A North East software developer has joined forces with an educational tech firm to increase cyber security in schools.

Sapere Software, which is based in Stockton, has worked with Middlesbrough’s Secure Schools, which provides cyber security solutions for the education sector, to create an app which sits at the core of the company’s cyber security services for schools and academy trusts.

Secure Schools was set up in 2018 by cyber security expert Paul Alberry and former multi-academy trust CEO Jill Foster, who recognised that many UK schools and academy trusts had been under-investing in cyber security, leaving their networks vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

They designed a prototype programme to build cyber resilience in the education sector and, following funding from Tees Valley Business Compass and the NCSC‘s Cyber Accelerator programme, the team at Sapere created the software, which enables schools to test and understand their cyber resilience including the ability to simulate real-life cyber-attacks.

Paul Drake, commercial director at Sapere, said: “Paul from Secure Schools contacted us through our website, having already created a detailed brief, which made the job of proposing a technology stack and solution easier.

“It was a fantastic programme to work on, not least because they knew what they wanted, which is very rare. They had a great idea and it’s nice to see a start-up succeed.

“Working with Sapere meant Secure Schools had access to a full development team with over 15 years in business designing and developing software solutions. The costs to do this internally with the same level of expertise would have been prohibitive for a start-up business.”

The pandemic led to increased awareness of cyber-attacks on schools, after a marked increase following the introduction of home-schooling, with the Department for Education urging headteachers to urgently review their cyber security defences.

Paul Alberry said: “The app has enabled us to serve hundreds of schools in the UK, including delivering cyber security awareness training to thousands of staff across England.

“More than 1,200 schools accessed Secure Schools’ free cyber resilience resources in response to the first coronavirus lockdown to help them secure their systems during home working, before continuing to work together on building their cyber security strategy.”

One educational establishment that has already benefited from the app is Passmores Cooperative Learning Community, in Essex.

IT manager Ashley Alderson said: “Secure Schools has offered a professional, no judgement, approach to the cyber security process which in turn has helped us as a multi-academy trust to develop our cyber security processes to ensure that we continue to work in a safe environment within the recommended government guidelines.

“It has changed the way we look at cyber security and enabled us to implement changes in our processes that we didn’t realise were crucial. The knowledge and training that Secure Schools has passed on to staff is invaluable to our ongoing fight against cyber security threats.”