Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 713,568         Comments: 2,605

Burnley Grammar School

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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

2605 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John on 31st December 2019  

Helen R,
We were never given the option of wearing a top once we developed chest hair. The rule was strictly stripped to the waist for gym, some lads tried to appeal and had parents write letters saying why their son had a health issue that required them to be allowed to wear a top but no exceptions were ever made.

The PE kit list sent to parents indicated that a top could be worn for outdoor PE such as athletics but several PE teachers ignored this and made all lads do athletics shirtless. The stripped to the waist rule was done for health and safety reasons to prevent lads being injured from tops falling over their heads whilst using wall bars and for hygiene because showers were not available after gym classes (only after football which was a longer period and there was enough time to have a shower before the next lesson)

Comments by Helen R on 31st December 2019  

Sorry if my question seemed odd. Obviously I know having a hairy chest does not stop you exercising, I just thought the schools may allow you to wear tops when you reached this point.

Comments by John on 30th December 2019  

Mr Dando,
From reading the comments on this blog and from my own experience lads disliked being a skin when shirts vs skins games were played. The anxiety was created because lads didn’t know if the PE teacher was going to pick them to be on the skins team, if selected they then had to strip to the waist and felt self conscious in front of the lads that were still wearing shirts.

Whereas for gym classes all lads got changed & stripped to the waist and put on shorts and pumps or trainers and everyone was treated fairly and no lad was made to feel different; you all entered the gym shirtless and soon worked up a sweat. The PE teacher made us work hard and we didn’t have time to reflect that we were shirtless. Shirtless gym class was more comfortable than being made to wear a shirt, all lads were treated equally and it was in no way abusive or inappropriate.

There is no need to ban shirtless gym lessons for lads, I suggest that shirts vs skins games are not necessary as coloured bibs, armbands or sashes can be worn to distinguish teams.

Comments by Fiona on 29th December 2019  

Mr Dando

Whitburn Church of England Academy

"PE Uniform
Academy PE polo shirt or Academy long-sleeved multisport top
Academy PE shorts
Academy PE socks
Shin pads and football boots
Mouth Guard for contact rugby and hockey"

"Student Showers
Pupils are expected to shower after taking part in PE lessons as it is unhygienic to remain unwashed after vigorous physical activity. However, we would like to assure you that your modesty and safety have been taken into account when designing the changing rooms and the cubicles are for individuals. You will therefore need to bring a towel and soap/shampoo on the days that you have PE."

SO -
NO topless PE
NO communal showers


Comments by Mr Dando on 28th December 2019  

It is time to show some 2020 vision and ban shirtless pe along iwth compulsory showers.


Student Showers
Pupils are expected to shower after taking part in PE lessons as it is unhygienic to remain unwashed after vigorous physical activity. However, we would like to assure you that your modesty and safety have been taken into account when designing the changing rooms and the cubicles are for individuals. You will therefore need to bring a towel and soap/shampoo on the days that you have PE.

Comments by Ben on 28th December 2019  ben.thomas19@yahoo.com 

Like you the question struck me as a strange one! I can't imagine why you'd think that having chest hair might be a reason for a boy to be excused from going shirtless.
I also felt self-conscious about having hair on my chest before my 15th birthday. Unlike many of the posters here, we didn't have a shirtless PE uniform at my boys only school - this was in the 80s - but we often did team sports with one team in 'skins'. So for a while I was quite apprehensive about PE lessons and the prospect of having to do it with my top off.
I did get some sarcastic remarks from one or two of my classmates when I was a skin and they saw my chest hair, which at first made me feel like some kind of freak. What a relief a few weeks later, when I noticed another boy who had been chosen for the skins team and took his top off to reveal a hairy chest! Suddenly not being the only one made a big difference and I gradually became a lot more confident.
It's interesting you say the boys who were still smooth were jealous of the hairier lads, maybe it was the same in my school?

Comments by Danny on 28th December 2019  

Helen R, I don't see what having a hairy or smooth chest has got to do about it. I had a hairy chest at age 14/15 and even facial hair and some of the still smooth boys were jealous about it, although I felt a bit self-conscious about it.

It had some advantages though, as when I was allowed to enter a cinema theatre where an 18 plus film was showing since I looked older with my moustache while the other boys my age were not allowed in, even though they may have been taller than me but still with a smooth face. :)

I was in a boys only secondary school, but do you think that girls would have been more interested in hairy chested boys than the smooth ones doing PE if it was a mixed school?

Comments by John on 27th December 2019  

Helen R,
The rule for all lads was shirtless PE. Some lads developed chest hair earlier than others but by age 14/15 many lads had chest hair and continued to do PE shirtless. Lads did PE with other lads and not with girls, so there was no problem.

Comments by Helen R on 27th December 2019  

Hi, Were you all still expected to go exercise topless if you had a hairy chest?

Comments by Roy on 24th December 2019  

Having a shower after PE or cross-country is a matter of personal hygiene and nothing to do with abuse

Comments by John on 23rd December 2019  

Hi Simon S,
We didn’t get pulled out of lessons to do laps of the field but if we misbehaved during outdoor PE lessons we’d be made to do laps of the field. They were done barechested, I didn’t mind this punishment as I enjoyed running. I was totally happy to shower naked communally after sports too, it was hygienic and not weird or in any way abusive.

Comments by Mr Dando on 22nd December 2019  

It is more than 30 years since the passing of the Childrens Act in 1989. The time has now come to outlaw the dreaded school shower!


P.E. Kit

Navy shorts or Navy tracksuit bottoms

Sky blue polo shirt with the school logo* or white round neck t-shirt


A towel, shower gel and deodorant will also be needed for showering.

*These items are available/can be ordered through our uniform supplier

Caseys Schoolwear.

Comments by Simon S on 22nd December 2019  

Hi John, You're right it would have been a lot worse running in a sopping wet t-shirt or vest than just going out barechested. We also did laps of the field the same way though we were pulled out of lessons to do them and then you had to catch up later. Did you experience this?

Comments by John on 21st December 2019  

Simon So,
It was better doing cross country runs shirtless in winter when it was raining because having to wear a rain soaked t shirt would actually have made you feel colder. It may seem harsh to those who haven’t done cross country running shirtless but it made sense and didn’t do me any harm.

Comments by Simon So on 21st December 2019  

Hi Michael, you wore more than we did. We had no choice but to do x-country barechested regardless of our age or physique. For our teacher the colder it was the better.

Comments by Simon So on 21st December 2019  

Hi Michael, you wore more than we did. We had no choice but to do x-country barechested regardless of our age or physique. For our teacher the colder it was the better.

Comments by Leeds Lad on 16th December 2019  

I thinking I recall seeing Mr. Parry's obituary on the internet some time back. Seemed to have led an interesting life after teaching.... judge, freemason, etc.

Comments by Matthew on 16th December 2019  

To Michael


Comments by Michael on 15th December 2019  

It's sobering to reflect that even the youngest boy in the picture, (presumed aged 11 in 1959) will now be over seventy years old. As for their teacher, Mr. R. Parry, who knows?

Comments by Andrea on 9th December 2019  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Thanks Danny, re-reading his original post, he says that his daughter is at a school on the south cost, but the uniform policy is from a school in Doncaster!

Comments by Danny on 8th December 2019  

Max, Andrea,

I don't think Mr.Dando was referring to anything about himself. He usually just copies from other sites, mainly schools, and posts them here, usually about PE kits.

Comments by AndyJ on 7th December 2019  

When it comes to swimming trunks vs shorts, I think any serious swimmer at school wore trunks. I left school five years ago (boys only) and all of us wore swimming trunks or swimming shorts, no speedos. The competitive swimmers always wore trunks, which have less air resistance which matters a lot when it comes to swimming times. But there was no real rule on what you had to wear.

Comments by Max on 6th December 2019  

“Mr Dando” what happened to your daughter is absolutely appalling, now I’m not sure which country you live in but here in Australia if a teacher did such a thing they could expect to be immediately fired, have their working with children’s license revoked and possibly face criminal charges. The court system would most likely see the situation as a case of pedophilia, and the teacher would have an absolute crap storm ahead of them. I know that sounds like some blown up story but it is 100% true, we have extremely strict laws here regarding how teachers can treat students and that would absolutely not be tolerated. I don’t believe you should listen to another person who commented saying that for the sake of your daughter you should not raise the issue as that simply teaches your daughter that this kind of thing is acceptable, which it is not. And for all those saying that school was better back then without all the “progressiveness” well you are just down right stupid, the fact that boys are not forced to shower naked or swim naked is a good thing, give kids the choice to do what they want.

Comments by Andrea on 6th December 2019  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

When my son was at High School, they didn't shower after PE, mainly due to lack of time until the next lesson, but I wouldn't have had a problem with it if the school had made them shower.

With regard to the girls being asked to wear something to keep their chests covered if their shirts were coming untucked, the consensus seemed to be that the teacher had overstepped the mark. I merely referred to it as a contrast to what had happened to Mr Dando's daughter.

Comments by Danny on 5th December 2019  

To Claire and Andrea,

Claire, I don't know if you meant that or just said it with tongue in cheek. :)
It is also considered as "inappropriate" by today's "progressives" for kids to take showers after PE, lest they see each other naked.
Or to do PE in shorts but must wear long tracksuit pants for PE, lest someone see their bare legs.
Or even worse, as Andrea mentioned, for 6 or 8 year old girls to do PE topless.

Unfortunately these lunatic "progressives" have overtaken our education system, not to mention our political system.

Comments by Claire on 5th December 2019  

Absolutely inappropriate. The LEA would blow a gasket.

Comments by Andrea on 2nd December 2019  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

It certainly sounds inappropriate for girls of that age to be doing PE topless especially, as Fiona refers to, some may be starting to 'develop' by then.

By way of contrast, there was controversy earlier this year when a mum objected to a teacher telling her (flat chested) 9 year old daughter and some of her friends that they should wear crop tops or 'sports bras' under their PE shirts to preserve their modesty when their shirts were coming untucked and falling down when they were doing handstands.

Comments by Bernard on 2nd December 2019  

"Mr Dando" - I would have thought the situation you describe would not be completely unknown these days though not as common as it used to be. It was, of course, standard practice for children to do p.e. in their underwear fifty years or so ago. I imagine that, at that age, the girls looked much the same as the boys without tops on - if any had started to develop then, no doubt, they would have been wearing something appropriate.
I fear you could cause problems for your daughter if you complain about something as trivial as this.

Comments by Fiona on 2nd December 2019  

"And knickers only for those girls who didn't have vests available, which I guess might well be most of them, would be even more APPROPRIATE"

Of course, what I meant to write was "INAPPROPRIATE".

Comments by Danny on 2nd December 2019  

Sandra, was this a girls only school and did the boys also have to do PE in just underpants together with the girls or separate?

Comments by Fiona on 2nd December 2019  

Mr Dando
I would say that even in the circumstances that you have described, continuing the class in vest and knickers would be ibappropruate these days. And knickers only for those girls who didn't have vests available, which I guess might well be most of them, would be even more appropriate. Did any of them have bras? And what did the girls think of it?

Comments by Mr Dando on 1st December 2019  

I am a parent, rather than a teacher, but am keen to get professionals' opinions.

My daughter is 10 and attends an mixed school on the south coast.

This week her class were doing games on the school field, in their PE kit of t shirt, shorts, socks and plimsolls. It started raining but the lesson continued. Eventually, the teacher decided it was raining too hard to continue and moved the class to the gym for the rest of the lesson. There, she said that all the pupils had to take off their wet kit and do the lesson (gymnastics) in their vest and knickers and bare feet. She did let them go and get their vests, but my daughter, along with many others, doesn't wear a vest to school. So she had to do the lesson in just her pants. Do any of you here think this is appropriate? I was appalled when my daughter told me, and am seriously considering approaching the school over this. Your reactions are welcome.


P.E. Kit
We expect all children to change for PE, this is for hygiene as well as health and safety of the pupils. All P.E kit needs to be brought into school on Monday (am) and taken home Friday (p.m).

Pupils need a labelled bag for their kit (not a plastic carier bag) containing:

Plain black shorts
White T shirt or polo shirt
Black Pumps
Track suit top and bottoms for some outdoor activities
If you wish, children in Reception, Years 1 and 2 may wear their vest and pants for their indoor P.E. sessions but outdoor kits must be also provided as well as a pair of pumps. If your child forgets to bring P.E kit they will be allocated any spare P.E kit in school.

Please make sure all kit is marked with your child’s name and class.

Comments by Sandra on 1st December 2019  

Primary school for me and PE was done in knickers only with barefeet it was cheap easy and practical. When I moved upto middle school then we all upgraded and dis PE in gym knickers and a vest with bare feet and if you forgot your knickers then you did the lesson nude which surprisingly happened almost every lesson.

Comments by Danny on 26th November 2019  

I think the video is more likely a gymnastic show by the boys in front of spectators.
I don't think that normal PE at any school was ever that acrobatic.

Comments by David G on 25th November 2019  

Dave Hi,
Thanks for that. I didn't know you could access videos that way.

Comments by Dave on 24th November 2019  

Hi David G!

Click on the envelope icon above his post and you can look at the video.

Comments by David G on 24th November 2019  

Hi Simeon,

Can you provide a link to have a look at the video. When I read your post there wasn't a link.
Thanks David

Comments by Dave on 23rd November 2019  freedomfighter84@gmail.com 

Hi Simeon!

Were the shirtless PE rule for boys the norm even in the 1980's or was it a rarity by then? How did you feel being shirtless in front of the girls and many parents.Were there any boy who said anyting about the PE kit or was it ever a a talking point among lads?Were your lessons seperated or mixed? How old were you at the time the display was held?
What was the PE kit for outside?

Comments by Stuart H on 23rd November 2019  

James, Danny. I too experienced nude swimming at prep school aged 9-13 and can say that i didnt find it humiliating at all. Though talking with a friend from back then he described it as embarrassing not at the beginning when we were just a bunch of little boys but from aged 11 1/2 when he started puberty as one of the first in the class so stood out. By the end of the prep school most boys were going through puberty so he was not alone. I was a late starter so whilst i wouldnt use the word humiliating or embarrassing i would probably say i was more self conscious of the difference. Overall i loved nude swimming and still do today where possible, abroad usually in places such as Scandinavia and germany where nudity doesnt carry the stigma it does in the UK.

Comments by James on 21st November 2019  

Danny,I agree it was an an unnecessary harsh treatment and you were fortunate that you didn't experience it at your school.
Although we were both subjected to corporal punishment,may I ask how and why it was administered?
Yes,I am the same James that had nude swimming and it was humiliating,but after a while I became accustomed to it as we were not allowed to wear swimming trunks.
Did you enjoy wearing short trousers or would you have preferred to wear long trousers?

Comments by Michael on 21st November 2019  

We were sent out on cross country runs whatever the weather, wearing only our standard indoor gym shorts, t-shirts, ankle socks and plimsolls (all plain white) to defend us from whatever mother nature threw at us.

Some days it was perishing cold, and the only way to counter it was to run quickly and get warmed up that way. If it rained whilst we were out (North of England - so this was often), we were soaked as well as exhausted by the time we returned to school.

It was especially galling to learn that the PE teacher had remained in school the whole time, with his feet up, reading his daily newspaper and drinking steaming hot tea or coffee.

Comments by Danny on 19th November 2019  

James, we both seem to agree on this harsh treatment of boys at school.
The only difference is that you experienced it while I did not, except for the routine corporal punishment.
Are you the same James that once said on this forum that they also had to do swimming at school in the nude?
This was another humiliating treatment of boys, although one could argue that they got used to it and even enjoyed it, but certainly not for all.

Comments by T Pearson on 19th November 2019  

Danny, My school had a mandatory stripped to the waist policy for all PE/Games for all boys age 9 to 18. We were told all outdoor PE/Games lessons were there to make us toughen up. Being stripped to the waist outside was hard, X country runs were tough but had to done or you'd be taken out of class to do laps of the field the next day. I didn't mind running stripped down though some of my friends had mixed views about it and personally, I found being stripped to exercise both indoors and outdoors was a good thing. Indoors I would normally start to show sweat around 20 mins into the lesson which gives an idea how hard we were made to work while being stripped outside it just felt good to escape the stuffiness indoors. Both were a great way to show the girls your physique naturally.

Comments by James on 18th November 2019  

Danny,I don't see how anyone could"enjoy running and stripped and half naked across country in cold and freezing
and half naked across country in cold and freezing weather".
There is nothing manly about wearing just brief shorts and being subjected to to the torment of running in cold weather.I remember wearing just a thin pair of shorts while I held the finishing tape with another boy and our shorts offered very little protection from the cold.
As you say teachers who supervised us were dressed accordingly to the weather and wore overcoats,hats and gloves,while we simply wore shorts.
I agree that parents never complained about the use of corporal punishment and particularly my mother adored to see me wearing shorts and kept me in shorts for school and home.

Comments by John on 16th November 2019  

Many schools did make lads run in shorts and trainers, you might not have come across the practice but it certainly existed in many parts of the UK. I do not condone children being made to run barefoot as they could injure their feet. Being made to run shirtless did seem harsh at first but most lads soon got used to it. Back in the 60s, 70s and 1980s attitudes to the way that lads were educated were very different. My father did not have a problem with the PE kit rules which applied to me as he was treated just the same and had also been in the Army and made to swim naked in cold water in winter as part of his training.

Comments by Danny on 16th November 2019  

John, doing indoor PE shirtless is one thing, but running shirtless and half naked outside on cross country on a freezing winter day is totally different and unimaginable to me.
I am surprised that some posters who claim that they did this enjoyed it or didn't bother them.

About the poster who said that his father told him that he must run outside topless no matter the weather to make him become a man is amusing to me because the same PE teachers who made the boys do this and were supposed to be an example of this 'manhood' were all wrapped up during these country runs in cold or freezing weather.

In any case I never saw anyone, boy or man, running bare chested in freezing weather, or barefoot across mud and rough ground, not even the toughest athletes do this, let alone forcing young boys to do this.

About comments that parents never complained to the schools what their boys were made to wear or not is very true.
This was also the era when corporal punishment was the norm in most schools at any age and I don't remember or knew of any parents who complained about it, including mine.
Schools and teachers were held in great respect in those days and few questioned them, which is far from the mentality of today.

I suppose there is going to be someone who says that they enjoyed getting physically punished at school, like they enjoyed running stripped and half naked across country in cold and freezing wheather. :)

Comments by John on 15th November 2019  

I think that making a polo shirt optional kit for boys PE doesn’t make any sense. My dad was happy that I would be stripped to the waist for PE like he was and like your dad he would not have wasted money buying me a polo top if it was ‘optional’ as opposed to being compulsory.

Like you I got used to being shirtless and it was more comfortable. Colored bibs can be worn for one team in a shirts vs skins game so there is no need for lads to wear shirts for indoor PE.

Comments by Simeon on 15th November 2019   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvk1Moxdva0&t=515s

This a video of a gym display in my old school in 1983. The boys display begins at 7:51. This shows exactly how our PE lessons were conducted with us barefeet and barechested. The almost military style of teaching and us being forbidden to talk during gymnastics is miles away from todays more 'inclusive' teaching approaches.

Comments by Kevin on 15th November 2019  

Good queation stuart! I think I have answered this kind of in a previous post:
I went to a comprehensive school in the 80ies which must have with hindsight just changed its PE uniform policy for boys when I arrived. We got a letter with a uniform items that needed to be bought and I went with my parents to get them just before school started. We got the main uniform and then it came to the PE kit. White shorts and a green polo shirt. So far so good, but my dad spotted on the list that the shirt was optional for boys. He made it quite clear that he would not pay for the shirt, that I would have to go barechested; he wasn't into wasting money. My mom made matters worse by pointing out that I might get cold doing PE stripped to waist which really annoyed my dad who insisted I needed to grow up to become a man.
Too cut a long story short, I wasn't given a PE shirt and had to go to my first PE lesson knowing I would not be waering a shirt which really worried my. As it turned out luckily I wasn't the only boy without a top, two other boys had to strip too. In the end I never ever wore a top for PE and actually enoyed it in the end. My PE teacher made no secret out of the fact that he tought all the boys should be stripped to the waist and he did favour the small the group of us who were.

Comments by Alfie A on 15th November 2019  

I am from the era at an all boys school when topless pe and no underpants was the norm. As far as I know parents did not complain about or question such things. Rules were rules as I say it was the norm.