Local schoolgirls poised to battle for title of country’s cyber champions

Local schoolgirls poised to battle for title of country’s cyber champions

SCHOOLGIRLS across Northern Ireland are preparing to put their digital skills to the test as they vie to become the country’s cyber security champions.

Finalists from ten state schools will compete on Saturday at the final of the annual CyberFirst Girls Competition which is run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ.

Taking place in Belfast, the final will see pupils work in teams to tackle cyber-related puzzles covering topics from networking and AI to cryptography and logic in a bid to score the most points and be named CyberFirst champions.

The 2022 competition has a new format aimed at encouraging new entrants from every part of the UK, with 13 finals taking place this week. Hundreds of schools signed up this year, with state schools that had never entered before making up more than 25% of the total. This contributed to an overall increase in the proportion of state schools compared with last year.

Now in its sixth year, the CyberFirst Girls Competition aims to inspire girls aged 12 to 13 to consider pursuing careers in cyber security as female representation in the sector is too low, with women accounting for just 16% of the UK’s cyber workforce.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said:

“Best of luck to all the girls taking part in this year’s final of the CyberFirst Girls Competition in Northern Ireland – it’s a fantastic achievement and they are great cyber ambassadors for the country.

“The UK’s growing cyber security industry needs more female representation so it’s great to see thousands of girls taking part in the competition, many for the first time.

“I thank schools and industry for their work helping us uncover new cyber talent and I hope for many of the girls this will be just the start of their interest in this area.”

More than 7,000 pupils took part in this year’s competition – overtaking last year’s total – and adding to the tens of thousands of girls who have entered since the contest launched in 2017.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition is the NCSC’s flagship cyber security contest for schools, which opens annually to girls in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland, and Year 9 in Northern Ireland.

This year’s competition has involved some new changes, with 13 home nation and regional finals being held across the UK – rather than one UK event – so more local cyber talent can be celebrated in the final round.

All the finals are taking place this week, with some happening virtually on Wednesday 2 February, and the remaining in-person events occurring on Saturday 5 February.

The schools taking part in the Northern Irish final were the highest scoring in the online qualifying round in December. The finalists are:

Ballycastle High School, Ballycastle

Ballymoney High School, Ballymoney

Dalriada School, Ballymoney

Movilla High School, Newtownards

Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock, Belfast

Royal School Armagh, Armagh

St Catherine’s College, Armagh

St Dominic’s Grammar School for Girls, Belfast

St Patrick’s College, Dungannon

Strathearn School, Belfast

The winners will be announced via the NCSC’s social media at around 15:00 for each final. They will receive laptops as part of their prize, along with an invitation to a celebration event later in the year.

The CyberFirst programme offers a range of free opportunities aimed at offering young people the skills, opportunities and exposure they need to thrive in cyber security.

More information about CyberFirst opportunities can be found on the NCSC website.

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