Schoolgirls in Wales Progress to Semi-Final of UK Cyber Security Contest

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Girls in Wales have demonstrated their digital skills and codebreaking prowess by seeing off competition from thousands of rivals in the UK’s flagship cyber security contest.

Pupils at nine schools in Wales have been successful in reaching the semi-final stage of the 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition, run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ.

More than 6,500 girls nationwide took part in this year’s qualifying round, with teams from more than 600 schools tackling online cyber security puzzles for a chance to be named regional champions and progress to the UK Grand Final.

The highest scoring teams will next take on local rivals in semi-finals in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and English regions. Schools in Wales and that have already accepted their place in the semi-final include Bishop Gore School in Swansea and St Joseph’s RC High School in Newport.

The NCSC is highlighting the strong nationwide participation in the contest and the success of semi-finalists today on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition is aimed at girls aged 12 to 13 starting to think about what subjects to take for GCSE and its ambition is to inspire them to consider a career in cyber security – an industry where women are still under-represented.

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

“On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’re pleased to say that thousands of girls came forward to compete in this year’s CyberFirst Girls Competition and we congratulate the top teams which now go forward into the semi-finals.

“These girls have opened the door to what could one day be an exciting and rewarding career, where more female representation is undoubtedly needed.

“We owe a special thanks to teachers who encouraged pupils to take up this fun opportunity to engage with – and hopefully be inspired by – cyber security.”

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said:

“It is marvellous to see so many girls showing an interest in cyber security and well done to those who made it to the next round.

“The cyber security industry needs talented people and I hope everyone who took part had fun and felt inspired to consider an exciting career cracking codes, disrupting cyber attacks and protecting our online spaces.”

Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, said:

“I’d like to congratulate all of the girls who took part in this year’s CyberFirst Girls competition and especially to those in Wales who have been successful in reaching the semi-final stage.

“After hosting last year’s final in Cardiff, it’s important that we continue to celebrate, support and inspire girls with events like this to ensure they have the best possible chance in pursuing an interest in cyber security.

“This industry continues to grow in Wales and it’s exciting to see the talent of the next generation who will only advance the work currently under way.”

Since launching in 2017, more than 37,000 girls have taken part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition.

This year’s semi-final rounds will take place simultaneously on Thursday 19 March in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and five English regions: the North of England, Central England, the South West, the South East and London.

The challenges, covering cryptography, logic and networking, will be set by the NCSC with input from cyber security industry partners. The winners of these events will earn their place at the Grand Final in April, where the UK champions will be crowned.

More information about the competition can be found on the NCSC’s website.