PIONEERING schools and colleges across the UK were recognised with gold, silver and bronze awards earlier this week for providing pupils with first-rate opportunities to learn about cyber security.
Sixteen institutions have been certified in the latest round of the CyberFirst Schools initiative, led by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – part of GCHQ, for demonstrating excellent cyber security teaching in the classroom and beyond.
In the largest cohort of successful institutions yet, there were six new successes in Northern Ireland, six in the South West of England, two in Wales and one in the North East of England – and additionally one CyberFirst School in Gloucester upgraded their Silver status to Gold.
The schools and colleges showcased a range of work to promote cyber skills, including coding workshops, pupils producing an action plan to encourage more girls into STEM subjects, and teaching about algorithms and encryption in home economics and maths lessons.
In total, more than 40 CyberFirst Schools and Colleges have been recognised since the initiative’s launch last year, and applications are now open for more schools to join the community which is helping to close the UK’s cyber skills gap.
Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said:
“It’s fantastic to see more schools and colleges around the country being recognised for the excellent cyber security education they have to offer.
“By providing pupils with the skills and experience they need to thrive in the industry, our growing community of CyberFirst Schools is playing a vital role in inspiring the next generation of cyber experts.
“I really encourage more schools to come forward in this new round of applications so we can shine a light on local cyber champions and their efforts encouraging young people to pursue careers in the field.”
The most recent call for recognition welcomed applications from secondary schools and further education colleges across the South West of England for the first time, as well as in the North East of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The latest successful institutions are:
- SGS Berkeley Green UTC, Berkeley — Upgraded to Gold
- South West College, Dungannon — Gold
- Abertillery Learning Community, Abertillery — Silver
- Ballycastle High School, Ballycastle — Silver
- Campbell College Belfast — Silver
- Down High School, Downpatrick — Silver
- Movilla High School, Newtownard — Silver
- St Augustine’s Catholic College, Trowbridge — Silver
- Wellington School, Wellington, Somerset — Silver
- Bangor Grammar School, Bangor, Co. Down — Bronze
- Cheltenham College, Cheltenham — Bronze
- Clifton High School, Bristol — Bronze
- Dean Close School, Cheltenham — Bronze
- Plympton Academy, Plympton — Bronze
- St Bede’s Catholic School, Lanchester — Bronze
- St John’s College Cardiff — Bronze
Being a CyberFirst School comes with a number of benefits including official recognition from the NCSC and opportunities to collaborate with more than 130 CyberFirst partner organisations from a range of sectors on cyber related activities.
Examples of first-rate cyber security education offered by the schools included:
- The Digital Leaders scheme at Abertillery Learning Community where pupils have passed on their cyber skills by running coding workshops for primary school pupils.
- Pupils at South West College took part in an Erasmus+ project where they produced an action plan to encourage more girls into STEM, presented it to local councillors and then visited the Houses of Parliament to debate the changes.
- Home economics lessons at Ballycastle High School have shown pupils how to follow recipes using flowcharts and algorithms, and maths lessons have incorporated encryption into teaching about prime numbers.
A new call for recognition is now open for schools and colleges in the North East and South West of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The call closes on Friday 19 November.
Institutions interested in applying can read more about what it is like being a CyberFirst School in a new guest blog post from the headteacher of Knockevin Special School in Downpatrick – a previous bronze award recipient.
The blog post outlines the school’s approach to teaching cyber skills, how it found applying to be a CyberFirst School and its hope to inspire more special schools to apply.
More information about the CyberFirst Schools initiative can be found on the NCSC website.