Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 712,115         Comments: 2,598

Burnley Grammar School

Image scaled down from 800px to 740px wide. Click the image to view the original.

There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

2598 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John on 29th September 2016  

Rob,the difference was,as you pointed out we had to wear short shorts as apposed to almost knee length.No allowance was made by being allowed to wear any type of support right through school and of course there was a risk of 'something dropping'out which was unavoidable when doing long cross country runs in public.
Also, we frequently had mixed gym lessons which was equally embarrassing.

Comments by Malcolm on 27th September 2016  

A jockstrap was known as a jockstrap at my school in the 1970s. However on the games kit list they were refered to as a Litesome, the popular brand at the time, much as vacumn cleaners are often known as Hoovers even if they are another make. I think the term jockstrap was considered impolite and not to be used in print at that time. I had not come across the term athletic support until much more recent times.
I regularly played squash and went running until a few years ago and always wore a jockstrap. A jockstrap gives much better support than underpants and I would not want to play without one.

Comments by Rob on 25th September 2016  

Willy, for those of us who wore no underpants or jockstraps under our short shorts there was the risk of something dropping out on a run when we might then be seen by a member of the public. The ancient Greek athletes may have exercised naked but it was an all male domain and women were prohibited.

Comments by Willy on 25th September 2016  

Jockstrapa were never mentioned at my school either, but then we didn't have the no-underpants rule anyway, so jockstraps would have made no sense since we kept our underpants on.
Personally I don't see any risk in not wearing a jockstrap, the ancient Greeks did athletic competitions completely naked and never saw the need for any support.
In any case how many people who do daily jogging runs wear jockstraps? Most find wearing briefs is sufficient.

Btw, they were called athletic supporters until recently in the UK, jockstraps is an American word.

Comments by Andrea on 24th September 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

My Ex attended a state Grammar School in the North of England in the early 1970s and his PE teacher advised all the boys that they needed to start to wear a jockstrap for 'support' at the start of their 3rd year (so aged about 13).
So perhaps it was more to do with the attitudes of the members of PE staff at a particular school, rather than anything else?

Comments by Gavin on 24th September 2016  

Rob. It would seem your analysis is right judging by the comments on this page. Nevertheless, I know of grammar schools where certainly senior boys wore jockstraps. Maybe it was more common in the south of England?

Comments by Rob on 23rd September 2016  

From the comments it would appear that it was mainly the private public schools which supported the wearing of jockstraps while most of the rest of us in state schools had no support at all.

Comments by Lewis on 21st September 2016  

In my school it was the same. No mention by the pe teacher of jock straps. They were only referred to occasionally by some of the lads as we got older, but it seems it was thought they were only worn by adult rugby players. So from age 11 to 16 we wore no support

Comments by Ben on 21st September 2016  

Same here, I went to school in the 60s and no one ever told us about jockstraps or that they even existed, though we didn't have the no-underpants rule either.

Incidentally, I also never heard of the nude swimming requirement for boys in some schools until I saw how common this was from the Internet just a few years ago.

Comments by Rob on 20th September 2016  

Gavin/Gedvin, like Ian to whom you asked the same question,
we were not aware of jockstraps. I never knew or saw anyone
who wore one and my dad who knew I had to wear just shorts without pants for PE never mentioned it. On reflection it was surprising that our PE instructor, who was a young man,never told us about them.Perhaps, as has been previously mentioned, it was because at that time it was considered healthy for boys to let the fresh air get to all parts of their bodies.

Comments by Gavin on 19th September 2016  


Goodness me Rob why on earth didn't you wear a jockstrap to stop your penis slapping and balls bouncing?

Comments by Rob on 19th September 2016  

Lewis, It's a sad old world. When we were young everything
seemed so relaxed, but now there are so many rules and regulations to be aware of that everyone has to be careful all the time.

Comments by Lewis on 19th September 2016  

Re swimming lessons. I notice that when I go to my public pool, if children are having private swimming lessons by either a male or female instructor, the instructor has to wear a bright coloured t shirt clearly marked in large letters "Swimming Instructor" I suppose for self preservation so that no one thinks the child is being abused. It is interesting to think that schools might shy away from swimming inc are the pupils are embarrassed.

Comments by Rob on 19th September 2016  

That's right Lewis, in fact I was at grammar school in the late 50's,early 60s when it was very much that 'make things last' period, unlike today's throw away society.The trouble with my shorts was that they stayed quiet loose when they were much shorter on me and when we went on runs,(fortunately it was cross country and not through built up areas),I was still very much aware of everything bouncing about and my penis slapping against the top of my leg.I think it might have been safer if we had tight rugby shorts,but it was exhilarating feeling an all over breeze on my whole body.I actually enjoyed the whole PE experience, once I had quickly got used to it, and have many happy memories. I think it is a pity that times have changed.Unfortunately I'm also sure the lads today,let alone their parents, would be horrified if they had to do PE in just shorts,no pants and plimsolls with no socks like us when it was normal for men and boys to be seen barechested and not just confined to the beach.Boys should have to do PE like us and go naked together in the showers afterwards.I disagree however with making girls wear just knickers and nothing on top as some female correspondents have reported;I think that was shameful and very embarrassing for them.

I don't know whether schools still have swimming lessons but they are probably not allowed to make lads get changed into just trunks or shorts because it might embarrass them. If parents want their kids to learn to swim most have to teach them themselves or pay to have private lessons at sports centres.

Comments by Lewis on 16th September 2016  

Yes Rob the problem was as the shorts got shorter. It was the ethos in the 60's your parents would buy one pair of shorts and hope they would fit you for several years. starting off baggy (you'll grow into them) which for young boys anatomy could swing about, up the too tight and bulges would show. That was life.

I am sure that nowadays parents would complain if their teenagers had to do PE in shorts,no pants or socks.

Do schools still have swimming lessons. If so do lads wear trunks or shorts?

Comments by David on 16th September 2016  

I think any lad who was a bit nervous of communal showers got over it quickly especially once working hard in PE, running or gym kicked in and you just knew that before you dressed again you had to get cleaned up and all hot and sticky the showers which were always cold were an absolute joy and after the first few seconds being naked was not important at all as every other lad was anyway and it felt so good.

I still do pretty hard gym sessions several times each week and I often refer to the shower as the best part, it's an old gym and the showers are still communal and cold but totally exhilarating.

Comments by Rob on 15th September 2016  

Hi Ross,I was encouraged as a young child to get out in the summer sun and fresh air and take my shirt off. Although at my small primary school there was only a token gesture to PE which we did in our ordinary school clothes, when I went to grammar school and had to strip off completely for PE and wear just shorts and plimsolls I wasn't concerned about being barechested. It sounds as though your changing area was some way from the shower block if you found it necessary to wrap a towel around yourself. Our shower block had benches on two sides of the room with pegs on, so after PE we just took off our shorts and walked to and from the showers.- no need to wrap up in a towel.You said you showered naked in middle school, so what what happened when you reached the upper school? We showered naked from day 1 until we left at age 18 and after a run whatever the weather, stripped to the waist, or sweating after a hard workout in the gym, always looked forward to a warm shower.

Comments by Rob on 15th September 2016  

Lewis,during the first lesson I didn't experience any feeling of insecurity about not wearing anything under my gym shorts,although as I grew and my shorts got shorter I know what you mean.This was not a problem in the gym although it was a different story when we were sent out on a run. I do however, remember, like you after the first lesson,feeling very apprehensive about having to take my shorts off to go in the showers.I had never been naked in front of others and I had this feeling of guilt that this was wrong and yet there were boys already in the showers and I knew that I had to do it. I soon got used to it and went on to look forward to the showers after we had been made to work hard and built up a sweat in the gym.It was interesting to read about how you felt about your first PE lesson and makes me think there were many others with similar experiences.

Comments by Andrea on 14th September 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

I started at Secondary School in 1971 and never had to do PE topless even at Primary School, let alone at Secondary. I was still flat-chested at the start of the year, but some of my classmates definitely weren't and were encouraged to wear bras by our PE teacher if they hadn't already started to do so!

Comments by Su-Lee on 14th September 2016  sulee.chang@ymail.com 

I agree, I don't think It happens now.
In my case It was back in 1975 & I hadn't started wearing a bra at that stage but about half of the girls in the group had.
It was the same for all of us, so after a few weeks It seemed normal to be topless.

Comments by Ellie on 13th September 2016  

I doubt many if any schools have their y7 girls do PE in just their knickers these days. Maybe a few do for forgotten kit, in single sex lessons but even they would be very few in number.

When I had to go topless in my lessons it was embarrassing but I didn't wear a bra at that age so it wasn't physically uncomfortable. Some girls has developed a bit by that age and one or two had quite large breasts and I agree for them it must have been really hard. .

Comments by Paula on 12th September 2016  

I have read the various contributions which describe topless pe classes for girls in their 1st year at secondary. I was not aware that this practice existed and perhaps still does. Given the wide age gap when girls start to show development I am really surprised that this took place as it must have been terribly difficult for some girls to cope with this. To have to remove your bra and go into the gym in just knickers doesn't bear thinking about. It is a disgrace. I am just so pleased that I didn't attend such a school but so sorry for those who did.

Comments by Ross on 11th September 2016  

Hi Rob & Lewis. I didn't go shirtless but I was barefoot for PE. Mostly indoors and outdoors too all throughout the year.
Thinking about it I'd much more happily hand over my shoes and socks as I did than my shirt.
You mentioned showers I too showered naked in middle school. It wasn't a big deal to be honest we walked to the shower block hung up a towel so after we were done at least we had a towel to hand to wrap up in.
Looking back after a muddy barefoot run in the snow/slush covered fields a warm shower afterwards was kind of a treat.

Comments by Su-Lee on 11th September 2016  sulee.chang@ymail.com 

It came as a big shock to me when we moved house and I had to change secondary school and found that PE was topless.
We wore just tight blue shorts with no top or bra during the first year.
At my previous school we had a full PE kit for indoor and outdoor lessons but I soon got used to it and quite enjoyed the freedom.

Comments by Lewis on 10th September 2016  

I agree with Rob. the very first time going out for PE in just shorts & plimsolls with no pants I* felt insecure beneath my shorts. Also I was a bit apprehensive first time being naked in the communal showers. However, this soon passed.

Comments by Rob on 9th September 2016  

Hi Ross, We soon got used to wearing our minimal kit in the gym and outside throughout the middle and upper school, although we did wear plimsolls much of the time,except when we were outdoors in the summer,when most of us opted to go barefoot.I well remember our very first PE lesson when were all told by the teacher that we had to take everything off and come back into the gym wearing just shorts and plimsolls and then afterwards having to go naked in the communal showers.

Comments by Ross on 8th September 2016  

Hi Rob. In middle school it was the PE teachers rules all indoor PE was done barefoot. I remember the very first lesson when we were all sent back to the changing rooms to take off our footwear then walk back barefoot.
I think it was because of this I opted for bare feet even throughout high school. In or out. At least I didn't have the extra hassle of carrying around and then cleaning trainers.

Comments by Rob on 8th September 2016  

Ross, if you preferred going barefoot in pe in the nineties you would probably have enjoyed it in earlier decades when most of us had to wear literally just shorts and nothing else all year round. We had no choice but we enjoyed it.

Comments by Bryony on 8th September 2016  

Hi Andrea

Actually I did forget my PE kit a few times even after that first lesson!

Yes I suppose it was quite unfair that we didn't know we would need our PE kit but maybe the timetable was not finalised before the end of the previous term. Of course this was before the days of email, websites or text messages.

Our PE lessons were single sex. We had two gyms, one for boys and one for the girls. I am certain that the boys had the same rule if they forgot their kit and they had to do it in their pants.

In that first lesson and for the whole of the first year at least if we had to do PE in our underwear then that meant doing it in just our knickers. Any girl who was wearing a bra had to take it off. If you forgot your PE kit that happens to be wearing a vest under your school blouse you still had to do the lesson in just your knickers. In fact the vest I wore as underwear in the first year was almost identical to our PE vests but even then our teachers make sure that we changed before a lesson.

I think that the lesson on the very first day showed me that I was not particularly developed and while I felt quite childish compared to many of the girls in my class I didn't start really wanting to wear a bra for a year or more. Maybe if in that first lesson girls in bras had been allowed to keep them on, me and others who had to do the lesson bare chested might have wanted a bra sooner.

I suppose I should be grateful that the first lesson was gymnastics and not hockey or anything else outside!

Comments by Andrea on 7th September 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Bryony,

I would imagine that you never forgot your PE kit after that!

But seriously it does seem unfair that it wasn't made clear before you actually started at the school that PE kit would be required on the first day!

Could you clarify a few points:

- was the PE lesson mixed or did the girls do it in one location and boys in another?

- presumably the same rules applied to the boys and they had to do the lesson in just their underpants if they didn't have their kit?

- Are you saying that the girls who were wearing bras were allowed to keep them on and do the lesson in their bra and knickers or take off the bra and do it in just knickers (which is what Ellie said happened in her school and which seems very harsh)?

- If any of the girls were wearing an ordinary vest (as opposed to a gym vest), were they allowed to keep that on or not? Like you I wasn't wearing a bra at that stage, but did normally wear a vest under my school uniform.

- You mentioned that you felt childish because you weren't wearing a bra - did the this experience lead you to ask for one?


Comments by Bryony on 7th September 2016  

It's been interesting to read about Ellie's school's approach in the early years of senior school and it's prompted me to share my own experience. I started senior school in 1990. On our first day we found we had PE timetabled in the afternoon so after registration the whole form managed to find our way to the gym where we were met by two tracksuited teachers, one male and one female.

They split the form into boys and girls and took us into our respective changing rooms where we were ordered to remain silent and to sit on the floor. We were then briefed on the PE department, including that for the first half term we'd be doing gymnastics in both of our weekly PE lessons and hockey in games lessons. We were then told that PE kit must be worn exactly as per the rules - with this being the very early 1990s this meant a white vest and light grey gym knickers. Finally we were told very clearly that if we didn't have out PE kit we would still be doing the lesson but in our underwear. Suitably shocked we sat in silence.

It was then that the bombshell was dropped. We were asked whether we had our PE kits with us, as it was our first day at the school. About 3 or 4 girls raised their hands to say they did. For the rest of us we slowly realised what was coming. Inevitably, our rather formidable PE teacher said that was fine and in that case we should all get undressed and line up by the door. As we shyly undressed I looked round and saw a few girls in bras and suddenly felt very childish as I knew I had nothing under my school blouse. Seconds later our teacher reappeared and as if she was reading our minds told us that she basically didn't care if we were wearing a bra or not, we'd be doing the lesson in our knickers and only our knickers.

Needless to say that experience in the changing room and the lesson that followed that stayed with me. Even some 26 years later it feels like only yesterday!

Comments by Andrea on 6th September 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

To Paula and Frank,

I went to an all girls secondary school and all the PE teachers were female, so there weren't many males around to see us in our PE kit and certainly not in the changing rooms. Our secondary school indoor PE kit was similar to Paula's - regulation navy blue gym knickers (not white briefs as in Ellie's case) and a white polo shirt. Actually we were supposed to wear the regulation navy knickers under our classroom uniform too.

At primary school we were allowed to change into shorts and a T shirt for PE, but boys and girls did have to change in the same classroom, so we did see each other in vest and pants while we were changing. The majority of our teachers were female, but it wasn't unknown for a male teacher to supervise. During our final year at primary, a few girls who had started to 'develop' began bras rather than vests and they were allowed to change separately in the toilets.


Comments by Ellie on 5th September 2016  

Hi Paula and Frank

Thanks for your messages and questions. To clarify, in years 7 & 8 we didn't wear gym knickers for indoor PE, we wore our everyday underwear knickers. Almost always this meant white cotton briefs. In the second year we didn't have to go topless but still wore our underwear knickers.

In terms of male teachers and boys being present, we did three PE or games lessons a week. Two of these were single sex - one indoors and one outdoors, and were an amalgamation of two different forms. When we were on the field the boys from the two forms were in the gym, and vice versa. The third was mixed sex and indoors, so the boys in our form did see us undressed. The girls only lessons were always taken by a female teacher. The mixed lessons could end taken by either a male or female teacher. I think we had a female more often than a male but there were plenty of examples of the latter. Male teachers certainly don't come into the girls change from at secondary school, though our female PE teachers often sis supervise changing, mainly to make sure we showered properly!

The story you mention is interesting. Wasn't it pretty common to do primary school PE in underwear? My school and a lot of others I know used to insist on just pants or knickers, with vests having to be removed. So although I think there's a lot to that particular story, I don't think the "forcing girls to do or topless" bit is much of a story.

Comments by Frank on 4th September 2016  

To Andrea and Ellie... Similar to Paula's post, were there any male teachers around when you did PE in just knickers in the first years of Secondary school? Or any boys could see you?

About Paula's post, a particular male teacher forcing Sec. school girls to do PE topless and being school policy is quite different.
If it was the school policy then the male teacher cannot be accused of anything, he was just following rules. If it was not the school policy it would be a different matter.

I recently read that in some schools boys were supervised by female teachers in the changing room and in the showers after PE, albeit this would probably be in some primary schools. I can't imagine secondary school boys being supervised in the showers by female teachers.
I wonder if any males posting here ever had this experience at school. I suppose girls being supervised in the changing room and showers by male teachers would be somewhat rarer.

Comments by Paula on 3rd September 2016  

I was shocked to read about Ellie's experience of having to do pe in 1st year at secondary in just gym knickers. I went from vest and knickers only in primary school to Aertex blouse and knickers in secondary school. That remained the kit throughout the school. I read an article last month in the Daily Mail where a retired male primary teacher is facing allegations of , amongst others, of forcing girls to do pe topless. It occurs to me that Ellie's pe teachers may be concerned that they too might end up facing allegations.

Comments by Ross on 3rd September 2016  

Back when I was in school throughout the nineties most indoor PE was done wearing shorts, tee and bare feet. This kit was often used outside in the summer too and in winter we were allowed rugby shirts and trainers although some of us still chose to go barefoot.

Comments by Andrea on 3rd September 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Ellie,

Leotards never featured in our kit list for PE. Indoor PE lessons were done in gym knickers and a polo shirt right through the school (although girls who were in the gym display team did wear them).

Comments by Ellie on 1st September 2016  

Hi Andrea

As far as I know there weren't any complaints but it might be that some parents complained but the school stuck to its guns. Either way the PE kit didn't change in my time there and even when j was in the 6th form, the first years were still made to do things in just their knickers.

I think I didn't really NEED a bra even in the second year but given that we were all getting older by then I wanted to wear one. Looking back it was probably a bit awkward for the girls who dos wear bras and needed them, to have to take them off for PE and have to make do with the tiny amount of support that a cotton vest offered! From the 3rd year own we were all squashed by our leotards so it didn't matter so much!

Comments by Andrea on 23rd August 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Ellie,

Given that some of the classes were mixed, I'm really surprised that there were no complaints from mums!

Also the attitudes from our PE teachers were very different, with several girls being 'advised' that it was time to ask their mum to buy them a bra if the teacher thought there was too much movement under their PE tops!
Although I did start to develop during the latter part of the first year,it mustn't have been enough for the teacher to consider it a problem at that point!

However, like you, I did start to wear one at the start of the second year. I had started to feel a little self conscious over the summer holidays (ensuring that my chest remained covered when I was changing on the beach etc, so I was relieved when mum insisted that I wear one when I returned to school.

Comments by Ellie on 22nd August 2016  

Hi Andrea - I think most or all of us would rather not have had to do it topless either! I was quite lucky in one sense as I didn't actually wear a bra at that age, but some of my form did and for them it must have been pretty bad having to take them off - even more so when we then had to spend the next hour or more with the boys! I started wearing a bra in yr8 (2nd year) and by then I think nearly all of the form had done so too.

Comments by Jon on 22nd August 2016  

At the Grammar School I attended in the late 1960s and early 1970s footwear was not an option for P.E., either indoors or out. Bare feet were compulsory for everything, even cross country, both for boys and girls, except rugby and hockey. Even when we competed at inter-school athletics events we were all barefoot...and we won far more!

Comments by Andrea on 21st August 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Ellie, I'm glad that our school didn't insist on topless PE like yours! I was still flat-chested at the start of the first year, but had started to develop by the end of the year and some of my classmates were wearing bras by the time we came up to Secondary school.

Comments by Rob on 21st August 2016  

Thank you for answering my questions in such detail, Ellie.
it has,indeed, been interesting, and I thank you for your

Comments by Ellie on 20th August 2016  

Thanks for the questions, Rob. The boys did one of their indoor lessons when we were outside doing games. So everyone has three PE lessons a week: one single sex outdoors, one single sex indoors and one mixed indoors.

In the first year the boys wore shorts and no tops, then in the second year added vests. I don't honestly know if they wore underpants with their shorts or not.

I mentioned our outdoor kit in my earlier post, but you wouldn't have seen this by the time you asked again.

Our single sex lessons werw done in an amalgamation of two forms and were always with a female teacher and a the boys always had a male. But the mixed lessons (which were done in form groups) could be with either a male or female teacher. I don't know whethe the boys were supervises in the showers but I'd expect they were as it wouldn't make sense to do things different from how we were treated. Obviously the times we had a male teacher we weren't supervised unless a female teacher happened to be in the PE department at the time!

Comments by Rob on 19th August 2016  

Ellie,so did the boys do indoors PE twice a week dressed the same as the girls for the first two years,or maybe without a vest in the second year, or did they just wear shorts without pants all the time they were at the school? When the boys were on their own were the girls doing games outside? Surely, you wore shorts and a top for this. was the PE teacher male or female and were the boys checked up on in the showers?

Comments by Ellie on 19th August 2016  

I forgot to answer Rob's question about outdoor kit. It depended on what sport we were doing. In winter we played hockey in aertex shirts, skirts, gym knickers and long socks; netball in aertex shirts, gym knickers and plimsolls and did cross country in vests, gym knickers and plimsolls. In summer we did athletics in vests, gym knickers and plimsolls or bare feet; rounders in aertexes, gym knickers and bare feet.

Comments by Ellie on 19th August 2016  

Thanks for the comments and questions. My senior school was mixed. I mentioned we did PE (as opposed to games) indoors twice a week. One of these would be girls only as the boys would be doing games, normally rugby in winter. The other lesson was mixed sex, and was normally gymnastics rather than any sort of team sport.

We had single sex changing rooms and then walked to the gym. We didn't have spare underpants or vests to change into afterwards, which looking back isn't very nice. We did have to shower after lessons and our PE teacher often used to check that we were having proper showers not simply dipping our heads under the shower jets!

It wasn't too embarrassing in the single sex lessons but it would still have been nice to get to wear clothes! The mixed lessons were obviously more embarrassing, but I'm not sure if it was worse when we were slightly younger but with no tops on, or older but in our vests and pants!

Comments by Frank on 18th August 2016  

Hi Ellie, good to hear from the female point of view also sometimes.
Although it was common in primary schools for both boys and girls to do PE in just underpants, I think it was unusual in senior or secondary schools, as in your case.

Were the knickers only PE lessons in senior school also mixed, or boys and girls separate?
Did you also strip down in the classroom for PE lessons?
Did you, or any other girls feel embarrassed about it?

Comments by Rob on 18th August 2016  

I hope you won't mind me saying the your comments were interesting, but was the senior school all girls and what did you wear outdoors for PE lessons? Did you have to bring a change of knickers and vests and shower afterwards? We boys weren't allowed wear to pants and vests, just shorts;thankfully, no leotards!

Comments by Ellie on 17th August 2016  

I've read some of the comments but by no means all as there are so many! I see that some ladies have commented and j thought it might be interesting to add to this.

I was at school in the 1980s and into the 90s. Our primary school was pretty normal for the time and we just undressed in the classroom and then went to the hall for our PE lessons dressed in our pants and knickers. When I moved up to senior school there was initially little change. All our indoor PE lessons (two a week I think) were done, in the 1st year (year7), in just our knickers. Shoes and tops of any kind were not allowed under any circumstances. In the second year things for a little better, we were allowed to wear vests with our knickers, but still no proper clothes. By the 3rd year we were considered old enough to be allowed to wear leotards!