Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 158,902         Comments: 742

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

742 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John on 28th March 2020  

Tim H,
Like you I am also in complete agreement with Anon.

Comments by Biggles on 28th March 2020  

I don't think anyone can take Mr.Dando seriously.

Comments by TimH on 27th March 2020  

Just to say that like Andrea & William I am in complete agreement with Anon.

Comments by William on 27th March 2020  

No, you are not alone. I suspect you have written what many contributors think. Not only is the constant repetition tedious, it is also frustrating that the contributor in question hardly ever responds to the points made against him relating to hygiene, fitness and bodily confidence.

He is also reticent about what drives him. He cites child protection but the vast majority in this country would think it daft to suggest that child protection requires boys to have their chests covered for swimming and their legs covered for gym. That would be a most extreme form of modesty, but there is no point speculating about motive because he asserts but he does not discuss, and thus I for one have stopped responding to his comments.

Comments by Andrea on 27th March 2020 

Further to the comments by Anon, it is futile for Mr Dando to be conducting his campaign on Historyworld anyway.

School uniform policies are a matter for individual school governing bodies and I doubt whether many of them base their decisions on the content of a forum dedicated to historical pictures.

Comments by Anon on 26th March 2020  

Am I alone in thinking that this excellent Website, dedicated to the celebration of twentieth century British social and family history, is becoming increasingly hijacked by a one-man crusade to rectify a perceived personal injustice dating back several decades. Personally, I am finding the persistent detailed tabulating of school PE kits rather tedious, not to mention disruptive of the general discussions.

Comments by Mr Dando on 26th March 2020  

The arrival of Easter in both 1986 and 1987 meant the end of compulsory school showers for outdoor sports which included rugby, football and cross country. There were no showers for summer or indoor sports. Girls had the option of wearing tracksuit bottoms but we were forced to be bare legged when we were 13 and 14.

Let us use this period to campaign for Gender neutral PE kits with fully modest gear for indoor, outdoor and swimming sports.

Here is a school that still mandates this misery!

PE Kit

Children must be provided with a change of clothing for PE and games. Parents will be informed when their child is swimming and they will be informed of any special requirements for games.

A towel is needed for showering after PE.

PE Uniform

Plain white T-shirt

Black PE Shorts



Optional for outside lessons:

Plain black/navy tracksuit

Spare socks


Girls: One piece costume

Boys KS2: Swimming trunks

Boys KS3/4: Swimming shorts.

Let us stop the towel requirement and allow both boys and girls to wear gender neutral one piece costumes that cover the legs for swimming. It is vile that young boys are forced to wear trunks and only older boys get to wear shorts in the pool!

Comments by Bernard on 25th March 2020  

Danny - when I was at grammar school in the 60s we went out on cross country runs as part of our normal p.e. However, we had cross country teams who competed against other schools. I was not nearly good enough myself to be in a school team but I did turn up on Saturday afternoons and act as a marker so that the visiting team did not get lost. Our oldest team would have looked similar to the boys in the photo regarding age though not in dress and cleanliness when returning from a run.

Comments by Chris G on 25th March 2020  

Danny, the caption also says "led by Stuart Bennet (Captain)"

Comments by Danny on 24th March 2020  

The fact that the runners are returning is not in question here since the caption itself says that " the cross-country team returns from a practice run".

But the fact that the runners seem much older than 16 or 17 and that that they had a "captain" instead of a coach or teacher, or if such independent teams even existed in schools concerning competitive sports in country-side running is what is in question.
Unlike other competitive team sports like football and others that you mention country-side running was mostly done as a physical exercise and not as a competitive sports.

Maybe others who did, or rather were made to do, these country runs can tell us if they had actual teams for this at school.

Comments by TimH on 22nd March 2020  


We've been through most of this before.
The photo is probably staged but they are definitely 'returning', not setting out - look at the way the gates are.

In the 50s, 60s & onwards most schools would have football teams, cricket teams, etc., and these would have 'Captains' - to lead them out and receive prizes on behalf of the teams.

In those days youngsters had to grow up quicker - it was the society they lived in - I'm happy to say they're 6th Formers - 16/17/18 year olds.

Comments by Danny on 21st March 2020  

The guys in the picture are no schoolboys, they all look at least 18 or 19 and probably in their early 20s.

The caption also confirms this by saying that it is a "cross-country team" and led by a "captain".

So it is probably some sort of sporting club and voluntary, unlike cross-country runs at school which were probably obligatory and led by a coach or teacher, not a team captain.

So the title "Royal Grammar School" must be some mistake since I don't think that grammar schools had boys that old.
Maybe someone else may clarify this further since I am not familiar with grammar schools.

Comments by Ross on 15th March 2020  

Oh wow these lads aren't muddy at all! Can't have been much of a tough cross country run.

When I was a lad we ran around the school sports fields and in winter they were often waterlogged and extremely muddy. So muddy it was actually better to run barefoot which we all did without any hassle.

Comments by Chris G on 26th February 2020  

And not just hygienic, but sociable as well. I spent three 6th form years boarding at my second secondary school, and for us 6th formers the shower-block formed a most agreeable social club for baths or showers first thing in the morning and last thing at night, as well as a practical cleaning-up facility after a muddy game of rugby or a sweaty cross-country run. And no "towel dance"! We just stripped off

Comments by John on 25th February 2020  

Mr Dando,
After playing sports and getting hot and sweaty it is hygienic to have a shower and if using a single sex changing room and showers why on earth is there a problem with showering naked and communally?.

Comments by Mr Dando on 19th February 2020  

It is time we ended compulsory showers and full or partial nudity in British Schools. Here is another school that inflicts the dreaded shower on its pupils!

Indoor: Boys & Girls
A white Immanuel sports polo shirt*
Navy Blue shorts (loose fitting)
White sports socks (ankle length)
Indoor training shoes

Outdoor: Boys & Girls
Navy Blue Immanuel outdoor shirt*
Navy Blue shorts (loose fitting)
Navy Blue Immanuel football socks*
Plain Black Navy Blue tracksuit bottoms (optional)
(to be worn at the teacher’s discretion)

A towel will be needed for drying after showers.
Watches valuables will be kept safe whilst in PE.

Let us end this practice and allow pupils to wear tracksuit bottoms for both indoor & outdoor games without the "discretion" of the teacher. Children must be given a right to modesty!

Comments by Chris G on 17th February 2020  

Dave, some interesting points there.

It was towards the end of the 1950s that my school intgroduced topless PE. I moved on to another school three years later, and i never kept in touch, so I don;t know how long it lasted there. The school itself closed some time in the 1980s anyway.

I don't think that the Governors would have had much involvement in the decision. They were never much in evidence anyway. I think it would have been most likely the PE master who had the idea, and tghe head who sanctioned it. They were both fairly young men, as indeed werre mostd of the staff.

As far as the boys were concerned, pretty well everyone, myself included, thought it a very good idea. We were of an age, and it was a time, when boys playing out shirtless in warm weather was the norm, so actually being shirtless in front of our peers was nothing new to most of us.

I think the people most concerned by the introduction of topless PE at my school were our parents, particularly our Mums. PE lessons minus our vests soon led to going to school on PE days minus our vests, and within a few weeks most, if not all, of us had given up wearing vests altogether, even in winter.

Comments by Dave on 17th February 2020  

Thank you for the answers. So it seems shirtless PE kit was
decided and approved by the board of governors but it wasn't the case everywhere.Am I right? By reading the comments it's clear that the majority of schools had a shirtless PE rule from about the 40's till the mid 80's (or it became rare earlier?). You have mentioned even though it still existed so you didn't know back then but it was a rarity by the late 80's early 90's. What was the reaction of boys having to be shirtless for PE in your schools? Was it a talk theme among you? What do you thing why shirtless PE was became so early nowadays. Boys still swim shirtless even in mixed swim classes so what's the difference?

Comments by Mr Dando on 16th February 2020  

I can think of nothing more terrible than forcing a child to strip down to their underwear and go from their classroom to the hall and do gymnastic. Incredibly, in Muswell Hill London they still do this.

Physical Education
A timetable is displayed in the staffroom of hall times for
Children undress down to vest, pants and bare feet for
PE in the classroom and go to the hall carrying their
shoes (so they have shoes in case of the fire alarm
going off). Key Stage 2 children wear PE kit.

Please let us stop this inhuman treatment of our kids. If the teachers think this is okay, make them teach lessons in their underwear.

Comments by Frank C on 16th February 2020  

John, Chris G. I suppose it was decided and approved by the board of governors at the school and I was lucky to gain benefit from that.

Comments by John on 16th February 2020  

Chris G,
It’s a pity that you missed out on more years of the great topless PE rule for lads. Looking back I think it should have applied all the way through my Primary School years, so I feel that I missed out too. I had a friend who went to a different school where lads did topless PE from age 7.

Comments by Chris G on 16th February 2020  

John - I must say that I envy you, even though my school PE days were a long time ago. I only got in three years of topless PE,as it wasn't introduced into my first secondary school until I was in the third form, and when I moved on to another school for myu sixth form years, PR vests were mandatory at all times and without exception, except when we were being weighed at the end of every term. Funny, that!

Comments by John on 15th February 2020  

Frank C,
I was also fortunate enough to enjoy shirtless PE in the 1970s, it was much more comfortable than having to wear a vest or t shirt as we had to do until age 9. I enjoyed the freedom of barechested PE too.

Comments by Frank C on 15th February 2020  

Dave,Andrew and Luke, I was fortunate enough to experience the skinless regime in the early 1970s. I liked the freedom and bare chested policy.

Comments by Luke on 9th February 2020  

Hi Dave,
No, I don't think shirtless PE was widespread by that time. To be clear, it wasn't even a general rule at my school - it was a rule imposed by the individual teacher who took my PE class. His view was boys shouldn't require more than a pair of shorts, plus footwear - so from then on my class all had to go bare chested.
However, my brother, who was two years below me, had a different PE teacher and to the best of my knowledge the boys in his class were always allowed to wear their vests.

Comments by Andrew #2 on 9th February 2020 

Dave, barechest PE did exist late 80s to early 90s but at the time it seemed totally normal to me and initially assumed other schools did the same. Looking back now I suspect it was going out of fashion and most school even then were allowing tops but cant be 100% sure.

Comments by Dave on 9th February 2020  

Hi Luke!

I didn't know that in the late 80s to early 90s shirtless PE rule had existed. Was it still widespread back then?

Comments by Andrew on 8th February 2020  

David, although our official PE kit included a vest our teachers simply made every boy strip off to the waist. It was a simple and effective method and demonstrated boys do not need a top for PE or games lessons.

Comments by David H on 15th January 2020  

Hi Luke,

Our introduction to skins and vests was a boy being singled out and made to drop his vest in front of the whole class. The teacher walked down the line and picked boys at random to join him, with a stern warning that those left in vests would strip off for the next lesson. Of course everyone knew there was a 50-50 chance of being a skin but it was obvious some of us (me and a couple of others) were picked to strip off nearly every session. It was really rare for me to wear a vest I have no idea why I picked out to strip off so much. Cross country was done either in skins or vests while for outdoor fitness sessions held on the field, sometimes the whole class would be told to strip off but more often the teams were games tops, vests and skins.

Comments by Luke on 13th January 2020  

Hi David H,
From your reference to Army selection I'd guess you must have been at school around the same time as me (late 80s to early 90s). It seems your PE teacher took a similar approach to mine! The official PE kit was a vest and shorts but he immediately made it clear boys were required to do his lessons in skins. If the class had to be split into teams, half the boys were picked to wear bibs and the rest remained as skins.
Like you, I'm glad I was made to exercise bare chested at school. Yes, it took some getting used to at first but long term it certainly encouraged me to work harder and take greater pride in my body.
If it had been optional, I doubt I'd have taken my vest off voluntarily at first - how about you?

Comments by Ross on 12th January 2020  

Chris, I think I fall into your third group. At primary school PE was mostly done in vest, underpants and bare feet and if you didn't have a vest then you went topless, moved up into my first middle school where indoor PE was done in a pool shirt, shorts and pumps, oh how luxurious and those that forgot went without. Then we moved house into a different area and I started my second middle school where indoor PE was done topless, and barefoot with shorts only. After a year and a half this came as an initial shock but soon I was used to it and came to enjoy the freedom especially when doing gymnastics.

Plus I might as well add we showered after every lesson, boys only and yes we showered nude. It wasn't an issue at all it was just been hygienic and clean. Alot better than spending the day sat in your own sweat!

Comments by David H on 12th January 2020  

Hi Chris,

During an Army selection course in 1995 the male candidates found ourselves in the gym for fitness tests. With the group split into teams of skins and vests the tests began.

It didn't take too long before our vests started to cling to us while we could see each member of the skins team sweat freely.

Halfway through the PTIs changed things around. The skins team were made to put their vests on and we were made to strip to the waist for the second half.

I was lucky at school. I have no idea why my PE teacher picked me to strip off lesson after lesson in all kinds of weather but I'm glad he did. I'd recommend bare chested exercise to any boy. They'd notice a difference in their physique, others bare chests and outlook after a couple of months. They're supposed to be young men after all!

Comments by Chris G on 10th January 2020  

Reading these threads it is apparent that boys experiencing topless PE fall into two groups, those who started at their school in the prior knowledge that PE was always done topless, and those who had toplessness introduced once they had started. But there is actually a third group - those who suddenly had tops imposed on them after one or more years of toplessNess. I had this experience when I changed school at the age of 15. After three years of PE without a vest, suddenly I had to wear one, and found the experience uncomfortable and restrictive. Did anyone else have vests reintroduced after a period of topless PE?

Comments by Josh H on 9th January 2020  

Yes the youngsters of today seem to be very self concious and as I said in my last comments even the 20/25 age group

Comments by Ian on 8th January 2020  

At the age of about 8 in the 50's, a friend took me to the local swimming pool - a huge place (50 yard pool) with a large changing room. After changing, we walked unsuspectingly to the pool down a wide corridor which we later found out was called "the showers". It was the first time we'd seen grown men naked and we freaked out!
From then, I really wanted to shower naked, but never had the courage, until one day a few years later in secondary school our PE teacher told us to strip off and shower properly. We also had to let adults go first, which meant we had to queue for several minutes naked.
Of course we did as our teacher said as he was strict and keen on corporal punishment. Fortunately he was not allowed to administer the belt poolside but only in the changing room. Men would often congratulate him on using it.
How times have changed! But I still enjoy swimming and have totally lost my self consciousness in the showers. I think I would not have come to enjoy it had it not been for him and believe youngsters today are missing something which basically a great pleasure

Comments by Josh H on 7th January 2020  

With regards to the sleepwear, I expect during the weeks cam we would wear once or twice to look as if it had been used.About the sleeping when I returned home I continued to wear pyjamas however, whenever away at camp I would sleep naked. I suppose part of the reason for that was I was able to decide for myself. It must be a "generation" thing because when I am at the gym/swimming pool it seems that neither I nor fellows of an elder age group think nothing of stripping off in front of each other chatting as we do. Yet when chaps in say there twenties etc come in they undress so far and then disappear into the toilet cubical and come out changed into their activity wear. Too shy to be seen? Is that the generation we are breeding through modern practices?

Comments by Graham on 6th January 2020  

Josh H

Your comments about "sleepwear going to camp for the ride" and "being away from direct parental influence offers a good opportunity to experiment" reminds me of my introduction to sleeping 'au naturel' as a naive 'newbie' on my first night at boarding school, and prompts me to ask how your parents reacted when you came home from Scout camp with unworn nightwear, and whether you continued to sleep nude once you were back home.

Comments by Josh H on 6th January 2020  

Danny, I certainly agree with your comments about the feminizing of lads. Like you we had our swimming lessons at the public pool( obviously reserved for the schools use)and in the same way we all changed in one communal area and there was no thought of it being anything other than normal. After the lesson whilst we were changing if there was any larking about a teacher would come in and chivvy us up and no one questioned that a male teacher would walk into a changing area when boys were undressed. As other people have commented on previously, it has been the normal thing for men to share a large bath e.g after rugby or football matches. Furthermore I remember my father saying how in the army there was no privacy all in a dorm changing together.
My experience is not confined to school. I was in the scouts years ago when it was still all boys. Our accommodation was normally about 6 to a tent with not much room and definitely no privacy. Included on the kit list for camp was sleepwear. However we when it was time to get into our sleeping bags whether it was because we were away from our parents gaze or just being daring, most of us would strip off and go to bed naked. We thought of it as fun. The remainder felt daring enough to sleep in their pants which of course in those days we always briefs(no boxers around)so sleep wear went to camp for the ride and was never used.
During the day we were allowed to have fun. No stringent health & safety rules. There were obviously guide lines especially when swimming at scout camp. However, this would often take place in a local river.
Shame there is not the freedom for youngster to enjoy themselves today. To many restrictions.

Comments by Danny on 3rd January 2020  

William, Fiona,

I really laughed when Mr.Dando suggested that boys should wear tops for swimming to cover their chests.
This is proof of the mentality today of feminizing boys, as one of you rightly said.
We didn't have a swimming pool at school but I often went to our local pool to swim where the changing and shower room were full of boys moving about naked with no shame at all.
This seems to have changed in the last 20 years or so where boys are now taking showers with their swimsuits on and changing under a towel.

Comments by John on 2nd January 2020  

I completely agree with everything that you’ve written and would not have been able to express my views as well as you have. My father was pleased when my school introduced the shirtless gym rule for boys when I was 9, he had always done gym in just shorts and pumps and knew that it would be good for me to experience as a boy who lacked confidence.

I found that I preferred not having to wear a top for gym which was contrary to my initial fear before my first shirtless gym class. Throughout my time at school I never experienced any inappropriate behaviour from any of my PE teachers.

I do not understand why Mr Dando wants to treat boys and girls exactly the same, surely his is an extreme point of view and could be seen as a form of abuse.

Comments by Mr Dando on 1st January 2020  

Easily rectified Fiona. No more school showers and no more pointless Physical education designed to reduce young males into obedient cannon fodder and girls into obedient housewives.

With the start of the New Year we must show true 2020 vision and boost child protection and rights to privacy in educational institutions.

Lets name and shame those schools that still insist on towels for showers where others have abolished the mandatory requirement.

P.E. Kit
Indoor – plain white T-shirt, navy shorts, white socks, trainers
Outdoor – school rugby shirt and rugby socks, navy shorts, football boots

Indoor – plain white T-shirt, navy skort, white socks, trainers
Outdoor – plain white T-shirt, navy skort, school ‘rugby’ socks, trainers;School regulation P.E. hooded top is optional;

Year 10 & 11 – Plain navy tracksuit bottoms [no stripes] may be worn;Towel for showers;Shin/ankle guards are required for hockey, football and when playing hooker in rugby. Mouth guards are recommended for hockey and rugby. Footwear should be appropriate for the playing surface.

No to showers Fiona and yes to gender neutral school informs. Let the evil of the past never be repeated!

Comments by William on 1st January 2020  

Mr Dando, Fiona has made another good point. You make some sweeping assertions so can I say that, although I never wore a top for gym or anything under my shorts, I was never abused or humiliated at school, and that although my gym master was terrifying he was no paedophile.

You seem to have found being in a group of boys showering with nothing on humiliating. That's a strong word but you do not suggest that you were singled out in any way. There is much evidence to suggest that communal, non-sexual nudity among men and boys is not humiliating. Just read the majority of contributions to this website. My generation will recall photographs in newspapers of professional footballers celebrating after the match in the team bath. For them it was a positive bonding experience. And the Imperial War Museum has many photos of soldiers in WW1 and 2 showering, swimming and larking about in their birthday suits as welcome relaxation. They all know what a man's body is like so why get uptight about it?

Obviously you feel differently, but is your feeling a fair basis for deciding policies in schools? The more examples you quote where showers are required the more you emphasise how many disagree with you, and not just on grounds of hygiene. Are you not concerned that the extreme modesty you advocate will make boys cripplingly shy and repressed about their bodies? You may send them into the wider world physically private but mentally vulnerable, worrying about things they should be able to take in their stride.

If there is nostalgia it might be for a time when boys were brought up as boys and the differences between the sexes had not been blurred by gender equality and political correctness. And what more striking example could there be of the feminisation of boys than requiring them, as you suggest, to swim in a swimsuit that covers their chests?

Comments by Fiona on 31st December 2019  

"we had no flannels or soap to wash ourselves."

Easily rectified and more hygienic, by taking your own.

Comments by Dave on 30th December 2019  

Mr.Dando: What's your problem with shirtless PE? It's about freedom of movement and hygiene. Did you wear shirts for swimming lessons? Its' all the same.What's the purpose of shirts especially for gym work? I can't see your point.

Comments by Mr Dando on 29th December 2019  

I was forced to have communal nude showers between September 1985 to April 1987. These abusive practices were pointless as they denied privacy and we had no flannels or soap to wash ourselves. We did not have to undergo this humiliation at primary or middle school between 1977 to 1984 and during the upper year aged 15 and 16 showers were not mandatory and nobody used them from 1987-1989.

PE Kit Aureus PE sports top *
Aureus PE shorts *
Aureus PE socks *
Aureus long sleeve reversible games top
Aureus tracksuit (optional)
Black or white trainers with non-marking soles for indoor and outdoor use
Towel / Shower gel
Aureus sports bag *

This website might be about past experiences but it is dominated by the pro Brexit over 65's who are nostalgic for a period of UK educational history where caning, communal showers and topless gymnastics were the norm.

The whole point of learning from the past is to inform the future so that state institutionalised child abuse propogated by paedophilic pe teachers never occurs again.

We should campaign to end compulsory showers and topless male swimming in all British schools.

Comments by William on 28th December 2019  

Mr Dando, Fiona's point had also occurred to me. In your campaign against school showers you have described them as humiliating, dreaded and barbaric. The majority disagree, citing hygiene and developing bodily confidence as among the benefits. I found communal showers slightly embarrassing the first time but quickly got used to them. After all, we were all boys and much the same. Why did you find them humiliating (Hesketh Fletcher, 21st December)? A history website is more about past experience than current practice. What made your experience so grim?

Comments by Fiona on 23rd December 2019  

Mr Dando, none of the three school PE kit lists that you have posted in the last couple of days specifies that showers shall be taken nude, and none of them describes the pbysical arrangement of the showers thenselves,so they might be enclosed cubicles.

Comments by Mr Dando on 20th December 2019  

After more than 30 years since I left school in the 1980's it is time to ban mandatory showers and state enforced nudity in schools!

PE uniform

White PE Shirt with school logo
Black Shorts or Black Skort
Fleece with school logo - optional item for colder weather
Black Jogging Pants - optional item for colder weather

White PE Shirt with school logo
Black Shorts
Fleece with school logo - optional item for colder weather
Black Jogging Pants - optional item for colder weather
All pupils are required to change for Physical Education into the PE uniform and pumps (not leisure boots as these have ridges on the soles).

In order to promote personal hygiene and independence skills, pupils are expected to shower after PE lessons. Pupils attending Hydrotherapy sessions should bring their own kit.

Comments by Mike C on 18th December 2019  

Hi Ben, ! was "introduced" to skins when I was a 9 year old. The big change at my new school was being made to strip down outside, something my new classmates were used to and I wasn't. Each day there was a d PE lesson timetabled, a double for four days and a double and a half lesson which really was hard. I remember the teacher telling me at the start of my first lesson I'd be striping off outside for each lesson for the first couple of weeks to get me used to it but was soon regularly picked to strip for the skins team. When we were inside there was an expectation you would sweat which was okay as everyone was stripped to the waist. As for those of us who were sporty and made the school/county teams we were told we'd strip off all the time. I think it was a school thing as we also did x country competition s against other schools stripped down too, now that made people look twice! I did enjoy PE. I think being made to strip off gave me a lot of confidence. Boys really don't need a t-shirt or vest on indoors and would be better off being pushed hard by a good teacher and sweating freely, regardless of their age is more beneficial.

Comments by Dave on 11th December 2019  

Max, I can't see what's the problem of boys having to do PE shirtless. They don't wear shirts for swimming.What's the difference? There isn't any rude or harmful thing about being shirtless doing sports especially gymnastics.It's practical.