We’re really proud to be a part of the  CyberFirst Schools initiative, established to address the cyber skills gap from its roots by recognising schools and colleges that demonstrate first-rate cyber security education. After recently celebrating over 25 schools in the South West applying for this recognition, we wanted to share a bit more about the programme and why we’re passionate about championing it. You can also learn more about Bristol & Bath Cyber and our community here.

Bristol & Bath Cyber is a member of the consortium tasked with expanding the CyberFirst Schools Programme across the South West. Raytheon UK (RTN UK) has assembled a consortium bringing together Cyber Clusters from across the South West region (CyNam, Bristol & Bath Cyber, and the South West Cyber Security Cluster), with a leading STEM engagement consultancy who brings extensive knowledge of the STEM education sector (Graphic Science). This covers an area encompassing Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall, including Bristol, Bath, Swindon, Plymouth, and Exeter.

Launched in 2016 in Gloucestershire, the CyberFirst Schools Programme now has 49 schools enrolled across the UK. Applications for the next phase of CyberFirst Schools awards have just closed and we have been delighted with the response.

The programme is designed to give schools the resources to enable them to inspire young people to gain the digital skills they need to remain protected in an ever more challenging digital environment. It will also help the schools to equip their students with the skills needed by recruiters and, through industry collaboration, help them to gain an appreciation of the multitude of career choices that are available to them if they understand cybersecurity.

Key findings from CyberFirst

  •   Half (50%) of all private sector businesses identify a basic technical cyber security skills gap, i.e. a lack of confidence in performing a range of basic cyber security skills tasks or functions
  • A third of businesses (33%) have a more advanced technical skills gap, in areas such as penetration testing, forensic analysis, security architecture or engineering, threat intelligence, interpreting malicious code and user monitoring
  • Around half of cyber sector firms (47%) have faced problems with technical cyber security skills gaps in the past 12 months, either among existing staff (18%) or among job applicants (40%)
  • A total of 3 in 10 cyber sector firms (31%) have experienced a soft skills gap in this timeframe
Source: Ipsos MORI | Cyber security skills in the UK labour market 2021: findings report

Getting started on the journey towards becoming a CyberFirst School can seem a bit daunting, but the more schools that set cyber education as a priority the closer we’ll keep moving as a society towards realising the true potential of the sector. Equipping young people with knowledge in cyber gives the best standing for those with an interest in cyber as a career later down the line.

The NCSC supports schools that are interested in signing up in various ways. There is access to a range of free resources on the CyberFirst Schools website for every school, and they also provide resources to help schools become more cyber resilient and begin to incorporate cybersecurity learning in the classroom. This includes training for school staff and information for Governing Boards and Leadership teams. 

Primary schools can get involved too. There’s a digital game designed for 7-11 year olds that can be led by schools, or at home with parents. CyberSprinters works on phones, tablets, and computers. 

Once a school has begun to increase the levels of cybersecurity teaching across the school, the next step is to apply for the CyberFirst Schools Programme. One of the key objectives in becoming a CyberFirst School is ensuring that computing skills are not taught as a standalone subject, but are integrated across all the timetable and through all subjects. Eligible schools and colleges that are successful in their application receive NCSC recognition that they are providing a structured approach to cybersecurity education across the whole school – and being part of the CyberFirst Education Eco-system gives them access to exclusive benefits.

Nurturing our future talent is incredibly important, but it can’t be achieved in isolation. The essential part of the CyberFirst Schools Programme is the support provided by Industry. This can be through the Cyber STEM Ambassadors or via the CyberFirst Industry Partners. The links with industry provide essential opportunities for staff development and can bring the topic alive in the classroom for the students. If you’re interested in getting involved with CyberFirst, or any of the other educational Cyber events that we get involved with, get in touch at kerrianne@techspark.co!