Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 713,565         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 Debbie on 4th February 2014  

Hi Jools, I was just having a look back at this page and saw your question. I put another message longer ago which explains it, but my brother wore grey shorts at cub meetings like all the other boys but I think there was some sort of old pack tradition that they didn't wear pants or underpants at camp. I know they weren't allowed to wear them at bedtime and they were only allowed to wear a pyjama jacket, but I have no idea why that was. Didn't seem to bother him though.

Comments by Andrea on 4th February 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

There was no nude swimming when I was at primary school in the 1960s. The boys wore swimming trunks and we wore one piece bathing costumes.

For pe. I generally a pe skirt or shorts and a T shirt. As there were no changing rooms we had to change in our classroom along with the boys, so by the final year I got quite adept at putting on my pe kit before removing my school skirt! I was still flat chested when I left primary school so changing into the T shirt wasn't an issue (I generally wore a vest anyway), but a few of more more 'developed' classmates were allowed to go to the toilets to change.

Secondary pe came as a bit of a shock at first, our pe kit was gym knickers and a T shirt and showers were compulsory!

Comments by ambrose on 3rd February 2014  

Iain's memories show one of the inequities of teaching during the 60's/70's/80's.

At the Midlands state secondary/comprehensive where I worked, female staff were allowed access to supervise the boys toilets and changing facilities, but male staff were prohibited from the girls facilities.

One notable occasion proved the point when a female PE teacher went into the boys shower room to quell an argument that had developed into a brawl. (The male member of staff had been called away to attend to an injured boy.) There was alarm and horror as the mostly naked 15 year old boys saw who had entered the room and several complained to the Headmaster of their embarrassment at the female intrusion. However, the Head was forced to support his female teacher since according to the regulations at the time she had not infringed any rules.

It was more usual for the ladies to knock and ask if anyone was changing if they had to enter the room to use the only telephone in the sports block!

Comments by Jools on 3rd February 2014  

Question for Debbie, you said your little brother didnt wear any pants at cubs? It seems a bit strange that, boys not wearing pants at cubs, were they allowed to wear their underpants? What was the reason for it?

Comments by Jools on 3rd February 2014  

I am amazed at all these stories of girls and boys doing naked mixed swimming lessons at school and of all doing pe wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. It was nothing like that at MY junior school but I wish it had been, Im a girl but I would have LOVED to go topless or nude at school, even with boys there!

Comments by Iain on 1st February 2014  

It was an indoor pool and is ((as far as I know) still there and still in use, other staff members did very occasionally come in, either to take the lesson or to speak to the p.e. teacher.
Galas and competitions were nude when they were 'school' only, if our parents were invited or we were swimming against other schools we usually wore trunks. I think even for junior boys, nude swimming galas and competitions in front of mixed spectators would be pretty unlikely!
When we were very young we had our p.e. and Games lessons taken by female teachers who obviously also supervised us in the changing rooms and when we went in the showers, but as far as I can recall we had male teachers only by the time we were about 10.
I don't know how common this was at other schools though, ours was a private school and I think few 'state' primary schools would have had much in the way of changing and showering facilities!

Comments by Dave on 1st February 2014  

Thanks Iain. Was it an indoor or outdoor pool, and did any other teachers or school staff watch watch the nude swimming lessons besides the swimming teacher?
I heard that in some schools they also had swimming galas and competitions in the nude, especially junior boys, in front of mixed spectators. Could this be true?

I am also curious to know if any schools had compulsory showers for boys after PE under the supervision of female teachers.

Comments by Iain on 1st February 2014  

In reply to Dave, we also had to swim nude at school, it was compulsory for all Junior boys and the lower school boys in the Grammar school, ie up to about 14. That was Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, it was an all boys school and I am sure we had a female swimming teacher in the junior school but we certainly had a male teacher by the time we were 11 and went into the lower school! I don't think we gave it much thought at the time. I started there in 1967 and I think the nude swimming went on until the early 80's.

Comments by Cynthia on 26th January 2014  

During primary school, I remember how during sports we would all take of our shoes and socks and we girls would participate in our skirts and vests, which we all wore under our blouses on the necessary days, while the boys removed their shirts and were made to take part with bare chests, wearing only their shorts. I don't know how they felt about it really. Some were fine, but some seemed more shy than usual.

Comments by oldscotsguy on 26th January 2014  

I attended an all boys secondary school and if we ever forgot our swimming Speedos then we had to do the class naked. I only forgot once but some boys were regularly naked.

Comments by Dave on 26th January 2014  

Debbie and Martin, thanks for the clarification.

Tim, did you have female teachers supervising, or present, during the boys nude swim classes?

Anyone else had nude swimming classes in British schools?

Comments by Debbie on 11th January 2014  

I am a little bit confused here by Mathews comments, it seems that it was Dave who was seeking information about the mixed nude swimming that Martin mentioned. I had a look at the facebook links that Martin gave and they certinly did seem tohave mixed nude swimming at his old junior school and there are lots of people who remember it. I think it maybe wasn't such a big deal back then, my little brother didn't think there was anything wrong with not wearing any pants when he was at cubs.

Comments by Tim on 10th January 2014  

These comments bring back many memories. At my all boys prep school in the 1970's, it was the norm that you did swimming in the nude, no question. This had been going on for years and went on until the 1980's. I only started at the school when i was 10 and it was a slight shock to do swimming in the nude but I soon got used to it. It also gave the pe teacher the perfect opportunity to inflict a sharp cane to the bare backside which always left a red mark.

Comments by Matthew on 7th January 2014  

Have you not read Dave's perfectly clear explanation below about exactly when swimming took place and whether it was obligatory to wear a costume? If you have I can only conclude that you have a gratuitous and unhealthy interest in this topic.

Comments by Martin on 7th January 2014  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

Hi Dave, Let me clarify....
I went to Shears Green Primary in Kent, a mixed County Primary school in the South East UK.
They had nude swimming between about the late 1960's until (I think) about 1988. Nude swimming was ALWAYS voluntary and was in extra lunchtime and Saturday sessions but NOT in regular planned swimming lessons, (we HAD to wear swimwear for them!) Nude swimming was open to all, from 7 to 11 years old and when I was there it was girls on monday lunchtime, boys on friday lunchtime and mixed (boys and girls) on wednesday lunchtime. For the same-sex sessions I think we just had to turn up, I don't think we needed our parents permission, but we needed their permission for the 'mixed' nude swimming (not every week, we only needed to get the form signed once!) Saturday morning was 'clothing optional', ANYONE could go and it was up to us whether we wore our swimwear or swam nude.
This was the ONLY school I attended (or taught at) with nude swimming, as I have already stated mixed nude swimming must have been incredibly rare although apparently it wasn't unusual for boys to swim nude at prep and private schools.
I have included a couple of facebook, friends reunited links so you can look for yourself and read the comments from the very large number of kids who took part over the years!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2232710443/ http://www.friendsreunited.com/shears-green-county-junior-school/Discuss/9b5c582f-4f9b-40f0-9be8-8695265ccc0c

Comments by Dave on 5th January 2014  

Martin, are you saying that all the primary schools you went to and taught at as a teacher all had mixed nude swimming?
Do any of these schools have a Friends Reunited site? I bet they have a lot of old memories to talk about.
I know there were some schools which had obligatory nude swimming for boys, maybe for girls also, but never heard of mixed nude swimming at school.
Were the other schools the same as the one you mentioned, that is voluntary and optional swimsuit, or obligatory nudity?

Comments by Martin on 21st December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

to Mathew: I agree with most of what you say, however I will have to disagree on a couple of points, I went to a number of different Primary and Secondary schools over the years and later taught in a couple of secondary schools. In all the primary schools and in one of the secondary schools swimming lessons were mixed, it really wasn't as rare as you seem to think! At primary school (Shears Green) we swam nude, (look it up!) the lessons were mixed but it was only in optional sessions at dinnertime and saturday morning, and you needed your parents permission, regular 'class' swimming lessons where done in swimwear. Nude swimming was not common in state schools, but it certainly was in the 'public' school sector, although usually in boys only schools, (both junior and senior) there is ample evidence of this, I suspect the likelyhood of nude swimming lessons above the age of 11 being supervised by female teachers is highly questionable!

To Dave: It was boys and girls nude swimming on wednesdays dinnertime and on saturday morning (and everyone swam nude) girls only on Monday dinnertime and boys only on friday dinnertime. It was an extra-curricula activity and was NOT compulsory, for the mixed sessions we needed our parents permission, but I don't think it was required for the same-sex sessions. This was at Primary school so all the kids were between 7 and 11½. This had started in the late 1960's and apparently went on until the mid 1980's, when I was there the mixed nude sessions were very popular and were well attended by both boys and girls. I suspect that mixed nude swimming like this was VERY rare, even at Primary school level, I only know of 3 other schools in the UK that allowed it!

Comments by Christopher on 21st December 2013  

That must have not been very nice for your brother, Theresa. How would he respond?

Comments by Dave on 20th December 2013  


Could you make things a bit more clear?
You said they were nude mixed swimming lessons at school. Was it both boys and girls in the nude, or boys only?

Was the nudity compulsary or optional?

Comments by Matthew on 20th December 2013  

Let's get some facts straight. In the majority of schools, primary and secondary, from 1946 onwards, swimming lessons were single sex only. Further, nude swimming was very rare. Likewise this obsession with boys wearing or not wearing underpants has become ridiculous. Almost all schools wore just shorts indoors and full sport's kit out doors. This is based on practice in several school from 1946 to 1960. Many commentators here are showing an unhealthy interest in this site and perhaps would find more satisfaction on another site.

Comments by Theresa on 20th December 2013  

My brother and I were in school about 30 years ago, and yes, it was in England. The other girls certainly did tease the boys, and while the boys tried to appear confident, it was obvious that they all felt slightly exposed. The girls were interested in the boys bodies, but where interested in teasing them just as much. Outside in winter, boys did PE separately, and I can't remember what the boys wore. The girls normally wore tracksuit-like trousers, shirts and jumpers. In the Summer, girls wore shorts and blouses, and boys wore shorts and sleeveless vests.

Comments by Spence on 19th December 2013  

What period are we talking about here? Recently?
You say you teased your brother. Did other girls tease the boys? What was the boys' reaction?
Were the girls really that interested in the boys bodies and what did each gender wear outside?

Comments by Dave on 18th December 2013  

Hi Theresa!

Was it England? I've thought they have single sex PE lessons a secondary schools.

Comments by Martin on 18th December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

Yes, mixed nude swimming lessons at my Primary school were for real, with crowds of boys and girls up to the age of 11, swimming together stark-naked twice a week! We also had boys only and girls only nude swimming lessons every week as well, I always went to the mixed sessions and I also went to the boys only sessions with my friends on fridays.
Shears Green Primary School in Kent, look it up on fb or friends reunited!

Comments by Martin on 18th December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

You think THAT would cause an outcry these days? I remember taking a letter home from Primary School when I was about 9 asking my parents for permission for me to swim naked in the mixed nude swimming lessons we had twice a week at school! Imagine how that would go down these days!!! As I recall, almost everyone who asked to go to these sessions managed to get their parents permission, most of the boys in my class wanted to go and I think we all managed to get it 'signed off' by our mums!

Comments by Theresa on 17th December 2013  

I remember when I went to secondary school with my twin brother. Gym was mixed and while we girls wore shirts and gym knickers, which were really just tight shorts, boys wore just shorts, with no shirt. He was a shy boy, and I always teased him about it, by telling him about my friends' opinions of his body and constantly commenting on his physical development.

Comments by Yorkie on 16th December 2013  

Reading the last person's comments you can imagine the outcry if a teacher pulled out the back of a pupil's shorts these days.

However, I suppose this wowukd not apply as I suppose that underwear is worn. Possibly jockstraps are worn because the modern boxer shorts which I think most lads wear would give no support.

Comments by Stuart Beech on 13th December 2013  stuartbeech65@gmail.com 

I have read with interest the posts about the wearing of PE kit, I would add my experience at an all boys senior school between 1959-1964, we had blue rough cotton PE shorts, no underwear and always a quick underwear check in the changing room, the teacher pulled the back of your shorts away to check, if we were in the gym it was barefoot and bare chests, like the boys in the picture, if we had PE outside we wore white plimsolls and a white vest, if there were team games, one team went bare chested.

Another thing we had were compulsory medical examinations at age 11 and then at 13, the leaving age being 15. These examinations were always done prior to PE lessons, so we were just in shorts and lined up against the wall waiting to go in individually in the large gym storeroom converted temporarily for physical examination days, inside was a desk where a nurse sat and checked you in then did the eye and hearing tests and then you waited until the boy in front of you had been examined by the doctor behind a curtained off area, so there was a steady stream of boys getting examined.

If anyone would like a bit of a comprehensive description of the PE activities we did or the medical exam, or have any memories from their school days then feel free to email me at stuartbeech65@gmail.com

Comments by Debbie on 13th December 2013  

In answer to Benny, I am sure this was often the case at Primary school level, but I think it pretty unlikely it happened at Secondary school (ie age 12 and above)however back when I was younger I think relativly few Primary schools would have had 'proper' changing rooms and showers anyway, most kids changed in the toilets, cloakrooms or in their classrooms. As I stated before, my younger brother was in the Cubs when he was at Primary school, in a Pack where all the leaders were female. When they were on camps or sleepovers, my brother said they had to get undressed and ready for bed after flagdown, but before they had their supper, which I am guessing was probably about 7:00, they all had to wear a pyjama 'top' or a t-shirt but they weren't allowed to wear any pants, he said that after supper they all ran around the camp with bare 'willies' playing games for a couple of hours before they went to bed! I used to tease him and his friends about going 'bare' at camp and the leaders seeing them like that, but they seemed very unconcerned! I don't think kids that age (8-11) are too bothered, or they weren't in those days!

Comments by scotslad on 13th December 2013  

I response to Garry's comments, did your wife say what she wore for pe class?

Comments by Benny on 13th December 2013  

Talking about compulsary group showers after PE, a friend once told me that at his primary school it was usually their class female teacher who supervised the boys during their showers after PE. Was this common in some schools in England?

Comments by Yorkie on 12th December 2013  

I agree with James. As I suggested in my comments on 2nd Dec. I think boys have become too soft hiding behind towels in changing rooms in case they are seen naked. We certainl;y had no concerns, yet they have no inhibitions in wearing low slung trousers advertising their fashionable boxers.

Comments by Gary on 12th December 2013  

It's interesting to hear how things were for girls. Vest and knickers sound good to me - at a boys school we never saw them! My wife says she never had communal showers - the girls had shower cubicles or didn't bother till they got home. When I first started going out with her and she came to watch me playing football and was amazed that we all showered together afterwards.

Comments by Debbie on 12th December 2013  

Sorry, that reply should have been to MARK, not MARTIN as it was Mark that was questioning the need to wear pyjamas, I am inclined to agree with him!

Comments by Debbie on 12th December 2013  

In reply to Martin: My younger brother was in the Cubs when he was at primary school, in a cub pack that was based at the school. There was about 30 of them in cubs but it was all boys in those days, the leaders were all female, a teacher and a couple of 'mums'. They used to go to camp a couple of times a year and sometimes had 'sleepovers' in the gym on fridays after cubs. It was no secret that the pack had a pyjama 'tops' only rule at bedtime and that they weren't allowed to wear anything from the waist down, everyone at school knew! I have absolutely no idea why they had that rule but apparently it had always been like that! I used to tease my brother about it but he always said he wasn't bothered! That was in the 1970's.

Comments by James on 11th December 2013  

This is just how I remember PE, it was great fun and I used to really look forward to the classes. We used to have two double lessons and also a compulsory lunch time session and those days were the best, somehow it was easier to work in class on other things when we'd done gym, had a good run or played rugby.

I'm not saying it was all easy, it wasn't and high standards were set in terms of timing and effort and also sportsmanship, not something you hear much about these days. Not trying hard enough or fooling around got the slipper or if it was serious the cane. The slipper was usually given there and then in the gym, the cane was 'saved' until the end of the lesson to give you 'something to look forward to' and given in private on your bare bottom. Every boy including me who left that office after getting the cane did so in tears.

Like I think everyone else posting, underpants were not allowed and we always had cold, communal, compulsory showers after each class. No body minded, it's how it was and I look back on it all as great fun.

Sometimes these days when I see younger lads dancing behind their towels in the gym changing room I really do wonder what they are trying to hide. Are lads today too soft?

Comments by Mark on 11th December 2013  

I just found it weird that my boarding school had opted for a shirtless PE kit, naked showers after PE, and on the other hand we had to wear a full set of pyjamas to bed ! Maybe someone can explain the logic of this ?

Comments by David on 8th December 2013  

During my time at secondary school (1967-74) we weren't allowed to wear our ordinary underwear for PE and showers were compulsory. For the first couple of years we all went commando but later on we were advised that some support was necessary. A few bought the Litesome supporters recommended, but most of us just wore our swimming trunks under our shorts

Comments by scotslad on 8th December 2013  

It is interesting reading how things were in other schools. At my primary the boys wore their white pe shorts. No top. In fact I never did pe from ages 5-17 wearing a top. Girls at primary wore their vest and regulation navy blue knickers. I cannot recall any ever going topless. As noted previously, topless or even in a vest would not be tolerated these days. I spoke to my wife about her experiences. She confirmed that she too did primary school pe in vest and knickers. When she went to the girls only senior secondary school the vest and knickers were the usual kit for girls in the early years. As a girl developed then they started to wear an Airtex blouse over their bra. They wore the regulation knickers all the way through school. My wife was 13 1/2 before she wore a bra,so did pe until then in a vest. She says that she never thought anything about it.

There was never any suggestion of nude swimming though-they all had standard navy school costume.

Comments by Yorkie on 8th December 2013  

During my time at secondary school up to 1966 when we when all our class were 16 years old there was never any mention of Jockstraps & we were not told to buy them. Consequently everything hung loose during PE & games & no boxes for Cricket either & we survived

Comments by Martin on 8th December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

BTW: in addition to my other comments, Shears Green Junior School in Kent is still going strong and STILL has the same indoor swimming pool! (I saw the photo, how many memories it brings back!) They have a very nice website for the school these days, however boys and girls doing swimming lessons completely naked and everyone doing PE and country dancing 'topless' with none of us (including the girls) allowed to wear anything except a single very thin pair of shorts, is unfortunately very much a thing of the past having died out in the late 1980's or the early 90's when Mr Hale retired as Headteacher! Bit sad really!

Comments by Martin on 8th December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

Further to my comments below, I have found another facebook site dedicated to Shears Green Junior School, again there are many, many memories of the mixed nude swimming that many of us from 7 to 11½ took part in, most people comment (looking back as adults) that it was rather dodgy and a little bit 'strange' but I think this is looking at it from the perspective of 2013, at the time all of us who took part every week thoroughly enjoyed it. From memory I think we only needed our parents permission for the 'mixed' nude swimming on Wednesdays and Saturdays and judging by the numbers that used to take part, most parents were surprisingly unconcerned about the idea of naked boys and girls playing together at school! I'm pretty sure we didn't need our parents permission to swim nude when it was the 'just boys' or 'just girls' swimming lessons, and while it was never compulsory, everyone was strongly encouraged to take part in nude swimming. https://www.facebook.com/groups/445297598902917/

Comments by greywolf on 8th December 2013  ju0884@aol.com 

Scotslad, Gary, Michael and others.
I noticed your comments.
For sure everyday underpants were not allowed for sports because of the hygiene factor. We were all encouraged to wear our swimming trunks for support, especially when we first got selected for the rugby team. A Litesome jock strap was usually the preserve of cricketers or older boys.
Of course we only had one pair of trunks or one jock so these often remained at school during the week as they might be needed several days running. This made a bit of a nonsense of the thoughts about hygiene!

Comments by Gary on 7th December 2013  

I'm thinking back, Scotslad. I think we were told on our first day that we couldn't wear any of our uniform for sport and that included socks and pants. The reason was to avoid sweating in them and having to put them on again afterwards so it made sense. Certainly the games master used to come through the changing room and keep an eye on us changing but I don't remember anyone not obeying the rule so I don't think there were actual checks. Canings weren't public - you had to line up outside the headmaster's office and then go in individually. He had a gym horse which you bent over. You always had to bare your arse though which would be questionable nowadays but I don't think there was any funny business. It was so you couldn't put any padding down your pants. He did use to stripe us and it stung. I don't know about other schools.

There were a couple of schools outfitters where you bought all uniform and sportswear. The jockstraps were Litesomes - that was the only brand I remember in those days and all the footballers used to wear them so it was a bit of a right of passage to start wearing one. Me and a friend went in to buy a couple when we were 14 and felt like proper men the first time we put them on. My grandsons had never seen one. Times change don't they.

Comments by Martin on 7th December 2013  

I was at Shears Green Primary School in Kent (southern UK) from 1979. Our school was a normal local primary school with just over 400 children from 7 to 11½ years old. PE and country dancing lessons were always mixed but we were only allowed to wear one item of clothing, thin cotton shorts for the boys and knickers for the girls, we ALL had to do the lessons barefoot and topless (even the girls!) although girls who had started to 'develop' could request permission to wear a t-shirt. However the school was MOST famous (infamous?) for it's dinnertime nude swimming lessons in the schools indoor pool, this went on from the late 1960's to the mid 1980's and was girls nude swimming on mondays, boys on fridays and MIXED on wednesdays, I seem to remember there was mixed nude swimming on saturday mornings as well. Normal swimming lessons were done in swimwear, these nude sessions were voluntary and you needed your parents to sign a permission slip, but astonishingly a very large number of kids took part, I always went to the boys nude swimming and MOST of the boys and girls in my class also went on wednesdays to the mixed nude sessions when the pool was crowded with naked 7 to 11 year olds! This would NEVER be allowed today, and frankly sound pretty unbelievable, but it DID happen and we didn't think anything of it and even more amazing was that most parents were quite happy to give us written permission to run around naked at school with other boys and girls! see these facebook or Friends Reunited links. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2232710443/ http://www.friendsreunited.com/shears-green-county-junior-school/Discuss/9b5c582f-4f9b-40f0-9be8-8695265ccc0c

Comments by scotslad on 6th December 2013  

Thanks,Gary for your input. Can I ask, were there ever "underpant checks"? If so, how was this done? We're the canines given in private or in front of gym class? A friend of mine went to school in Newcastle area but the tawse was used in his school. Was it only in a private or boys only school that the cane was used?
We had to buy our Litesome jock straps from the PE dept. Was it same with you. I still remember my first purchase. Thanks.

Comments by Gary on 5th December 2013  

Interesting reminiscences. I was at a boys school in Newcastle on Tyne in the 1960s and we had many of the same rules. For games and PE you couldnt wear the same underwear as you wore under your clothes. Once we were in our teens boys started wearing jockstraps but the younger boys just went commando. Football was often skins vs shirts so the vests came off no matter how cold it was. Showers were compulsory after sport - communal and naked. We had an indoor pool and swimming was always naked although the teachers were men so it wasn't that we were being watched by women. We never thought anything of it even by the time we were 18. Happy days to be honest apart from the bare arsed caning! The boys today seem a lot more concerned about being seen wihout clothes than we ever were.

Comments by Jeremy on 3rd December 2013  

I had no problems about going stripped to the waist for PE but being barefoot was a different matter.

Comments by Yorkie on 2nd December 2013  

Having read the recent comments and as pupil in the 60's I agree that no one seemed bothered those days about the no pants rule and bare tops or School teachers walking through the changing rooms as we were changing. Nowadays a teacher doing that would be answering to the authorities.
I would be interested to know what is De Rigeur these days.
I expect that any exposure of flesh is frowned upon even though I assume that PE or whatever it is called is held separately for boys & girls.

As I say as a pupil of the "old school" system boys only, I think it was better because since Co- Education boys have got softer & are influenced by the girls. Have the boys lost their machoism?

Comments by scotslad on 1st December 2013  

We had a swimming pool at school and if you forgot your Speedos then you were told to do without. I only ever forgot mine once!