12 December, 2019

Cyber Security teaching at schools

A leading girls grammar school in Armagh is aiming for a hat trick in the nationwide 2020 CyberFirst competition for girls aged 12-13. For two consecutive years, St Catherine’s College has been ranked the joint title of top NI school and in the top 10 across the UK in cyber skills competition for girls aged 12-13.

Registration for the 2020 National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) competition has just opened and the organisers are hoping more girls’ teams (Year 9) will enter in a bid to influence GCSE and career choices to improve gender imbalance in cyber security. The uptake in teams from Northern Ireland is growing year on year and the organisers are hoping to double the NI participation from 12,000 to 20,000 girls.

Speaking about what it takes to be the most cyber savvy girls’ school in Northern Ireland, head teacher of ICT at St Catherine’s College, Armagh Caroline Pereira-Lynch said:

“Our school ethos is about creating all opportunities for girls. We are incredibly proud of the achievements of our school teams over the past two years and they have proved they have the talent to be the cyber experts of tomorrow.  The competition sets scenarios of a fictitious company and stretches lateral thinking to break codes and find solutions with an emphasis on leadership and working as a team. It has been a wonderful experience for both the students and the teaching staff and we are setting our sights high for 2020 and aiming to win the top NI school three years in a row.” 

Northern Ireland’s leading cyber security experts, Cyphra have been working closely with NCSC and a range of other companies in the cyber sector to encourage more schools and young people from across NI to get involved. Presenting the Cyphra cyberist award to St Catherine’s College, Director Conrad Simpson highlighted the important role the competition is playing in growing the future workforce.

“The CyberFirst competitions are an important first step towards giving students an insight into this exciting dynamic industry sector that offers a varied and interesting career pathway. Cyphra are committed to identifying, nurturing and helping start careers in cybersecurity. The girls from St Catherine’s College, Armagh along with all the other schools who entered the competition are trailblazers and I’ve no doubt we will see some of them lead the way as future cyberists. It also shows the value of investing and growing future talent and diversity in the cyber sector.”

Recognising the continuous cyber and ICT achievements of St Catherine’s College, Dr Irene Bell, Chair of Computing at Schools NI (CAS NI) said:

“St Catherine’s College have proved that the STEM skills are transferrable into a range of future careers such as cyber. Currently only 20% of the cyber security industry is female and there is an overall need to grow the future workforce to meet increasing demand. Competitions like this boost the skills of young people and open their minds to new career opportunities. St Catherine’s success to date has helped highlight the talent that exists in Northern Ireland as well as inspiring other schools to participate.”