'She's lying through her teeth': Leeds residents blast Truss over tough upbringing claims

29 July 2022, 14:16 | Updated: 29 July 2022, 15:27

Liz Truss has come under fire over her remarks about her old school
Liz Truss has come under fire over her remarks about her old school. Picture: Getty

By Charlotte Lynch

Liz Truss has been accused of lying about her school in Yorkshire which she claimed "let down" some of its pupils.

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Liz Truss hearkened back to her Yorkshire roots as she addressed Conservative party members in Leeds at the first Tory leadership hustings, hosted by LBC, on Thursday.

Her speech was laden with references to Leeds and her time growing up in Roundhay, a leafy suburb north of the city.

The foreign secretary said her time at school there had taught her "grit, determination and straight talking", and she promised to channel the spirit of legendary Leeds United manager Don Revie if she becomes the next Prime Minister.

But she began with an apology: "I hope there are no teachers of mine in the audience, and if there are, I'm really, really sorry."

It wasn't clear what she was apologising for, but the people of Roundhay have been deeply offended by comments the leadership frontrunner made about her time at Roundhay school a few days prior.

Liz Truss attended Roundhay School in Leeds
Liz Truss attended Roundhay School in Leeds. Picture: Google Maps

The all-though comprehensive school sits on the edge of the beautiful, 700 acre Roundhay park which boasts lakes, woodland and gardens. Average house prices are just over £350,000 for a three bed semi-detached property. The picturesque Street Lane boasts up-market restaurants and cafes.

Mrs Truss claimed that she saw children "let down" at her secondary school and suggested Roundhay is a place with "low expectations" and "lack of opportunity”. The school was rated "satisfactory" by Ofsted inspectors during Mrs Truss's time there but is now rated "outstanding".

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"She's lying through her teeth. Everyone I know is absolutely appalled about what she said," one resident who's children attended the same school told LBC.

"She's trying to pretend she comes from a deprived impoverished area. She comes from the same street as me actually.

"The street is full of BMWs, Porsches and Range Rovers, but Liz is trying to pretend that she comes from a red-wall area and she's been fighting this fight, surrounded by poverty stricken areas like York and Harrogate, God knows how she managed to get out of it."

Liz Truss has come under fire over her remarks about her past
Liz Truss has come under fire over her remarks about her past. Picture: Getty

Mrs Truss did describe the neighbourhood as "the heart of the red wall". Roundhay is part of the Leeds North East constituency that had been Conservative during her time growing up there, until 1997, by which time she had graduated from Oxford University.

Another parent in Roundhay told LBC "it's ridiculous that she is trying to make out that she is hard done by and had a rough upbringing, when she lived in a nice posh part of Leeds and went to a great school".

"It's one of the best schools in Leeds, so everyone who lives in Leeds thinks she's being ridiculous," they said.

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Another mum told LBC: "It's known as one of the best schools in the area and I think she's thought about areas around it like Harehills, and thought she'd get away with seeing it. That's not what Roundhay school is.

"I don't want to see either Liz or Rishi as Prime Minister. I don't think either of them understand children and the education sector and what schools need.

"Neither of them come from the background - she doesn't come from the background she says she does and Sunak comes from a very, very high privileged background, they're not going to understand the children in society."

Liz Truss was challenged by LBC's Nick Ferrari at the hustings in Leeds on the comments she made about her former school.

Nick Ferrari put the leadership hopeful on the spot and asked: "You've made it sound like some gutter comprehensive - it's nothing like it. It's a lovely part of town and everybody wants to live there. Why were you so rude?"

Mrs Truss said: "I'm not claiming it was a sink school. It was an average comprehensive at the time, and under the auspices of Leeds city council there were too many kids able to leave school without the education they needed.

"Teaching was patchy, we didn't have league tables at the time or a national curriculum, and there were kids that fell through the cracks."

The Foreign Secretary continued: "What I found is that when I left that school and went to Oxford University there were talented people at Roundhay that should have been at Oxford rather than some people that were actually there.

"What I felt is there was low expectations of some of the pupils at the school, and sometimes it was about where those kids had come from in Leeds. There were different expectations from kids from middle class areas than there were from the council estates and I thought that was wrong."