but if you would like to apply for accreditation to cover the event please email

Press materials will be circulated by the NCSC after the final, including photographs from the event.

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