UK Government gets serious about cyber security education

The UK Government is stepping up plans for developing the cyber-security sector, with support for students and teachers.

The UK's Houses of Parliament
The UK's Houses of Parliament

Following the lead of Scandinavian schools over the last decade, the UK Government has extended the lower age at which school pupils can get cyber-security training from 14 down to just 11 years of age. The Government has also committed to a larger budget to train teachers in the best ways to educate their students, although precise figures have not been discussed at this stage.

According to the `Cyber Security Skills: Business Perspectives and Government's Next Steps' report issued by the UK's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills today, support will be extended to Universities - but with the caveat that they must come up with new ideas to enhance existing cyber-security teaching.

Young people outside full-time education will also get a boost, as the Government plans to introduce a new internship scheme that will help provide students with the work experience that it says employers are looking for.

Announcing the revitalised cyber-security education plan this morning, David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, said that countries that can manage cyber-security risks have a clear competitive advantage.

By ensuring cyber-security is integral to education at all ages, he said, “we will help equip the UK with the professional and technical skills we need for long-term economic growth.”

The broad game-plan is to introduce the new cyber-security curriculum to 11 to 14 year-olds from September 2015 onwards, although Willett's department will start working on the plans - which will require extensive consultations, from later this month.

The Government says that idea behind the downwards age extension to cyber-security training is to help balance the disparity between boys and girds in schools that take GCSE qualifications in IT security.  

Delving into the report reveals that the Government plans for e-skills UK to roll-out a Secure Futures schools campaign in London, Greater Manchester and Sussex later this year, with the support of employers, following a successful pilot in Worcestershire.

Peter Armstrong, Director of Cyber Security with Thales UK - which has interests in many elements of security in the public sector - welcomed the report, saying that it highlights the positive and necessary steps that are needed to tackle the UK's cyber skills gap.

"This incentive to push cyber-security education into schools should be welcomed by the security industry and government. Any initiative that aims to increase the general capability and awareness in the cyber defence space and ultimately strengthen the UK's overall cyber defence posture, should be implemented as soon as possible to continually address the evolving cyber threat we face," he said.

"It is important that schools are able to start supporting organisations by training up the next generation of cyber security experts from a young age, giving them the necessary tools and skills to deal with the latest cyber threats in the workplace,” he added.

Getting 20 percent of UK adults online

In parallel with the Government's cyber-security initiative, a seven-step guide to help bridge the digital skills gap has been published for businesses, to help them encourage - and support - the final 20 per

cent of the adult population get online. 

Published as part of the Carnegie UK Trust's Making Digital Real report - developed in partnership with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) - the new guide notes that a one-size fits all approach will not help bridge the digital skills gap and that different ideas plus models must be considered.

Commenting on the guide, Douglas White, Head of Policy with the Carnegie UK Trust, said that the Trust knows that access to the Internet can help transform people's lives.

"It can help people to access public services more easily, achieve higher levels of educational attainment and improve employment prospects, which in turn can help provide a boost to local economies,” he said.

“Despite this, a fifth of the UK population remain offline - the new guide provides an easy-to-follow reference guide for local authorities and business organisations to consider when undertaking activities to help boost digital inclusion in their region,” he added.

“Technology really has helped transform the way we live our lives, it's therefore essential that the country's final fifth are not forgotten about," he explained.