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Manchester High School for Girls

THE SEARCH FOR CYBERISTS STARTS AT MANCHESTER HIGH

On Friday 26th January experts from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, descended on Manchester High School for Girls as part of their mission to recruit ‘cyberists’, the next generation of cyber security professionals.

The team delivered a full day of interactive sessions to Year 8 pupils as part of the government’s CyberFirst programme, an initiative devised to address the massive cyber-security skills gap in the UK. It was the first time that NCSC had delivered such an event in a working school. 

60 pupils from Whalley Range High School for Girls and Levenshulme High School for Girls also joined the CyberFirst Adventurers day that was specifically designed to showcase the variety of jobs that involve the use of technology and debunk the myth that studying Computer Science at school will only lead to a job in programming and coding.

Claire Hewitt, Head Mistress of Manchester High School for Girls, commented:

“We are very proud to be the first school across the country that NCSC has chosen to work with in this way. At Manchester High we do buck the national trend and, while we have no problems with our girls opting to study what is known as the STEM disciplines, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, it is vital that we don’t just stop there.

“We need to show our pupils that studying a subject such as Computer Science doesn’t pigeon hole them as an ‘IT geek’ and that there is a wealth of exciting career paths they can follow with such a skill set under their belt. The tech industry is crying out for women to join its ranks and so, in a volatile employment market, where agency work and zero hour contracts are all too common, studying Computer Science is actually an incredibly savvy move.”

Manchester High pupil, Maryam Mahmood from Bramhall, said: “The activities weren’t at all what I thought they were going to be when I first found out we were having a full day of cyber security; they were actually really fun. We had lots of different scenarios to work with, from learning how to mine data to select a fictional Quidditch team to rescuing personal information that had been hacked from a hospital and distributed via the dark web.

“It was great that the course was delivered by people who actually work at the National Cyber Security Centre and GCHQ. Due to the work they do with the security services to keep our country safe they couldn’t reveal their full names to us and it was really exciting to think we were learning from someone who could be a real life spy!”

The National Cyber Security Centre has just launched its latest CyberFirst Girls Competition for Year 8 pupils from across the country. Girls can enter in teams of four, along with a teacher to act as a mentor. The year’s winning school will receive a grand prize of £1,000 towards IT equipment with individual team members being invited to a very special, once in a lifetime event, that is presently top secret.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, said: “We were delighted to showcase our CyberFirst Adventurers course at Manchester High, and hope many of the girls in Year 8 will take part in our CyberFirst Girls Competition this year.

“The cyber security industry is burgeoning, and we hope the course has helped the girls see the benefits of studying computer science and cyber security.”

Further information on the Girls Competition and other CyberFirst events can be found by searching ‘CyberFirst’.