A TEAM of schoolgirls from Oxford competed in the final of a national contest to find the UK’s best young cyber security talents.

On Monday, Oxford High School pupils Alice Travis, Becky Hore and Elizaveta Sheremetyeva, all 15, travelled to London to pit their wits against girls from nine other schools at the final of CyberFirst Girls competition.

While they did not win, a third placed finish was highly commended.

During the competition, they were asked to work on a scenario involving a school website being hacked.

The Westminster contest was organised by the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, to generate more interest among young women in the increasingly important field of cyber security.

More than 8,000 girls aged 13 to 15 accepted the challenge to take part in the online rounds and, by qualifying for the final, the Oxford High School team Cyber Kittens finished in the top 0.5 per cent of entrants.

The overall contest was won by Lancaster Girls' Grammar School.

Elizaveta, who has competed in two international chess tournaments, said: "People like codebreaker Alan Turing and mathematician Ada Lovelace have always been my role models and this puts me a step closer to being like them."

The school's headteacher Judith Carlisle said: "Our girls really enjoy a tough challenge.

"The CyberFirst Girls competition has certainly done this and they are very much looking forward to the final."

Alison Whitney, deputy director for digital services at the NCSC, said: "I would recommend working in cyber security to any young woman hoping to make a positive impact on the world.

"Cyber security is increasingly important to help people live and work online, and we hope CyberFirst Girls will help young women develop skills that could lead to a dynamic and rewarding career."

The final transformed a government building into a live-action cyber centre to test the girls’ security skills through a series of challenging scenarios, before they were asked to present their findings to experts from the NCSC.

James Watts, assistant head of e-learning at the school, said: "The girls had a fantastic time – if they hadn't stopped for lunch they would have happily worked from 9.30am to 4pm without a break."

The winning team will receive IT equipment to the value of £1,000.

Miriam González, founder of Inspiring Girls International and a partner in the law firm Dechert, who presented prizes, said: "I am truly impressed by the talent of the girls who have taken part of the competition and I do hope that many of them pursue a career in the technology field.

“Inspiring Girls International is proud of collaborating with CyberFirst Girls, a wonderful initiative to inspire young women that shows to them that cyber security can offer a very interesting career for both, men and women, who are willing to make an impact in our society."

The Government is fully committed to defending against cyber threats and address 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 was opened by the Queen in February 2017 and provides a single, central body for cyber security at a national level.

Oxford High School in Belbroughton Road, North Oxford, is an independent day school for girls.