Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 153,735         Comments: 724

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

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

724 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Fred on 7th June 2017  

I agree with your comments compared with European countries we tend to be more inhibited about nudity, or showing too much of our body. Hence the fashion for so many lads to wear such long swimming shorts.
I believe in some countries, e.g. Sweden etc. people have saunas where male & female share the same sauna naked.
As I wrote in a previous comment, in the 60's we did not seem to worry about nudity when all lads together

Comments by William on 6th June 2017  


Your comments are always interesting because you left school recently, but why do you think that compulsory nude showers are child abuse when on 22nd October in the Burnley Grammar discussion you said "showers were compulsory, done nude, which we had no problem with"?

A number of times you have made the point that "trunks prevent certain parts of the body from being washed"" and "the area covered by swimwear is one of the places most prone to infection". You are right. What causes the spread of disease in swimming pools is not nude swimming but unclean swimmers.

We all know that most people in Britain do not have a soapy shower before they swim in public pools. That is why our pools have so much chlorine in them. Is not the reason that, compared with many European countries, we tend to be more inhibited about nudity?

All right-thinking people want children to be properly protected, but if we see child abuse where none exists young people will become more repressed about their bodies, which may cause them problems of inhibition that we who got used to nude showers or swimming have generally not had to contend with.

Comments by Marshall on 2nd June 2017  

Yes it was a boys school. I suppose the school just decided that the old policy was outdated and decided to tell teachers to start requiring that trunks be worn. I do think nude swimming has become outdated now, and today's society would definitely consider it inapproaite so no I don't think it would be a feasible idea anymore.

However, from my experience, apart from the first few lessons where it was a bit of a shock , everyone did get used to it. As long as there is privacy (in the sense of no one from outside being able to see) and the lessons are single sex I don't think there's anything wrong with it. But I completely understand that people do have reservations about it and most parents these days wouldn't be happy with it. Things have just changed.

Comments by Bradley on 1st June 2017  

Alfie, the vast majority of schools don't make students take group showers without trunks. At most schools, showers themselves are optional and even when compulsory the teacher cannot oversee the showers and therefore students hardly ever shower. Teachers cannot force children to take off their trunks while showering as this would indeed be considered child abuse.

And there is a big difference between having a quick shower while not wearing anything (most likely for less than one minute and facing the wall) ng nude in the swimming pool. The latter can lead to diseases spreading and is not something the students or teachers would be comfortable with. I certainly wouldn't be comfortable with it. It's just not appropriate and it's wrong. Nude swimming in schools would be an outrage and rightly so.

Comments by Fred on 31st May 2017  

I understand Bradley's comments and children & students of all ages need protecting. But everything today is Child Abuse. Even down to applying sun cream to someone else's child.( Although this in itself is a form of protection)

I also agree with Marshall re the comments on shyness and confidence.
For me I attended secondary school 1961 to 1966 in an era when most secondary schools were single sex. We thought nothing of changing for pe and showering in a communal room. Furthermore I was in the Scouts whilst it was still all male. At camp we would be six to a tent again all stripping off for bed and mostly sleeping in sleeping bags with no clothing because it was too hot. This was how it was no privacy. Toilets were latrines behind a hessian screen no individual sections for privacy. Washing was done in the local river mainly as a swimming activity. The leaders wore trunks and although all the boys had taken trunks to camp, the majority seemed to decide not to wear them. Bravado I think and a time when we considered ourselves as men.


Comments by Alfie on 31st May 2017  

Bradley, it was school policy that made boys swim nude and not the teachers who ran the classes. I can't imagine a teacher making boys swim nude unless it was required by the school.
Group naked showers are still required in some schools today, so I don't see much difference if they also swam nude.
There was the recent case of the Muslim boy who refused to take part in the school's nude shower policy because it was against his religion to show his naked body to others. He was given the choice of either taking part or being expelled.
I did not follow the case, but I think that when his parents took the case to court the school won the case.

Comments by Gerald on 29th May 2017  

Marshall, was this a boys school? And why did they decide to start requiring that trunks be worn? Do you think this practice should be continued or not? Thanks in advance

Comments by Marshall on 28th May 2017  

Interesting discussion here. I vaguely remember having a few swimming lessons in secondary school where we did not wear trunks. The year after it was abolished and we were told to start wearing trunks. So only a few lessons were spent doing it without them. Although I think it was for our own good that it was done nude. It's good to get rid of shyness and this seems to be a huge problem amongst the youth of today. They don't have the same level of confidence.

Comments by Bradley on 28th May 2017  

Terry, it would certainly be illegal and the school would face legal action and the teachers may also face child abuse investigations. They would most likely be banned from teaching children. It is widely considered to be child abuse to make students do swimming lessons without trunks.

Comments by Terry on 26th May 2017  

What would happen today though if a school tried to bring in a no swimming trunks to be worn policy. Mind you I do not think many schools have swimming lessons in their curriculum. Certainly not high schools.
When I was at secondary school we did going to swimming lessons at the municipal pool where the session was reserved for our class alone. The teacher was employed by the local education committee and he taught for all schools.

Comments by Alf on 25th May 2017  

Good observation, Peter.
Some have similarly brought the argument of why put on swimming trunks when the boys showered naked together before and after swimming.

Comments by Peter on 21st May 2017  

To Jamie

If the school policy had been no trunks for swimming, forgetting them would not have been an issue and no question of punishments.

Comments by Jamie on 21st May 2017  

Terry, the situation I described was fairly rare. More often than not if a boy forgot his trunks he did so because he'd brought gym kit by mistake and therefore would end up wearing his PE shorts to swim. I did that myself a couple of times.
I only saw the alternative happen three or four times in all my time at school and yes, boys were given the choice. This may surprise you but I can only remember one boy opting to do the lesson naked! Even though the other option was humiliating and uncomfortable, it was generally seen as preferable to stripping off completely. Which I suppose is strange when you consider that we all had to shower naked after PE anyway!

Comments by Terry on 19th May 2017  

Jamie your comments re punishment for forgetting trunks sounds severe. It begs the question was it effective or did boys still forget their trunks. If so did the lad have a choice of which of the 2 punishments he could take and if so which did most opt for?

Comments by Jamie on 18th May 2017  

That's a pretty comprehensive check list Mr Wallace - I can safely say I experienced all of those at school except points 2 and 9!
I can also add one of my own... if a boy forgot his swimming trunks and also his PE shorts, he was given a choice. Either he had to swim naked or, wearing just underwear, he had to spend time face down on the stone surface just outside the swimming pool building, practising front crawl. This was in view of the teacher so there was no slacking and the crawl practice was interspersed with rounds of press ups. It was a) cold, b) humiliating to be seen doing the punishment in your underwear, and c) you inevitably ended up with scratches and scrapes on your chest from small pieces of gravel!

Comments by Bradley on 18th May 2017  

Rob, thankfully I never had that same experience with showering. Our modesty was protected.

As for Stephen and Jordan's questions, I'll answer them below.

We did normal PE lessons and football/rugby in our PE kit, which was a PE t shirt and shorts. But for cross country, even though we spent most of Year 7-9 doing it in the same kit, in Year 10 onwards we had a different teacher who said we should do it in shorts only. He said the course was too easy and that we needed to build endurance, and he also used some awful excuse of the possibility of getting mud on our t shirts, which parents apparently complained about.

Obviously no one likes it but no one wanted to seem like a p*ssy either so we all just got on with it. It was defenilty a lot harder because of the cold. At the end of the course, most of us were so tired that we didn't even shower.

Comments by Alf on 13th May 2017  

Mr.wallace, most of the points you mention were pretty common in those days at school, except where you say
" Having to get changed in the gym to walk naked passed the girls in the corridor to shower".
Can you explain further about this, because I think that putting boys on display naked in front of girls was jumping the limit and pretty uncommon in those days.
Was this a one-off incident or a regular occurrance at your school, and what age were you?

Comments by Mr Wallace on 6th May 2017  

The nightmares of school more than 30 years ago!

1 Having to do school swimming in see through white shorts.

2 Having to get changed in the gym to walk naked passed the girls in the corridor to shower.

3 The bomb bell going off in the changing room so we had to walk outside half naked.

4 Being forced to do pe in the gym topless because you had the wrong white top.

5 Being forced to turn your rugby shirt inside out on the soccer pitch for games.

6 Being forced to shower naked in the walk through shower.

7 No tracksuits for boys during the winter.

8 Having to try yourself with your pe kit if you forgot your towel.

9 Being spanked in white shorts for an offence I did not commit

10 Having your groin forced into the ground while being made to do press ups by the coach!

Comments by Rob on 5th May 2017  

Bradley, our showers in the late fifties were obviously a lot different to those at your school. We had a row of, I think, about five showers with very large heads standing out overhead from the wall and so a class of thirty boys would have to stand, about six at a time fairly close together under each shower. So which ever way we stood there was certainly no way we could avoid seeing one another naked and we just got used to it.

Comments by Stephen on 1st May 2017  

Bradley, I'm surprised topless cross country is a thing even nowadays? Why did your school do this and what type of school was this? We're people fine with this policy?

Comments by Jordan on 1st May 2017  

Hi Bradley, glad that you feel the same as I do about some of these bizarre practices!
Out of interest how recently were you at school - and what were the reasons given for you to do cross country topless? I left just over 20 years ago and we were never given any kind of explanation...

Comments by Bradley on 30th April 2017  

Jordan, I agree with your point that nude swimming is a horrible idea. I can't even comprehend that this was ever a rule. As someone who left school very recently, something like that would be inconceivable.

I agree that nude showering isn't a problem, it wasn't a problem for me since we all faced the wall when showering and there was the unwritten rule of not looking at each other when in that situation. It makes sense to shower with nothing on; I don't think I know anyone who showers at home with trunks on, so why should the same not apply to schools? It's important to clean everything after going in the pool for hygiene reasons.

I can't imagine how doing a swimming lesson naked would be hygienic. Would be pretty disgusting and humiliating to say the least.

Our cross country lessons were done topless, which was odd since I don't know any other school that did this. The reasons for doing so were questionable to say the least.

Comments by Jordan on 25th April 2017  

Just catching up on the recent posts here and I totally agree with Willy's view - logical and sensible for boys to take nude showers. But nude swimming? To me it seems incredible this form of humiliation was ever commonplace in schools. I just cannot understand why boys would be expected to strip naked for a class, especially with girls looking on.
I'm relieved to say I never experienced nude swimming at school - but topless cross country was another matter. I'm not sure why Rob thinks it promotes discipline and self confidence among boys if they are forced to run around wet, muddy fields in only a pair of shorts. Personally it made me feel resentful and humiliated and, as Willy says, it was totally unnecessary for us to be topless. I felt at the time and still do now that sadistic games teachers just saw it as a means to make us boys feel small.

Comments by Willy on 21st April 2017  

Rob, although I agree with you on the necessity of nude showers after exercise and swimming, I think that both nude swimming and topless cross country runs were unnecessary and harsh.
Proof of this is that teachers and coaches always wore trunks during these swimming lessons and also wore protective tops during these runs when they accampanied the boys, especially in winter.

Regarding nude swimming it was especially humiliating for the boys when there were other teachers and school staff present, including females. Some mention that they even had to be nude for swimming galas in front of parents and guests and also female teachers.

Comments by Rob on 10th April 2017  

Stephen,you were at an all boys school as I was and a great many others were.We soon got used to being naked in the open showers without embarrassment.It was indeed very odd that you never showered after PE or swimming because it is essential that you wash away the sweat and chlorine from your body every time.If you had showered you would not have found it embarrassing swimming without trunks.
PE in just shorts, and nothing else in the gym and outside,including cross country,together with nude swimming promotes discipline and helps boys build self confidence for the future.

Comments by William on 10th April 2017  

Stephen, Plainly you did not like swimming without trunks, and yet there is much historical evidence that nude swimming for boys in and out of school was commonplace until, say, the 1920s. The reason is obvious: men went swimming long before trunks were invented. The practice lived on in non-State schools, and in the US nude swimming at the YMCA and in many high schools was the norm until the 1970s. It's very practical because you don't have to bother with wet trunks.

We got used to single sex nudity because of the showers at school. If your school did not have them, that is very odd.

Comments by Gerald on 9th April 2017  

Stephen, I'm not exactly convinced. I've know of people who didn't feel they were abused, who were used to the idea and who didn't feel uncomfortable with swimming without trunks. I feel like you're an exception to the rule. At the end of the day, the government shouldn't be regulating what schools decide. If a PE department thinks swimming with trunks is the way to go, so be it. If not, fine as well.

Comments by Stephen on 9th April 2017  

Gerald, it was an abuse of power because there is no real reason why swimming should be done without trunks. It is impractical since we could all afford trunks. As well as this, it is just not appropriate for a teacher to be able to decide that we should do swimming lessons like fhis. It was just uncomfortable, embarrassing at times and unnecessary

Comments by Gerals on 7th April 2017  

Stephen, why do you consider it an abuse of power when it is not or wasn't against the law at the time? Nude swimming is something that was normal in many schools, not exactly an abuse of power.

Comments by William on 7th April 2017  

Steve, Agree with all that. Worst was if you were the boy the master chose to demonstrate the handstand as you would have the class gathered round to watch, as in the Burnley Grammar photo, although we were always at ground level, hands on mat. This meant that with baggy shorts what was under them was really on display. Since you could not make a fuss you quickly learned composure, and as you say we were all in the showers afterwards so it hardly mattered.

We got so used to never wearing pants for gym or games that in no time we stopped thinking about it. The boys in the Burnley photo on the beam and ropes with their legs up are obviously not bothered.

Comments by Stephen on 7th April 2017  

Just saw Aly's post and I have to agree. I was at a private boys' school in the early eighties and we had to do all our swimming lessons without trunks. Thankfully policy soon ended. No child should have to be subjected to that. It is impractical and an abuse of power by schools. Weirdly enough, we never had showers after PE or swimming.

However, I disagree that doing PE bare chested is in any way an abuse.

Comments by Matt on 7th April 2017  

Late comment on Willy's posting of 10 March. Our boys only school had corporal punishment (the tawse or belt on the hands) whereas the equivalent girl's school did not.
It was not used a lot in the academic classes, but PE was a different matter, where it was in regular or even frequent use. It was hard, but I believe it really improved the standard of fitness and discipline.

Comments by Steve on 7th April 2017  

I agree at first holding up another lads legs whilst doing handstands wearing baggy shorts was a bit daunting but after a while you came to realise you just had to get on with it. After all working in pairs you would both be doing the handstand at some time and you would not be seeing anything that you would not see in the changing rooms or showers after the lesson.

Comments by Rob on 5th April 2017  

William, I absolutely agree with your first paragraph, and while I was not shy about my body hated doing handstands and having to hold another boy's legs. I also agree with your comments about the British being inhibited compared to other European countries.I discovered the reality of this on a holiday in Austria with my wife some years ago in the hotel sauna which was mixed.It felt very natural and there seemed nothing wrong with being nude in mixed company.A few years later we were in Southern Austria and I went to a sauna in a public leisure centre where I discovered that there were families with teenage children, including brothers and sisters and their friends all enjoying the harmless freedom of being naked together.I thought at the time that if only we could be this relaxed about ourselves in Britain.

Comments by Bradley on 4th April 2017  

Lay, I think a lot of what you'd consider abuse is perfectly accepted in some schools even today. you seem to suggest that not wearing a shirt to go swimming is abuse? Unfortunately, it is not practical to swim with a shirt on. If someone doesn't feel comfortable without a shirt on, then they really need to work on their confidence.

At school (I left just a few years ago), I really liked swimming but was always slightly embarrassed of having to wear just swim trunks/briefs. Did I request to wear a shirt? No, that's ridiculous. People need to work on their fears. I remember being asked to represent my school team at a county-wide gala. It was a huge event and the event I was to take part in was the final one of the day, five hours after we came. We changed at our own school and took the bus wearing swim briefs since there were not enough rooms for everyone to change in, or so we were told. now you might consider that abuse, but it's not. It builds confidence and encourages people to take care of their bodies. What I'm saying is we need to work on our insecurities and we need to stop being shy. Look at the Germans, the Norwegians and their attitudes

Comments by William on 3rd April 2017  

Aly, Don't you think it is sometimes good for children to do things they find a bit uncomfortable? Does it not help them to develop and find out what they can cope with? I did find gym challenging at school. As a shy 11-year old I would have avoided nude showers and I would not have done handstands wearing nothing under my baggy white shorts with another boy holding my legs. But I had no choice and quickly got used to it. I did not think being made to do this was unfair because we were all treated the same. It helped to make me more relaxed and confident about my skinny body.

As it is the British are more inhibited about their bodies than people in Europe. Anyone who spends time on the continent quickly discovers the truth of that - whether on a Spanish beach, in a German sauna or an Icelandic swimming pool (where everyone has to have a supervised soapy shower while naked - that is how they keep their chlorine levels low).

Religious considerations apart, it is sad indeed if men and boys are so inhibited about their bodies that they feel uncomfortable swimming bare-chested. Can this sensitivity about bodies possibly be healthy? In a German sauna no-one pays any attention to the fact that everyone is naked because it is the norm. People don't snigger, stare or misbehave. This seems to me to be a healthier attitude.

Comments by Aly on 1st April 2017  

Yes it's fine but they shouldn't be forced to swim without a shirt. There are wetsuits available for people who don't want to swim without covering their upper body. Likewise, no one should be forced to do PE without a shirt. Some children do not feel comfortable showing that much skin, others might prefer not to for religious reasons. Many of the Muslim boys at my son's school prefer not to.

Comments by Pete on 1st April 2017  

A bit beyond what we were expected to do in school - but they are stripped to the waist!

Comments by Adrian on 31st March 2017  

Aly - do you think it acceptable for a boy to be expected to swim in shorts but no shirt but not do p.e. dressed the same?

At my boys grammar school in the 60s we did all indoor p.e. without shirts and barefoot and some outdoor activities the same including cross country. It was comfortable, practical and most certainly not abusive.

I think there are some people who like to think being made to do something they don't really like is abuse - it isn't! The sooner children learn that they can't always do exactly what they want the easier they will find things later in life.

Comments by Steve on 31st March 2017  

I often think that that times have changed so much & not always for the better. Obviously there must be child protection but i never thought I was being abused having to do pe in minimal clothing with communal showers afterwards. Most of the lads in my school were either in Scouts or cadets and going to camp and changing together was just a continuation of changing at school and we were not bothered if a leader was present. Nowadays I am given to understand that teachers or adult leaders cannot put on a plaster or sun cream in case of abuse. Where do we end?

Comments by Sterling on 30th March 2017  

I agree with you it would be classed as abusive today, but Society was very different then!
Back then it was completely normal!
Prince Charles attended Gordonstoun where the character-forming cold shower and shirtless year round early-morning run was part of the rite of passage at the School!

Comments by Crow on 30th March 2017  

About whether or not something is abuse, consider this: I remember being made to swim a mile (many lengths of a large school swimming pool), fully clothed, after the end of the school day. There was just me, and a teacher who watched to see that I completed the business. Was this a case of unusual and abusive punishment? No. It was a required test to see that I was fit to survive a serious accident on a sailing course I was about to start.

'Abuse' isn't so much about the act, as the intent. This is why a judge distinguishes between premeditated murder and unintentional manslaughter, for example. Real abuse seems to have been more common than previously known, or admitted, but that just makes it all the more important that we learn the difference. I didn't see discipline as abuse, it was more likely to prevent abuse (in the form of bullying between pupils), but power corrupts, so discipline that aimed to give power and responsibility to pupils at school was obviously better than that which took it away. Most kids would know the difference, animal instinct takes care of that, but the tragedy is that some could not get out from under. This for many is a painful and complex matter, very different from a superficial assessment of things like the obvious discomfort of being cold while exercising in winter in minimal clothing.

I discovered that running shirtless on a cross country winter run was good for me, extremely so. It let me become tougher rather than weakening me. It was very different from being made to stand in goal for a cold wet hour when ten years younger by the other kids who ran around in a mindless pack after a ball in an unsupervised game of 'football' in which neither 'team' wanted to pick me, the outsider. That wretched game was 'played' with no rules or understanding of the game, and I hate football to this day. If discipline spares a kid from that kind of cold helpless misery, bring it on.

Comments by Tim on 30th March 2017  

I completely agree with Graham, William & Pete ... it was as things were ... no question of abuse.

As William says: Sometimes life was uncomfortable but we learned discipline and to get on with life without making a fuss.

Comments by Graham on 27th March 2017  

Aly, I did p.e. stripped to the waist - nothing disgusting about that, certainly not abuse and if it some sort of child protection issues that mean few boys can enjoy such a sensible approach then things have gone too far. Boys are not being "protected" by wearing shirts for p.e.

Comments by William on 27th March 2017  

Aly, At my boys only grammar school we were always stripped to the waist for gym, never wore anything under our shorts, had corporal punishment, nude showers and endured all weathers. Sometimes life was uncomfortable but we learned discipline and to get on with life without making a fuss. Emphatically, we were not abused.

Comments by Pete on 27th March 2017  

To Aly,

PE stripped to the waist and corporal punishment was just accepted as the way it was then. Swimming without trunks wasn't the practice in my school but if it had been, it would have had to be done.

Comments by Rob on 27th March 2017  

Nick, thank you for your response.Your first point was exactly what I was trying to say; if I had been the only boy stripped to the waist I would have felt the same as you. But attitudes were different when I was a child and boys would take their tops off at home and play outside in the summer. So we didn't have a problem stripping off for pe; in fact it would have felt uncomfortable if we had worn tops as we got very sweaty and looked forward to a good shower afterwards. So yes, if I had been in charge of your PE class I would have made you all wear just shorts and plimsolls! I am glad that your unfortunate experiences in PE did not deter you from enjoying your leisure time in later life.

Comments by Aly on 26th March 2017  

Absolutely disgusting treatment from what I've read here. No child should be told to take off their shirt in a PE lesson, no child should be made to swim without shorts on, no child should be hit or abused in any way by teachers. Thankfully we have child protection laws in this country

Comments by Nick on 25th March 2017  

Rob, thanks for your comment - it's interesting to hear your description of how it was back then. You clearly feel it was ultimately to your benefit having to do PE, cross country etc topless. And presumably if you'd been in charge of my PE class you'd also have made me take my vest off!
Just a couple of things I'd point out... Obviously if you were all used to doing PE stripped to the waist every time then you wouldn't have found it humiliating. It was different for me, I wasn't used to it and being the only boy out of 25 or so who was told to do the lesson topless was clearly intended to make me feel uncomfortable.
Also, you assumed that I'd be reluctant to take my top off later in life... I can assure you that I'm perfectly happy to be in just shorts at the beach or the pool!

Comments by Rob on 25th March 2017  

Nick, making boys strip to the waist was certainly part of discipline for many years. In the late 50's when I was at an all boys school we were told by our PE teacher at the start of of our first lesson, aged 11, to strip off completely, including pants and socks,and that we were to wear just gym shorts and plimsolls.I never heard anyone say they were embarrassed, let alone humiliated; we just did as we were told.After every PE lesson we all had go naked in the communal showers and this continued until we left at age 18. We also wore the same outside when we did athletics and for cross country running. This was the norm for most boys for a number of decades until child protection laws were introduced and resulted in the situation you experienced where many boys became shy about their bodies and were made to strip to the waist only as a form of punishment and therefore feeling unable to strip off later in life to enjoy the pleasure and benefits which the warm summer sunshine brings.