Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 711,716         Comments: 2,597

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

2597 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Claire on 23rd January 2016  

Hi Simon, My twin brothers were exactly the same. From the age of 9 to 18 they were both nearly always made to strip off. My friend's brother who was the same age and in the same class was rarely picked to strip. It's strange how skins teams were picked.

Comments by John Lavender on 22nd January 2016  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

To Chris2
Hi Chris, an interesting Question , but actually No, Our PE Teacher tended to alternate Skins Teams each Week - we only had 1 x 1.5Hr PE Session p/w so generally Lads didn't have to strip off more than that unless of course they were slow in getting changed at the start of Lesson in which case the Last 2 Lads from each (2 of ) House had to 'Tops Off' and "run the Gauntlet" before we started the Session, in which case assuming they survived that, they stayed Topless for the rest of the Lesson , only putting tops On again if they were in the Shirts Team for Team Games eg Killerball, at the end of the Lesson.
Hope this Clarifies.

Comments by Simon on 22nd January 2016  

I don't know how it was at John's school but at mine it was certainly the case that some boys were skins more than others. For some reason I was one of them. We were actually divided into four teams rather than just two and only one team had to take their vests off. The first time we did PE I was on the skins team, but the teacher said he would pick different teams for the next lesson. So I was a bit taken aback to be a skin again. Next time we were told to keep the same teams, so yet again I had to go bare chested. Sometimes I did get to keep my vest on, but more often than not I took it off. In theory there was only a 25 per cent chance of that so it seemed a bit unfair. It wasn't just me though, there was another boy who usually played skins as well and we ended up becoming good friends as we were on the same team so often.

Comments by Chris2 on 21st January 2016  

John Lavender. Hi John, did you find having skins vs vests that some boys were made to strip to the waist more frequently than others.

Comments by Mark on 21st January 2016  

I think it is their usual PE kit, this was 1972.
Still I don't think this was really such a hot day there in Denmark because nearly all the people watching are wearing jackets.

Comments by Dave on 17th January 2016  

If you watch this video from 5:45 you can see students doing gymnastics in a danish secondary school. Boys are shirtless. I wonder if they wear their usual PE kit because it is a sports day.


Comments by Benny on 10th January 2016  

Hello Chrid

Interesting to read that you had no hang ups about the exposure of your body. I an all boys Secondary school in the early 60's, and As I think I remember,it was common getting changed for pe meant all the boys stripping off together and changing into white shorts and no pants. No tops. Of course communal showers after. Like you this was the norm. I do not know what happens nowadays, but it was the same at Scout camp. Six to a tent and all undressing for bed in the one tent, bearing in mind it would be a patrol of different ages from about 11 to 15. ( the youngest soon learnt about puberty from the older boys) perhaps this was the idea.

At camp we were supposed to all take some form of nightwear, but being away from home it seemed daring to sleep au natural.

Are lads as adventerous nowadays all is it all cover up. I am sure pe is now longer shorts, underwear and tops. Does any one know?

Comments by Chrid on 10th January 2016  

I think there appears to be different aspects to PE depending on school type and size.
I went to a small private school from 73 - 78 in the UK. The school was a converted large house in which residents still resided between floors.
PE was very much part of this all boys school.
We had no changing rooms and had to get changed st our desks when ordered to do so, where you would strip down to your underwear and we had a dare of not wearing any to school on the day when we were 12/13 as we had a female elderly teacher whom would walk around and examine boys for marks and bruising (signs of abuse) I was examined once in side room or small book room because of marks on my buttocks from a belting my step dad gave me the night before - they rang home and were satisfied it was a valid and justified punishment so those and future markings were dismissed.
PE was performed only in white shorts or underwear if you had neither you were caned.
We had two shower heads on the corner of the toilets - which meant going back to your desk - stripping naked and wrapping a towel around yourself or just sitting on a towel until you were called up for the shower in pairs.
Any fooling in the shower which were overseen by prefects would result in lines (issued by the prefects) or a report for a caning by the headmaster.
Post shower and to speed things up, you returned to class to finish drying by the gas heater (warm) and get dressed.
I had no issues with the process and found that it removed my hang-ups on my body with regards to being a little chubby.

Comments by Jono on 7th January 2016  

Hi Joe, It was just a very ordinary mixed school. The way the gym was with reinforced glass running all down the corridor side meant it was unavoidable that girls would look in, especially with one of the dinner halls just opposite and with staggered lunchtimes, barechested boys provided their distraction when queueing up . There was always friendly banter exchanged and it common for girls to point out an older/younger brother in the gym, and even sympathy if they sometimes thought it was just a bit too cold to be barechested on a particularly cold day. It always meant you went that bit harder to attract a girls attention. Happy days!

Comments by ROY on 3rd January 2016  

I did PE and also cross-country while stripped to the waist in the 1960's
It was the normal practice and we thought nothing of it.

Comments by John on 1st January 2016   http://i1053.photobucket.com/albums/s463/hagi52156/13304105325_2b9e52d27a_o.jpg

Click on link for image

Comments by John on 1st January 2016  

Can anyone confirm that some schools in Belgium impose a shirtless PE uniform on boys in 2015 as seems to suggest the photo posted earlier. Is there a comeback of the shirtless PE lesson in continental Europe??


Comments by Joe on 1st January 2016  

Jono, thanks for the additional details about your PE classes - sounds fairly intense! From your comment at the end I just wondered; were girls often present when you did PE then? If so how did boys feel about being barechested in front of them? I'd imagine it was an extra incentive to work hard and look good.

Comments by Mark Procter on 1st January 2016  Mbprocter@hotmail.co.uk 

It's Burnley Grammar School, Lancashire, England.
About 1977. Remember it well. Mr Parry taught PE and Geography too I think.

Comments by Jono on 31st December 2015  

Joe and John, thanks for your comments. Having the whole group split into different coloured shorts worked well, with the only occasional grumble from some coming during the winter. Our timetable always gave 3 double PE sessions and 2 singles a week. We did do indoor games like basketball, 3 onto 1 where you had to pass a football between the 3 and stop the 1 from catching it, boxing and fitness sessions, which were done alternate weeks indoors then outside regardless of time of year(outdoors was the usual, football, cross country runs and in the summer, athletics) Being worked like that made most of us sweat regulary, regardless of age, and no girl would have wanted to see a vest sticking to you!

Comments by John Lavender on 28th December 2015  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Jono has a valid Point, in my Opinion.
At Grammar School (1960s)we asked several times to be able to be allowed to wear just Shorts for PE instead of Tee Shirt and shorts , and to have different coloured Shorts to diferentiate Houses and therefore Teams.
It was to no avail, we had 'skins v.vests'until Form/Year V .
I don't think there would have been a big problem in Games like Killerball ( a sort of Indoor Rugby with fewer Rules) apart from the odd misplaced Pass in a ruck or the odd misplaced Punch!

Comments by Matt on 27th December 2015  

Don't know, if this Belgium but the brickwork and apparatus look European, could also be Germany.

Comments by Joe on 27th December 2015  

Sounds to me like Jono's school had the most sensible system for splitting boys into teams. When you think about it there's no reason why different coloured shorts can't be just as effective as different coloured tops. I also think it might be better if every boy was barechested than just half the class, if it's the same for everyone that might make it easier for those who feel embarrassed about standing out from the crowd.

Comments by Mark on 26th December 2015  

How do you know this is Belgium, Christophe ? I live here and as far as I know shirtless PE is not common practice here unless it is a special school for gymnastics.

Comments by James on 25th December 2015  

This photo looks very recent indeed. Thrilled to seen that in some countries and schools old PE traditions are still respected. The boys look fit and strong and seem not bothered at all about having their photo taken which seems to suggest that this is actually their normal PE kit. Even the slightly fat boy on the right doesn't seem unduly concerned. They are really at ease with being stripped to the waist for PE. Good for them, great school!

Comments by Jono on 25th December 2015  

We were split the same way except half in white shorts and half in white. Which colour you wore was down to which class you were in. Odd no's wore black, evens wore white. This meant all boys had shirts off regardless. Simple but very effective!

Comments by Christophe on 25th December 2015  


Comments by John Lavender on 25th December 2015  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 


I - and I assume others - have tried to copy and paste the Link you gave in your comment but it doesn't seem to work . The URL seems to be repeated in the text.
My email is shown on the heading at the top if you hover your Mouse above the email symbol, could you email a copy of the image , or show a working URL , please?


Comments by Chrisophe on 24th December 2015  

A photo from a Belgian school where school uniform for boys is black or blue shorts for making up teams. No shirts allowed!

<a href="http://s1053.photobucket.com/user/hagi52156/media/13304105325_2b9e52d27a_o.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1053.photobucket.com/albums/s463/hagi52156/13304105325_2b9e52d27a_o.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo 13304105325_2b9e52d27a_o.jpg"/></a>

Comments by Richard on 22nd December 2015  


Were you forced to perform in that video, or did you and the other boys volunteer? And were girls present at that? If they were, how comfortable were you with it?

Comments by Ren on 20th December 2015  

To Richard,

My school is a co-ed school and P.E was done separately from the females. I dont think so because our P.E was done in different locations.

To David G,

We performed for 30 minutes. I was 15 during the video.

Comments by David G on 18th December 2015  

Ren Hello,
Thank you for sharing the video with us. I am amazed how you all remembered the routines you had to perform because the video was over eleven minutes long and came in after you had started and stopped while you were still performing, so I don't know how long in total.
I thought you all were excellent and I didn't think you were at all awkward looking. I wondered how old you were at the time - I guessed around 15-16 but you said you were in Junior High School so I'm not sure. In England at 15-16 I think that would be called our senior school.

Comments by Richard on 17th December 2015  

Greetings Ren,

Was your school a boys only school, or co-ed? If you had female classmates, were PE classes mixed with them, or gender segregated? If they were mixed, how did you feel about being shirtless in front of them? And if they were segregated, were there any occasions where they would see you shirtless, aside from the video you shared?

Comments by Ren on 13th December 2015  

Greetings from Japan, back then during my junior high school a few years back, P.E was indeed done barechested and barefeet with only a pair of shorts allowed (underwear was allowed). Here is a video somebody took during our sports day where we had to perform in our usual P.E. uniform.


I was in the video, the shy and awkward looking kid 3rd from the front on he left row at 0:13 also the first kid on the left at 0:42

Comments by Mark on 13th December 2015  

When I was about 14 or 15 the doctor at the school medical said that I was growing too fast and that my muscles couldn't follow and that I had to take physical therapy. The sessions were two or three times a week at the local hospital. There were two other boys there and the exercises were done in shorts only. For the back massage afterwards you lay on a bench and most therapists pulled your shorts down to halfway your buttocks so that your lower back could be treated properly. Strangely enough this was never discussed among the pupils. That was in Belgium in the 1970ies.

Comments by Claire on 12th December 2015  

Hi Sam,
Being made to strip down outside in winter was definately manly. I know the male teachers were quite brutal expecting boys to strip regardless of the temperature outside in the winter. Were you, or your PE group, put in the same situation.

Comments by Dave on 11th December 2015  

Hi Sam! Let me ask you my questions below:

Were you shirtless for outside lessond for example track and fields and cross country either?
How did you play team ball games everyone being barechested.
How did you get to know your PE kit for the first time.Was it in a PE uniform list that you have to do PE shirtless or the teacher was the one who told it to you?
Have you ever had some lessons or sport events with the girls together?
What was the reaction of boys about the PE kit. Was it ever a topic of conversation amongst you?
When (decade) where (country) were you a student? What kind of school did you go?

Comments by Sam on 10th December 2015  

Claire, it was interesting to read your comments about watching the boys take off their tops because we had that kind of set up at my school too. And as a teenage boy I did enjoy it when I realised the girls were watching me go shirtless. It was a big boost to my self confidence and yes, I did feel more manly when I was chosen to play skins. Probably not every boy felt the same but it seemed quite natural to me.

Comments by Claire on 5th December 2015  

Chris, from a female's view I never objected to watching boys taking off their PE vests. At school there was one yard/car park and then the field and given the age range (9-18) it was a good bet you'd see a lesson outside either starting or underway.

Quite often you would share the yard, with the netball courts away from the cars we often played and just a few steps away were the boys doing press ups, sit ups and the like.

The male teachers would pick either skins vs vests or simply make all the boys strip. When we had the chance, we'd stop and watch them strip.

I do feel this is the proper way for boys to do PE, it is definitely a more manly option.

Comments by Ian Hudson on 2nd December 2015  Ianalcote@aol.com 

I remember this gym so well and Mr Parry (Ron), I went to BGS between 1959 and 1965, he was a bit of a hard taskmaster and very disciplined which meant that we as boys had to be, but he was fair and commended our respect

Comments by John on 11th November 2015  

Chris, we were expressly forbidden from wearing shirts and I don't remember anyone asking to wear shirts when participating PE with the girls. It was just accepted and no one complained or objected.

Comments by Chris on 11th November 2015  

John, did any of the boys try asking permission to wear a shirt when you had classes with the girls? Or were you expressly forbidden from wearing shirts? How did that go down?

Comments by John on 8th November 2015  

Dave, we had a uniform list and the required kit for PE was just shorts. It was never mentioned what we had to wear between us and we were identified by the colour of our shorts. We frequently had mixed sessions with the girls and that could be a bit embarrassing at times. Wearing short trousers was not compulsory but at the parents discretion.
I had to wear them all the time and I suppose it would have been alright in warmer climes but here I used to freeze wearing them.

Comments by John Lavender on 8th November 2015  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Shirtless PE sometimes happen if our PE Master felt inclined to let us take or Tops off or if he wanted to give us a good Workout; and sometimes he would go Shirtless as well, although he always wore Tracksuit Bottoms unless it was a very warm day, in which case he'd wear Shorts.
He would go topless if he joined in our Indoor Rugby on the 'Skins' Team as well, particularly if we were a Man or two short.
That meant there was no Referee though, so the [few] Rules the Game *Did* have tended to be ignored in those Situations!
That was a great Opportunity to settle Scores or even have a go at Him! Good Fun unless you were on the receiving End..
Last 2 Boys from each House in the Gym after getting Changed Always had to get their Tops off and 'Run the Gauntlet' of the others before the Lesson strted as well.

Comments by John Lavender on 8th November 2015  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Re: Dave's Questions to all of you who had to be shirtless for PE lessons:

My Observations.
1. We didn't have to *be* barechested ; quite a few of us wanted to be, and took any opportunity so to be. Also outside, for XC Runs.
2. Not really applicable, it was "Skins v. Vests" for us.
3. It was on our Uniform List, White Shorts, White S-S Top and Plimmies for both "Houses" .
4. PE at our [Independent Grammar] School (1960s) was single-sex.
5. We occasionally discussed it; as above, quite a few Guys wanted to go barechested for all PE and get different coloured Shorts to differentiate the 'Houses'.
We approached the PE Teacher and Headmistress but to no formal avail but the Teacher didn't mind if we dumped our shirts, although when it came to Indoor Rugby if we were already stripped off and were designated "Vests" for the Game, we were not too pleased!

Comments by Dave on 7th November 2015  unia10@freemail.hu 

I have questions to all of you who had to be shirtless for PE lessons:

Were you shirtless for outside lessond for example track and fields and cross country either?
How did you play team ball games everyone being barechested.
How did you get to know your PE kit for the first time.Was it in a PE uniform list that you have to do PE shirtless or the teacher was the one who told it to you?
Have you ever had some lessons or sport events with the girls together?
What was the reaction of boys about the PE kit. Was it ever a topic of conversation amongst you?

Comments by Ryan on 5th November 2015  

Toby, I agree that having to be stripped to the waist did certainly help to put us into our place. Our teachers were never seen shirtless, they mainly wore tracksuits, but for us it was shorts only. For cross country plimsolls were allowed but many of us choose not to wear them as they would often get very wet.
I just read yesterday in the Daily Telegraph that it has been proposed that boys do more 'female' activities in PE, such as cheerleading,(no joke!) etc. This is miles away from how boys PE used to be, when boys were treated as boys and PE teachers helped to shape them into young fit respectful men.

Comments by Toby on 5th November 2015  

I agree Ryan - that's pretty much how my PE lessons were too. It was interesting to see the two boys near the end of the clip, about to start having a chat, but as soon as the teacher speaks they stop and listen.
We had that same kind of discipline in PE and I think being bare to the waist partly contributed to that - somehow the fact the teacher wore a shirt signified his authority over us boys!
We were also barefoot in the gym but we were allowed running shoes for outdoors. How about you?

Comments by Ryan on 4th November 2015   http://www.gettyimages.fr/detail/vid%C3%A9o/boys-practice-trampoline-in-a-gymnasium-uk-vid%C3%A9o/mr

Great to see that Russia doesn't feminize its boys as we do.

This clip reminds me a lot of my PE lessons in school, stripped to the waist, serious exercise, having orders barked at you and being expected to execute them swiftly, etc

Real boys PE if you ask me. The only difference is that we were barefoot too!


Comments by Sterling on 3rd November 2015  

As Dave pointed out 13 Oct, Russian lads still complete Phys Ed without impediment of shirts, as this 'day in the life' of cadets article confirms:


Comments by Tim on 30th October 2015  

1000 Posts Up! Congratulations!

Comments by Andrea on 28th October 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Our Primary School Uniform was similar to yours: white shirt, grey skirt and cardigan for us girls and white shirt,grey shorts and grey jumper for the boys.

I went to an all girls Secondary School and the uniform varied according to the year group and term. In the Autumn and Spring Terms the first and second year girls wore a blue 'gymslip' style dress with a white blouse underneath and a navy blue blazer on top. The older girls wore a blue skirt, white blouse and blue jumper together with the blazers. In the summer term we all wore a blue gingham style dress. The uniform rules were quite strict; our skirts or dresses had to touch the floor when we were kneeling down and we had to wear berets when we weren't actually in the classroom. Another thing that seems strange now is that we weren't allowed to wear tights. It was long socks in winter (so cold legs cycling to and from school!) and ankle socks in summer.
Did you have any uniform rules that would seem outdated or strange nowadays?

Comments by Kenny on 28th October 2015  

Andrea, it was very similar at both our schools, just as you describe.
The only difference is that in the final year of primary we had separate classes for boys and girls. We still changed in class for PE but were same sex, although teachers could be of any sex.
It was also the same as you describe at our boys only secondary school. There we had a qualified PE teacher or coach instead of the class teacher.
Did you wear any sort of school uniform at either primary or secondary school?

Comments by Andrea on 27th October 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Kenny,

At Primary both girls and boys used to wear a T shirt and shorts or a skirt for PE. We used to strip down to our knickers or underpants and vest (if we were wearing one) and then put on our PE kit. Boys and girls did this in the same classroom (girls on one side and boys on the other, but without any screen etc between us). In the final year a few girls who had started to wear bras rather than vests were allowed to go and change in the toilets. Were there any special arrangements like that at your Primary?

At Secondary School (all girls) indoor PE was in Gym Knickers and a Polo Shirt and but we all had to shower afterwards (there hadn't been any showers at Primary.


Comments by Dave on 26th October 2015  

Here is a typical PE class of old times. Boys are barechested. At the end of the video girls are running over. None of the boys seem to care.