THE headteacher who Countdown star Rachel Riley credited as being her “feminist inspiration” has told the Echo she is flattered by the praise - and still feels feminism has a long way to go.

Ruth Alinek, 66, who was in charge at Southend High School for Girls from 1995 until 2003, praised Rachel, from Thorpe Bay, and said she wasn’t surprised Rachel made it to Oxford University.

Southend Standard:

'Inspiration' - Ruth Alinek

She said: “I feel very flattered about her comments and delighted to have made an impact. I always knew she was bright.

“Physics was what she shone at, at the time and it wasn’t surprising that she got into Oxford.

“She delights me and all credit to her.

“Some of the abuse she puts up with on a daily basis on social media is wrong.

“I didn’t even realise Rachel was Jewish - as I am - until she became so embroiled in the anti-Semitism row.

“I say good luck to her, she fights her own, I’m backing her all the way.”

She added: “Southend High girls were magnificent - they had humour and a real can-do attitude.”

Rachel, now 33, described herself as “quite naive” growing up, stating that feminism was “indoctrinated” into her at Southend High School for Girls by Ms Alinek.

She previously said: “Feminism is easy, it’s just part of my core. We had a headmistress who just indoctrinated us into feminism, feminism, feminism. She just promoted women.

“We can get whatever job we want, whatever grades we want. We can do whatever sport, whatever activities.”

Yet, Ms Alinek believes it is in fact harder for women today compared to the years when she was growing up idolising the likes of Australian writer, Germaine Greer.

Ruth added: “Rachel’s right about my passion for feminism and girls’ education.

“I was part of a Woman’s Hour panel alongside Germaine Greer in around 2002.

“Though I think feminism is going backwards - people of my generation had it a lot easier. Germaine Greer was important to my generation.

“Life is very difficult now, with the pressures of body image and self-confidence. It takes a long time to realise how unequal things still are, many girls are still unaware of it.”