Congratulations to all the teams who took part
in The CyberFirst Girls Competition Grand Final on Monday! provides
a fun and challenging environment which aims to inspire the next generation of
young women to consider a career in cyber security. The Grand Final, the first to
be held online, saw ten teams of four girls from Year 8 in England and Wales,
Year 9 in Northern Ireland and S2 in Scotland, compete for the title of UK
CyberFirst Girls Competition Winners.
The finalists applied their skills in cryptography, logic and networking to tasks based on a fictional scenario where Internet of Things (IoT) devices including smart kettles and mirrors were infected with malware. The winning team from Highgate School, London will receive laptops as part of their prize, along with a visit to a prestigious location later in the year.
We spoke to finalists Bradford Grammar School and Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, in Worcester about their experiences.
Christine Harvey, is leader of CAS Bradford Community and Head of Computer Science at Bradford Grammar School
“Computer Science is a very popular option for our students. Over 75% of pupils choose it in Yr9. We have three GCSE classes in each year and two A level classes in Year 12. Over the years we have become very interested in Cybersecurity by taking part in competitions like CyberFirst Girls and we now offer an EPQ in Cybersecurity alongside A level Computer Science. We are proud that our pupils have gone on to study Computer Science or Cybersecurity at leading Russell Group universities and have gained places on competitive Degree Apprenticeships and scholarship schemes.”
“At Bradford Grammar School, pupils choose their options in Year 8. We first entered CyberFirst Girls in 2017 with most of our girls signing up. As a result, we saw an increase in the number of pupils that opted for Computer Science (82 pupils instead of 58 the year before). More importantly the number of girls opting for Computer Science rose from 15% to 28% (almost doubled in the first year of running the competition). This continued to rise every year with good numbers of girls opting for Computer Science, in fact this year there are more girls than boys taking A level Computer Science!
“The girls were so excited to win the North of England semi-final, you could hear their screams across the whole school. We were just pleased to get to the semi-final, but to win it was amazing. The girls worked so hard on the qualifying round and winning the semi-final showed them how much they have learnt and how well they work as a team.
Some of the problems were challenging but with the help of each other and lots of flapjack, we managed to find the solution! The experience was exhilarating and memorable and we can't wait to see what the finals bring!’”
Matt Nicholls teaches computing at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, in Worcester, which was also a finalist:
“As a department we’re always looking at ways of engaging girls with Computer Science, since stereotypically classes are dominated by boys. This is the second year we have entered yr 8 girls into the competition, last year we reached the semi-finals but have gone one step further this year.”
What did it involve?
“The competition is a team event, comprising of teams of 4 from year 8. Our team consisted of Aeryn, Caitlin, Jasmin and Marina. The girls completed cyber security challenges that promote problem solving, cryptography, logic and coding.
How have your students benefited from getting involved?
Our students told us about their experiences:
Marina: “I’ve learnt a lot about cryptography and the competition has taught me the importance of problem solving”
Jasmin; “It’s improved my understanding of networking and computer hardware. In terms of personal skills, I have also improved my team working skills”
Aeryn; “My knowledge of cyber security has improved, since I was unaware how for instance hackers find flaws in websites. I’ve also developed my communication skills”
Caitlin; “I’ve learnt about logic and coding, using python to sequence code. I have also had to think outside of the box and learn to be resilient with the harder challenges faced.”
How can we encourage more girls to get involved in computer science and cyber?
“The curriculum at KS3 and 4 needs to include a great emphasis on cyber security, many courses including OCR have a small section on this and topics remain heavy on areas that girls are less interested in.
How does it feel to be in the final?
“The college is proud of the girls, they have been really determined, committing a significant amount of time to practise and develop. Seeing the girls grow as a team, learning new skills and enjoying cyber has been very rewarding.”
Our headteacher, Greg McClarey, said; “We’re very proud of the girls and their achievements which showcase the excellence of our computing department here at Blessed Edward’s.”
The ten finalists were; Bradford Grammar School (North of England), The Perse School (Central England), Highgate School (London); Chelmsford County High School for Girls (South East); Bristol Grammar School (South West); Our Lady and St Patrick's College (Northern Ireland); St Margaret's School for Girls (Scotland); Gwernyfed High School (Wales); Broughton Hall High School; Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College
“Congratulations to all the teams in this year’s final – especially the girls from Highgate School for their winning performance.
“This year’s competition has been another success, and we’re particularly grateful to the teachers who supported their students through the challenges of the past year and industry partners for inspiring girls to explore their passion for technology.
“I’m really excited by the number of girls that have shown real interest and aptitude for cyber security – and this will hopefully mean more women in the cyber workforce of the future with the skills they need to protect the UK from online threats.”