THESE days there are few firsts' for women to still achieve in society. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became the first female British Prime Minister, in 1994, Angela Berners-Wilson became the first woman to be ordained as a Church of England priest and, earlier this month, Moira Cameron was the first woman to become a beefeater at the Tower of London.

But at a Worcester school, one modern languages teacher is making her own mark in history, after becoming the first woman to take up the role of second master.

The role is one of the oldest in the history of the King's School, Worcester, which has been established in the city for more than 400 years. But never before has it been taken by a woman.

"I'm delighted to be the first woman to hold this position at the school," says Sue Hincks, who will be known as senior deputy head, rather than second master. "It is a little piece of history and I'm honoured."

Miss Hincks has been at the school for three years, in the post of second deputy head, which has now been taken on by new recruit, Richard Chapman.

"The role of second master is one of the oldest in the school," she said. "In the old days there were just two teachers at the school, the headmaster and the usher, which became the post of second master. When we were looking at me taking on the role I didn't think it appropriate to be known as second master, however, and second mistress didn't quite have the right tone. So we came up with senior deputy head."

The King's School, Worcester, stands beside the river Severn. Few written records survive, but it seems that there has been a school, or schools, on the site since the late 7th century when a monastery existed.

In Worcester, as elsewhere, the monastery as a place of learning was replaced in 1541 by a Cathedral College with a King's School in it. On December 7, 1541, King Henry VIII himself appointed the first headmaster to the King's School, Worcester, by writing to Sir Richard Rich, chancellor of the augmentations of the revenues of the Crown, appointing the bringer, John Pether, "Schoolmaster of our Collegiate Church of Worcester". Richard Allen was the first usher.

More recently though, the post of second master was held by Alistair Macnaughton, who has now become headmaster at the King's School, Gloucester.

"I am really looking forward to getting stuck in to the role," says Miss Hincks, who teaches French and German, alongside the rest of her duties.

These include ensuring the well-being and development of the students in the school. "With all the pressures put on young people today I aim to ensure they have all the necessary help and support to go on from here to live a happy and successful life."

Miss Hincks, aged 37, went to school in Wiltshire before reading languages and history at Oxford.

"I had intended to become a lawyer," she recalls. "But I went to France for a year, teaching French, and while there decided teaching was the career path for me."

She started her career at the King's School, Peterborough, before moving on two further schools in Oxfordshire and Norfolk, then ending up at the King's School, Worcester.

"When I worked in Peterborough, I really like the ethos of the King's schools," says Miss Hincks, a keen musician and drama enthusiast. "They are all really wonderful schools and have great tradition and history."

Tim Keyes, headmaster at the King's School, Worcester, said: "I am very pleased about Sue's promotion. Sue will do a great job."

NEW ROLE FOR KEEN SPORTSMAN RICHARDREPLACING Sue Hincks in the post of second deputy head is Richard Chapman, the former head of sixth form at Warwick School.

The keen sportsman said he was attracted by the reputation of The King's School, Worcester. "I am very excited about taking on this role," said the 33-year-old father-of-two. "This is a great school and I'm delighted to get the position."

Mr Chapman, a former semi-professional rugby player in Birmingham, taught at Warwick for nine years, after completing his teaching qualification. His new role will see him looking after the 80-plus team of teaching staff at the King's School. "I'm looking forward to the new challenge," said Mr Chapman, who moved to the city recently with his wife Kate and sons, William, aged four, and Hugo, one. "I am excited about working with new people and contributing to the school."

Headmaster Tim Keyes said: "The arrival of Richard will bring new ideas and energy to the senior team here."