Cyber and Tech

GCHQ passes judgement on Gloucestershire College

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 23 September 2020 7:00

When the country’s most famous intelligence base has been watching your work closely and feels fit to pass judgement on it, you can at least be sure what you are doing is of national importance. 

And when Cheltenham-based GCHQ’s verdict – albeit delivered through a third-party company the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) - is a resounding thumbs-up the recognition is probably equivalent to a platinum Ofsted report (if there were such a thing). 

We are talking about Gloucestershire College’s most recent accolade for excellence in cyber security education - CyberFirst Schools (Silver) status, a badge so far given only to a very few institutions going over.

It comes as three Gloucestershire schools receive a Gold award as part of the scheme - Newent Community School, Wyedean School & Sixth Form Centre and Cleeve School and Silver Award status going to Stroud High School, Ribston Hall High School, Cirencester College, Dean Academy in Lydney and the Berkeley Green campus of SGS College.

Winchcombe School and All Saints' Academy received bronze status.

Pictured: Andy Bates (left), with Matthew Burgess, principal and chief executive of Gloucestershire College

For the college this is also massive because it has been working hard to position itself, not just physically with new facilities and partnerships with the likes of CyNam,UWE and county firm's like Bamboo, but by introducing courses like its ground-breaking cyber security degree apprenticeship.

The latter were officially launched earlier this month by Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan.

Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for Cyber Growth, said: “I congratulate these schools on achieving CyberFirst Schools status – they are the first to do so and their award is thoroughly merited. 

“The CyberFirst Schools programme will help us set a consistent standard for cyber security education as we continue to develop a diverse and talented next generation of cyber experts.”

Read more: Take part in our survey: Where now for Gloucestershire?

Debbie Woodward, head of school for computing at Gloucestershire College, said: “We are so proud to be affiliated with CyberFirst and our teaching team wholeheartedly support and share their values in developing the future leaders of the IT and cyber industry." 

Andy Bates, chief financial officer and vice principal at Gloucestershire College, said: “As a college, we have strong ambitions to go on to achieve the Gold Award as part of our strategic plan. 

“We know there is a huge demand for cyber and IT professionals across Gloucestershire and we are fully committed to using our expertise and resources to train students with the skills that local employers need. 

“We offer a wide range of cyber and computing full-time courses and apprenticeships to match both student career development opportunities and employer demand in this vital growth sector. 

“Our recently appointed status as an Institute of Technology has secured Gloucestershire College £3 million to invest in outstanding cyber training facilities, which will make our facilities one of the best in the country, located right next door to both GCHQ and Cheltenham’s new Cyber Central Business Park.”

Pictured: Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills with Gloucestershire College Cyber Degree Apprentices Ben Heathfield and Taylor Watson

Madeline Howard, director of CyNam, said: “This is an important award which not only demonstrates the fantastic work those at Gloucestershire College are already doing, but indicates they are on a strong path to continue to develop their offering for young people.” 

One of the key aims for the NCSC is to address the cyber skills gap and inspire young people from all backgrounds to pursue a career in the field. 

Since 2018 the NCSC has encouraged collaboration between local schools, the NCSC, and both national and local employers who share the aim of engaging young people with the cyber industry, as part of a successful pilot scheme. 

The NCSC now aims to grow the ambition and scale of this scheme, branded as the CyberFirst Schools programme, in order to formally recognise the schools and colleges who are committed to providing a structured approach to excellence in cyber security education.

Read more: Government Minister arrives in Gloucestershire to click 'go' on new cyber degree apprenticeships

Read more: Take part in our survey: Where now for Gloucestershire?