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School pupils complete pioneering cyber-security programme

School pupils complete pioneering cyber-security programme Banner Image

Mehak Aziz and Huma Sayed*

UCLan hosted week-long new educational programme to train the next generation

Pupils from Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School (TIGHS) in Blackburn are amongst the first in the country to take part in a new educational programme to train the next generation of cyber-security experts.

Fifty-two girls from the top-performing school have taken part in a specialist 5-day course in Preston run by the National Cyber Security Centre – part of GCHQ.  The CyberFirst Advanced course, which was held at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) from 18-22 February, has given participants an insight into the knowledge and skills needed to fight cyber-attacks.

CyberFirst is part of the Government’s National Cyber Security Programme to identify and develop the next generation of cyber security experts to bridge the skills gap. With the UK economy becoming increasingly digital, there is a need to increase the number of highly trained cyber security professionals to ensure the UK is a safe place to live and work online.

The CyberFirst Advanced course looks to inspire students with an interest in computing and cyber security to choose a university course, apprenticeship or career pathway in this area. The course is designed to provide a ‘real-world’ overview of cyber security through exploring modern security technology whilst working with the latest cyber security tools.

TIGHS was recently named as one of the highest performing schools in the country with the highest Progress 8 score – the main government measure for academic progress – in the country for the third consecutive year. The course will help to inform TIGHS pupils’ exam choices and inspire them to study computer science and related STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects that could lead to a career in technology or cyber-security.

As a leadership specialism school, the pupils gained a positive experience developing team-building and decision-making skills from experts from the National Cyber Security Centre.

I’ve never really considered a career in cyber security but after taking part in the CyberFirst Advanced course, it’s opened my eyes up to learning about the career opportunities that are available out there.

The course gave pupils the opportunity to get ‘hands-on’ by taking part in a wide range of interactive sessions, including:

• Digital Forensics – focusing on the tools and techniques that cyber security professionals use to recover from a breach or investigate a cyber-crime.

• Encryption - focusing on the advanced mathematics, technologies and techniques which cyber security professionals use to protect digital communications.

• Open Source Intelligence - looking at online footprints, metadata and the dark web and the tools and techniques which cyber security professionals use to investigate cyber-crime.

• Penetration Testing – looking at the tools, techniques and skills which security professionals use to test for vulnerabilities so that systems can be better protected.

• Digital Treasure Hunt in which students take part in an immersive scenario in which all of the skills, knowledge and tools which they have amassed must be used to solve an online challenge.

Pupil Huma Sayed said: “I’ve never really considered a career in cyber security but after taking part in the CyberFirst Advanced course, it’s opened my eyes up to learning about the career opportunities that are available out there and I am keen to find out more about this career path.”

Asia Ali, Assistant Principal at TIGHS, said: “Organisations must continue to defend themselves against cyber criminals and hackers, so the demand for more skilled people to enter the field is increasing.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to learn about an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men. Women are very underrepresented in the global cyber industry – but, here at TIGHS, we have exceptionally talented girls who can help make our country a safer place to live and do business online. Let’s get them excited about computing early.”

It was a fantastic event with a brilliant curriculum in cyber security. The students' enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge was outstanding.

Chris Ensor, Deputy Director for Skills and Growth at the National Cyber Security Centre, said: “Providing younger students from diverse backgrounds with an opportunity to experience computer education is helping to increase the awareness of how beneficial cyber skills can be and developing a talent pipeline that will meet the UK’s future needs. The CyberFirst programme is an integral part of our strategy to engage and inform students across the country of the options that are available to them.”

Tech-company IN4.0 and its CEO, Mo Isap – who is also Vice Chair of Star Academies, the multi-academy trust that operates TIGHS - has been instrumental in establishing the partnership between the school and the National Cyber Security Centre. IN4.0, which has offices at UCLan in Preston and Media City, works with organisations across business and education to enhance creativity and productivity by adopting industrial digital technologies and building a future workforce that will support innovation and creating exciting new job opportunities that keeps talent in the region.

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 PLC, said: “IN4.0 is very pleased to support the CyberFirst Advanced course at UCLan. We’re committed to education and we aim to grow a highly skilled and work-ready future workforce through the IN4.0 School. We’re investing in developing technology talent into both employment and entrepreneurship in partnership with local universities. It’s great to see that this cohort of talented young women has the opportunity to learn more about cyber security and STEM careers.”

John Dempsey, UCLan's Digital Safety Advocate and forensic computing course leader was involved in running this week-long event. He said: “It was a fantastic event with a brilliant curriculum in cyber security. The students' enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge was outstanding. They covered a broad range of subjects from digital forensics to penetration testing; and they demonstrated a real aptitude for developing their skills further.”

Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School (TIGHS) is a secondary free school for pupils 11-18 in Blackburn. TIGHS is part of Star Academies, one of the UK’s leading multi-academy trusts and is one of the country’s top-performing schools, having topped the national league table in the Government’s Progress 8 measure for the third consecutive year. The school was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted over three consecutive inspections. For more information about the school, visit the website.

 

*52 pupils from Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School (TIGHS) were amongst the first in the country to take part in a specialist five-day educational programme, held at UCLan, to train the next generation of cyber-security experts

Rachel Atkinson | 25 February 2019