Cracking the code: Bletchley Park inspires the next generation of women in tech - Girls' Schools Association

Cracking the code: Bletchley Park inspires the next generation of women in tech

Cracking the code: Bletchley Park inspires the next generation of women in tech

25 March 2024

Retracing the footsteps of the trailblazing women who cracked unbreakable codes and changed the course of World War II, computer science pupils from years 9,10 and 12 at Loughborough High School had an unforgettable school trip to the iconic Bletchley Park.

After discovering that three-quarters of the codebreaking workforce at Bletchley Park during WW2 were women, the pupils from the all-girls school in Loughborough felt an instant connection, inspired by these unsung heroines of Britain’s computing history who debunked gender stereotypes.

The girls threw themselves into an immersive codebreaking workshop with gusto and got hands-on with the legendary Enigma machine. They applied their classroom learning about logic gates and XOR operations to decipher encrypted messages, just like the brilliant minds of Bletchley’s past. Experiencing this advanced cryptography firsthand sparked their curiosity about pursuing computer science further.

Touring the expansive grounds and exhibitions, the girls discovered countless stories of resilient, ingenious women whose intellectual contributions proved indispensable during wartime.

And a profound personal link to Bletchley’s legacy was discovered by year 10 student Issy; her great-grandmother Mary Hedley, served as part of the extraordinary codebreaking team on site! Issy found her great-grandmother’s name etched into the commemorative Wall of Honour, which highlighted the pivotal role these female pioneers had in the war effort.

Head of Computer Science and Digital Literacy at the Loughborough Schools Foundation, Mrs Houda Benhamouda said: “I took the girls on the trip with the intention for them see the role computer science played during the war but the experience the girls came away with was so much more profound.”

“It enabled them to see their role as young girls; how they can help shape the future and be part of technological growth. Computing has long carried a reputation as a male-dominated field, however, Bletchley’s legacy reminds us that women’s minds have always been essential innovators and difference-makers in STEM. Our girls returned from this trip emboldened to follow in the footsteps of those who paved the way before them.”

Issy, year 10, said: “I really enjoyed Bletchley Park. I found the brick on the wall with my great grandmother’s name on and got to see the enigma machine!”

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