Dr Kate Pretty CBE (née Hughes) (1964)

In 1957 I moved from rural Devon to Birmingham to start school at KEHS on a City of Birmingham Scholarship. My mother, an aunt and uncles were all Old Edwardians, my maternal grandfather having taught Tolkien Maths at KES.So it was the 'family school', enormous by my standards and dauntingly middle-class. The move to Birmingham and KEHS offered me far wider opportunities than Devon - access to music, bookshops, politics and, above all, archaeology. In that first year I found archaeology, met a sixth-form couple who started the first joint KEHS/KES society - in archaeology - and learned to dig. I was hooked and have never wanted to do anything else.

Non-conformist, left-wing, teacher parents who lived in a council flat, my loathing for games and preference for archaeology made it hard to take school seriously - it wasn't the centre of my life though I worked hard enough. At 15 I needed a Saturday job and the head-mistress's permission and she made it clear that she disapproved of the need for a job, despite it being at Hudsons' bookshop.My CND badge, though matching my school uniform, was forbidden. In the sixth form I was thrown out of a history class for siding with the Roundheads and eventually found myself in the third-year sixth as the only girl not made a prefect. Luckily for me my Cambridge college, New Hall, (now Murray Edwards), was full of people like me with an equal mixture of ex-head-girls and non-prefects. Even New Hall annoyed the school since it didn't offer entrance scholarships so my name is not among the gilded names in the entrance hall.

But I made good and lasting friends at KEHS with whom I am still in touch. Some of the teaching was outstanding for me in Geography and English a subject I share with Dr Jean Wilson who I first remember in the school play, playing Touchstone in yellow tights (I was wardrobe mistress).Learning to run things like archaeological excavations through the Junior Field Group of the Birmingham Archaeological Society, or the school play wardrobe were transferrable skills that took me through Cambridge to end up as head of a Cambridge College (Homerton), Pro Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor as well as holding various national roles in archaeology.

In 1972 I founded the national Young Archaeologists' Club, remembering my pleasure in archaeology and the Club still flourishes all these years later, of which I am proud. Looking back, I can trace the roots of my later successful career to my good schooling and I can see that my time at school - 1957-1964 - spanned the emergence of a new teenage generation which was hard for the school and its headmistress to assimilate. Now I have retired I serve as a Council member for Durham University, do research in archaeology, (what else?), and, true to my feminist roots at KEHS and New Hall, champion women's education here and abroad.