Expert: UK cyber security programme for students is “excellent” introduction to the field

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More than 50,000 students have been signed up for a UK government-run programme that aims to boost the cyber workforce by providing children with engaging courses on digital skills and cyber security.

Cyber Explorers is a series of free lesson plans and learning materials for young students run by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in collaboration with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Webinars with prominent experts within the sector are also offered through the programme, with an upcoming session on coding led by Coding Black Females founder Charlene Hunter MBE and Teach the Nation to Code founder Shafeeq Muhammad.

The programme, which was launched in 2022, has now been taken on over 2,000 schools. It is aimed at key stage 2 and 3 students, with a particular focus on fostering cyber skills in 11-14-year-olds before they select their GCSEs.

Students are also given information through interactive quizzes and videos, ranging from broad cyber security skills to knowledge that could fire students’ interest in specific sectors or roles.

Broad topics covered include how to use command line interfaces, what the Internet of Things is, how to secure IoT to avoid network-threatening malware like Mirai, and a look at DDoS attacks.

More sector-specific guidance includes a lesson plan focused on industrial control systems (ICS) which are used throughout the energy, manufacturing, and telecommunications sectors.

Core skills for a new generation of workers

Matt Lorentzen, principal consultant at information security consultancy Cyberis, told ITPro that the programme would make an “excellent” introduction to cyber security roles for students and can foster inquisitiveness as well as provide a firm grip on key computing concepts.

“As we continue to build society on layers of technology, we will continue to need a workforce to implement, support and secure it,” he said.

“There is a significant shortage of people with the knowledge and areas of expertise and with the pace of change within technology, this gap will continue to widen. This initiative can introduce younger people to the technology around them which could serve to ignite a passion for technology and outline a career path. 


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“Covering a broad range of topics such as IoT, malware analysis and incident response can introduce areas they may have not previously understood or considered. The earlier you can educate a potential "pipeline" of the workforce with foundational knowledge that then extends into more specialist areas of cyber security, the better for society.”

A recent UK government report found that approximately 50% of UK businesses have a gap in basic cyber security skills, while 33% have suffered from a lack of advanced security skills.

There are signs of growing interest in the field among young people. This year’s A-Level results show record computing degree uptake with 26,430 students accepted onto computing-related degrees, a rise of more than 10% since 2019.

Earlier in the year, the British Computer Society (BCS) reported that more than 92,980 18-year-olds had applied to start computing degrees in 2023, with record interest having been sparked by generative AI.

Diverting would-be hackers into cyber security roles

In addition to the positive skills taught through the lessons and material, the programme also aims to provide guidance for computing-inclined students who could go down the path of cyber crime without the proper support and teaching.

It is hoped that this could have the effect of reducing the number of cyber criminals in the UK in the long term, as well as providing these students with a viable career path within cyber security. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recently called for similar measures to identify and guide at-risk juveniles to be implemented in the USA.

One lesson plan titled ‘City Saved - Cyber Choices’ provides a breakdown of the ethical and legal restrictions for using technology with a key focus on the Computer Misuse Act.

“Those students who have a natural tendency to want to test things and try to find "security holes" are more than likely unaware of the ramifications of performing unauthorised activities,” said Lorentzen.

“One strength of the programme is raising awareness of the computer misuse act and how people have a responsibility to govern their own activities whilst interacting with systems and resources online. Asking students to consider the types of crimes that are committed using a computer and orientating conversations around what they consider appropriate actions is a great way of highlighting how someone could breach this act.”

Schools, parents, and guardians have been urged to sign up for the programme for free on its dedicated website.

Rory Bathgate
Features and Multimedia Editor

Rory Bathgate is Features and Multimedia Editor at ITPro, overseeing all in-depth content and case studies. He can also be found co-hosting the ITPro Podcast with Jane McCallion, swapping a keyboard for a microphone to discuss the latest learnings with thought leaders from across the tech sector.

In his free time, Rory enjoys photography, video editing, and good science fiction. After graduating from the University of Kent with a BA in English and American Literature, Rory undertook an MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies at King’s College London. He joined ITPro in 2022 as a graduate, following four years in student journalism. You can contact Rory at or on LinkedIn.