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The row over female bishops is a reminder of the continuing struggles faced by women in the clergy.

But Sally Milner, chaplain of the Eastbourne Church of England Academy in Darlington, is used to breaking into male-dominated jobs. She used to be a lorry driver.

Miss Milner's skills mean that she can drive the school bus as well as take assemblies. She was brought up on a farm and, as a child, would talk to her school bus driver about engines.

"I used to sit on grass verges in the summer holidays with my I-Spy Lorries and Buses booklets," she said.

Miss Milner (below) became the academy's first chaplain earlier this year at a ceremony attended by the Bishop of Jarrow. She had previously worked driving lorries and coaches since 1997, when she took her large goods vehicle licence.

She continued coach driving while she read theology as a mature student at Durham University.

"The beauty of coach driving is that you pick up your passengers, drive to a tourist attraction, park up for several hours, then come home," she said. "While I was parked up, I would get out my theology books and notes, and study and write essays.

"Studying some esoteric aspect of theology on a Friday afternoon, then taking a party of youngsters to a nightclub on Friday night, and a working men's club to the races on Saturday, makes you think long and hard about what you believe about the nature of God."

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