Schoolgirl codebreakers enter national contest in record numbers

9 Jan 2020 11:36 AM

Days to go until the CyberFirst Girls Competition opens with registration at a new high.


Record numbers of schoolgirls are coming forward to pitch their codebreaking skills against each other in the UK’s flagship cyber security competition.

With just days to go until the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberFirst Girls Competition opens, figures show a new high in registrations for the time of year – 520 schools this year compared to 406 at the same time in 2019.

The competition, which was created to boost female interest in cyber security, sees girls aged 12 and 13 competing to crack a series of over 100 online puzzles and challenges. This year’s competition is bigger than ever, with an online round, then 18 regional and national finals followed by a UK final.

Registration for the 2020 event opened last month, with the South of England currently on 101 schools and the South West on 94. In Scotland, 31 schools have registered, with Wales on 28 and Northern Ireland on 15.

Central England and the north have with 100 and 92 schools registered respectively, while London currently sits at 59 schools.

The NCSC released the figures as the final dash for registration takes place ahead of the competition’s online round opening on Monday 13th January.

Schools have until Tuesday 21st January to register, but are being encouraged to do so now to give the girls as much time to compete as possible.

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

“It’s great to see a record number of schools registering at this stage for the CyberFirst Girls Competition.

“The competition is an excellent opportunity for girls to have fun and test their cyber skills, and the growing interest can only be good news for an industry which needs more female talent.

“I would strongly urge schools which have not yet registered to do so, and to give themselves the chance to be crowned not just champions of their region or country, but potentially of the whole UK.”

The NCSC, which is a part of GCHQ, launched the competition in 2017 with the aim of developing the next generation of cyber security professionals and encouraging more women in particular to consider a future career in the industry. So far more than 24,000 girls have taken part.

Last year 12,000 pupils took part in the competition, which tested their skills on topics from logic and cryptography to networking and online safety. Of the girls who took part last year, 98% said they would like to learn more about cyber security.

The first winners of the competition were Lancaster Girls Grammar School in 2017, followed by The Piggott School, Berkshire, in 2018 and the Royal Masonic School for Girls, Hertfordshire, last year.

Three-times finalists The Tiffin Girls’ School in Kingston-upon-Thames, South West London, who last month spoke to NATO and world leaders at a Downing Street reception about the competition. In a subsequent blog, the girls described the event as a “privilege” and a “great experience”.

Number of schools registered as of 8 January 2020