His Royal Highness The Duke Of York, KG welcomes finalists of the National Cyber Security Challenge to Buckingham Palace

Created:  04 May 2018
Updated:  04 May 2018
Finalists of the NCSC's Cyberfirst Girls Competition met with His Royal Highness The Duke Of York at Buckingham Palace.
  • HRH welcomed 40 finalists who shone in the contest entered by 4,500+ female pupils
  • NCSC hope 1,000+ schools will enter CyberFirst contest in 2019 - GCHQ’s centenary year

CyberFirst girls at Buckingham Palace

The top performing girls in a nationwide cyber security challenge – the CyberFirst Girls Competition – were invited to a celebration at Buckingham Palace by The Duke of York on Wednesday [2 May].

Now in its second year, the CyberFirst Girls competition is the brainchild of experts from the NCSC, a part of GCHQ, who devised 170 challenges of varying difficulty for female pupils aged 12 to 13 to complete.

It is hoped that the CyberFirst Girls competition could spark a lifelong interest that could be turned into a fulfilling career in cyber security, helping make the UK one of the safest places to live and do business online.

After more than 4,500 girls from all over the UK raced through the challenges, the top 10 performing teams were invited to a live action final in Manchester in March.

The competition was won by pupils from The Piggott School, Berkshire, and all 40 finalists were invited to a celebratory reception in Buckingham Palace hosted by HRH as a reward for coming in the top 1% of entrants.

The Duke of York said:

“CyberFirst is absolutely crucial to encourage girls to be at the forefront of cyber security. We do have a shortage of skills in this area, but this is an open field of opportunity, and all those standing in this room should recognise their capability and potential.”

CyberFirst girls meet the Duke of York

The competition has seen a highly positive take up on its return, with thousands of girls from 399 schools taking part – a 52 per cent rise in the number of schools from the previous year.

However, organisers have set a target to quadruple the number of schools taking part in 2019, which will be GCHQ’s centenary year.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, said:

“CyberFirst is a bold and innovative programme aimed at supporting and developing the UK’s potential cyber security talent.

“The CyberFirst Girls competition show us the vast amount of female talent in our schools and just how skilled they are. We hope this will inspire the next generation of tech-savvy young women to consider a career in cyber security.

“Females are worryingly under-represented in the global cyber workforce, but there are exceptionally talented girls in our schools that can help make the UK the safest place to live and do business online in future years.

“The girls all had a wonderful time at the Palace, and this very kind invitation from the Duke of York shows just how vital cyber security is to the United Kingdom.”

The Piggott School, winners of the 2018 competition

Pat Bhattacharya, Head of Computer Science at The Piggott School, Berkshire

“CyberFirst has opened so many doors for our students. It has given them a platform build interest and to show other girls all the possibilities of cyber security.

“Coming to Buckingham Palace to celebrate their massive achievement has been one of the best days of their lives.

“And it doesn’t stop here – the team have been invited to lots of conferences and courses to continue their journey!”

His Royal Highness greets CyberFirst girls

Speaking after the final in March pupil Jess Peck said:

“The competition was challenging, but we worked so hard as a team and it was fun. We did have moments when we went down in the leader board, but we regrouped, kept thinking and came back up.

“All the teams did amazingly, and it was scary when they were announcing the results and calling out the names - we were actually really shocked that we won.

“We feel like we know much more about computers and technology – now we feel like more of a helper rather than someone who needs helping. If I were to have a career in computer science I think I’d have a career in cyber security.”

The UK government is fully committed to defending against cyber threats and addressing the cyber skills gap to develop and grow talent. A five-year National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) was announced in November 2016, supported by £1.9billion of transformational investment.

The NCSC offers short CyberFirst courses all year round to introduce 11 to 17 year olds to the world of cyber security, and there are 1,150 free places on offer this summer across the UK.

Young people interested in learning more about cyber security should visit for opportunities to attend free CyberFirst courses in the summer.


CyberFirst Girls Competition 2018

1,270 teams involving over 4,500 girls entered the 2018 competition, with over 200,000 answers submitted over the seven days of the online phase. 

For more on the 2018 final, see:

Pictures from the final are available here:

The 10 schools who made it to the final were: 

  • St Catherine's College, Armagh
  • The Piggott School, Berkshire
  • The Queen's School, Cheshire
  • Chelmsford County High School for Girls, Essex
  • Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Kent
  • North London Collegiate School, Middlesex
  • Chipping Campden School, Gloucestershire
  • Pate's Grammar School, Gloucestershire
  • The Tiffin Girls' School, Surrey
  • St Augustine's Catholic College, Wiltshire

NCSC CyberFirst summer courses

CyberFirst inspires, supports and develops the UK’s potential cyber security talent.

CyberFirst is a flagship element of National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP) funded work to develop the UK’s cyber skills.

Booking is now open for short courses designed to introduce 11-17 year olds to the world of cyber security. For full information on residential and non-residential courses in locations across the UK, please visit:

CyberFirst Defenders (booking now open)

A free five-day residential and non-residential course aimed at 14 to 15 year olds. The course provides a valuable introduction to the tools, knowledge and skills required to build and protect small networks and personal devices.  

CyberFirst Futures (booking now open)

A free five-day residential and non-residential course aimed at 15 to 16 year olds. Ideal for students looking to study computer science at AS/A Levels, or equivalents. Students will explore advanced cyber security threats to devices, apps and software and investigate ways of protecting them.  

CyberFirst Advanced (booking now open)

A free five-day residential and non-residential course aimed at 16 to 17 year olds. This is designed to expand the knowledge of anyone studying computer science at AS/A Levels or equivalents or for any student who has a real interest and aptitude for computers.  

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