Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 664,984         Comments: 2,402

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

2402 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Ben on 3rd January 2019  

I also don't see what the fuss is all about with boys doing PE topless in just shorts, even if it is a mixed PE class.
After all that is the way all boys and men are on public beaches and swimminhg pools and no one seems to be bothered about it.
Unfortunately our liberal 'politically correct' modern society imposed on us this ridiculous mentality among other things.
Many schools, including the primary one in my town, make both boys and girls do PE in tracksuit long pants so as not to even show their legs, which is pure insanity if you ask me.
Many schools, probably most, have also done away with showers after PE, for the same reasons.
I have also noticed in the last 15 years or so that boys and youths shower in their swimsuits at my local public swimming pool. Gone are the days when we had more freedom and less to worry about when I was a boy growing up.

Comments by Pipin on 3rd January 2019  

Fiona, I agree with you as I have posted previously ladies can wear thong bikinis by the pool or on the beach but "speedo" type swim briefs are a no no for men especially in the UK. Although abroad the local men are not so inhibited.

Comments by Rob on 3rd January 2019  

Fiona and John, I'm certainly glad that since retiring I no longer have to wear a suit and tie especially in the hot weather which we experienced last summer.As one who was encouraged by my parents when I was young to get the sun and fresh air to my body and always had to strip to the waist for PE both in the gym and outside, including running cross country, I agree that it is wrong to prevent males from doing what comes naturally because of some ridiculous equality campaign. Little wonder nowadays in the summer that men prefer to wear shorts all the time whenever they can; lets hope they don't start a campaign against the wearing of them or there will be nothing men can do! In the meantime I will continue to take my shirt off when I am working in the garden, which meets with my wife's approval, or washing the car on the drive, which does not, because she says I am too old!

Whatever anyone says, men and women should be able to feel comfortable about their bodies and this begins when they are young through encouragement from parents showing their children that there is nothing wrong in allowing the fresh air to get their bodies, and continues at school including the stripped to the waist rule for lads PE which made complete sense and should never have been stopped.

Comments by James on 3rd January 2019  

Pipin,"there was no regulation"at the school that I attended as to whether boys should wear short trousers or longs.
My parents also took the decision to keep me in shorts into my late teens and I felt ludicrous wearing shorts when most of my contemporaries wear wearing long trousers.

Comments by Fiona on 2nd January 2019  

Rachael- yes, there are things that males can do, eg go topless in certain, generally sporting, situations, that we females can't, but there is also a lot more that we can do that they can't. Think formal dress, we can be bare-shouldered while our partners need to wear suits and ties. Or more informally in the Summer, a strappy vest or crop top is acceptable almost anywhere for us, but there is no equivalent for the boys, and full topless is usually taboo except at the beach/pool. And what about thong bikinis?

Comments by Claire on 2nd January 2019  

Hi Rachael and John, Boys at my school wore vests from the changing rooms to the gym or onto the field or yard. Once they lined up then they stripped off. I'm pretty sure their teachers were ex Army.

Comments by John on 2nd January 2019  

I totally agree with you. Men and women are different, both sexes deserve to be treated with respect and fairness. It’s wrong to prevent males from doing what comes naturally, most lads on a hot day would feel more comfortable playing sports shirtless but are being prevented from taking off their shirts because of some ridiculous ‘equality’ campaign.

The stripped to the waist rule for lads PE made complete sense, if you’re going to get too hot and sweaty exercising there’s no point in putting on a shirt in the first place. I feel sorry for lads growing up now.

Comments by Pipin on 2nd January 2019  

My last posting should have read "there was no regulation" regarding whether shorts or longs were worn as uniform. It was for the parents to decide.

Comments by Rachael on 1st January 2019  

NickK, Sadly we are the cause a lot of the problems. There is a culture of if females cannot do something, it's banned. There are some things females just cannot do and stripping to the waist is one... well we can but. Boys should be encouraged to strip it's just natural.

Comments by Pipin on 1st January 2019  

I do not how I would have coped with nude swimming. although as Ivor says parents would be aware of the school rules so I suppose I would have just got on with it. Like all the other schools at the time for p.e. we only wore shorts (no pants) plimsolls with no socks and we were shirtless. Our parents new about these rules because we were told when we attended an open evening with them before we joined the school, when we were advise on the full uniform, including p.e. and swimwear.

There was regulation on whether to wear long or short trousers and so my family took the opportunity to keep me in shorts until I was in my late teens.

Comments by John on 31st December 2018  

The School in Madrid looks like it is making boys strip to the waist for PE just as was common practice until quite recently in the UK. It didn’t do my brother and I any harm. This seems to be another sensible policy from a European country. I cannot understand why the UK ever changed this practice. There never was any big deal, it was nice after being in a hot stuffy classroom to get shirtless and put on shorts and pumps and enjoy doing PE without a hot and sweaty vest or shirt stuck to your back. It seems to me that this Spanish school has thought about what is best for boys when deciding on this rule.

Comments by NickK on 31st December 2018  

Further to Kevin's post (30 Dec)- there are a couple more pics of mixed PE class with most boys stripped to the waist here: https://colegio-estudio.es/instalaciones/

Scroll down to Instalaciones Deportivas

Amazing that today PE kit can just be shorts!

Comments by Ivor on 31st December 2018  

Just catching up with entries made since mine. To answer a couple of questions, firstly the school was boys only and all staff were men, so there were never any women/girls around the swimming pool when nude swimming was compulsory.
Secondly, although there were no swimming matches with other local schools, once a year at the end of the summer term, there was an inter-house swimming competition in front of the whole school, and school policy was followed in this: first three years, compulsory to swim naked, older boys trunks optional, but many still chose nudity. Given the thinking about this sort of thing nowadays, it seems unbelievable that we spent two lessons each week in the summmer term naked for swimming. We and our parents well knew that would be the case when we entered the school.

Comments by James on 31st December 2018  

Tobias,Did you wear short trousers till you were 14 because it was a compulsory school uniform or were they imposed on you by your parents?
I wore them at that age because it was strictly enforced by my parents.

Comments by Dean on 31st December 2018  

In the mid 60s, we started having to dress down for PE and shower communally afterwards from 5th grade on into HS, so you had to strip twice per day in the locker room, and for swimming, you had to strip and shower before and after getting out of the pool.
Shirts were optional during PE, and most chose not to wear them unless it was cold, or when split up into shirts and skins teams for games.
I guess nudity was not such big deal among kids back then, in fact we had no qualms about skinny dipping at the river in the summer, even if girls present or joining in.

Comments by Kevin on 30th December 2018  

Shirtless PE for boys in a coed school. Seems fairly recent!


Comments by Tobias on 30th December 2018  

Ben, we were fortunate to have had a pool in our school grounds, this was a boys only school and we were required to strip nude and walk to the pool. Like you say this was the rule in the junior years and at age 14 we were given the choice to stay nude or wear trunks. We all stayed nude.

Our swim team practiced in the nude but were allowed trunks for events but these were not compulsory and I do remember a few boys swimming nude. I also remember one time a visiting school swim team that came to compete and the entire team was nude.

Comments by Ben on 28th December 2018  

Did you have a swimming pool at school or were you taken somewhere for lessons and practice?
Did you have swim teams that also competed in the nude?

It seems from other posters that in most cases only junior boys up to about 13 took swimming lessons in the nude. I guess it was not considered as proper for boys older than that to be nude for swimming lessons, even at the same school. This arrangement was probably accepted by everyone, including parents, at the time, though I can't see it happen today.
I wonder when this practice of making boys swim nude at school stopped in the UK.
I also assume that this happened only in boys only schools. I can't imagine boys being made to swim naked in mixed schools since I never heard of girls being made to swim nude at school, though there could have been some exceptions.

Comments by Pipin on 27th December 2018  

With regards to swimwear at my all boys school circa 1961 the speedo style trunks (although I do not think speedo was actually a brand then) were worn for swimming. I prefer them much more than the long board shorts etc. which seem to be the style these days. I suppose the brief style trunks are considered to revealing. But I do not think they are any worse than some of the swimwear worn by females. Some of the bikinis with the thongs leave very little to the imagination.

Comments by Tobias on 27th December 2018  

Seems a few here June and Ivor share similar experiences to me. At school I was in short trousers until 14 with long grey socks in winter and black shoes and in the summer barefoot and sandals. For PE it was just white shorts absolutely nothing else in or out all year round we was shirtless and barefoot. Forget the shorts then you went nude. We also had swimming lessons every week and practice was always in the nude.

Comments by June on 23rd December 2018  


I don't think it was an issue at all in the junior houses. I do remember some boys finding it hard concerning puberty- different growth rates causing some issues - but otherwise there weren't any problem. My son has just reminded me that speedos were the regulation in the senior houses!

Comments by Rachael on 22nd December 2018  

Thanks to everyone for replying. I'm at a loss to understand why boys don't strip off to the waist for PE. Charles makes a very good point about things being taking things too far,but done properly, there are more benefits than negatives and encourages boys to become young men.

Comments by John on 22nd December 2018  

My cousin swam naked at senior school from age 11 to 18 and was perfectly happy to swim naked as were the other lads, it was normal for them to swim nude. If they had inter school swimming galas they wore trunks.

Comments by Ben on 22nd December 2018  

Did the boys ever complain that they had to swim naked at school?

Comments by John on 21st December 2018  

Daniel P,
My school experience was like yours, I was 9 when the local education authority decided that boys must be stripped to the waist for PE for health and safety reasons. Until then we’d been allowed to keep our vests on for indoor PE, we got changed into full football kit for football outdoors.

When I started at senior school some lads were shocked that they had to be stripped to the waist for indoor PE,; they’d come from primary schools where they’d always been allowed to keep their tops on. They were equally horrified to discover that cross country runs also had to be done barechested.

Comments by Roy on 21st December 2018  

When I was at school in the 1960's we did PE indoors stripped to the waist as soon as we started secondary school.This would be Year 7 in today's numbering.For cross country we usually waited until Year 9.

Comments by Daniel P on 20th December 2018  

Rachael, we started stripping to the waist indoors from 9yo, being barechested/stripped off (as the teachers would say) came the following year.


Comments by June on 20th December 2018  

No the boys only swam naked in their boarding houses or weekly class lessons. They were allowed to wear their black or navy blue speedos in whole competitions or gala where they were external guests or parents.

Comments by Ben on 20th December 2018  

To June and Ivor,

Doing PE in just shorts is one thing, but making them swim naked is a bit different in my opinion.
Were there any female teachers or female school staff who could watch the boys swim naked?
I read that in some schools the boys were also naked during swim galas in front of mixed spectators. Was this also the case at your school (Ivor) and your sons' school in the case of June?

Comments by William on 19th December 2018  

For gym we were stripped to the waist from age 11.
If we forgot our shorts we did not have to do the lesson nude but the gym master would throw us the first pair of shorts that came to hand from lost property. These had not been washed and wearing them was not pleasant. I forgot my shorts only once.
I'm sorry one of your boys found the regime a bit too hard. None of us liked being frozen stiff. The attitude towards nudity at school and at home was "You're all boys, what are you fussing about" with the implication that those who fussed were cissies. A very small number of boys never got used to it. Most of us took it in our stride and were not embarrassed, unlike some young men you see at swimming pools today having a shower with shorts on. What is the point of that when the shorts are chlorine soaked? I never wore a jockstrap at school.

Comments by Rob on 19th December 2018  

Rachael,at our boys grammar school in the late fifties we all had to be stripped to the waist from the first PE lesson aged 11.

Comments by Charles on 19th December 2018  

William. Physical hardship and humililiation doesn't turn boys into men. Making boys run in sub zero temperatures has nothing to,do with the transition to manhood.
Tenderness, respect and love are essential parts of bring up children
I remember the arbitrary rules at school.
A pe teacher so obsessed with his precious new gym floors that everyone bar himself went barefoot. These were his power trips.
Extremely Harsh regimes such as many of us endured were unnecessary.
Many of our teachers were severely damaged by the war and should not have been allowed anywhere near children as they took out their trauma and pain on us.
Personally I would not have wanted my children anywhere near these kind of people.

Comments by Rachael on 18th December 2018  

Hi Ben, William, June. My two boys are 11 and 12 so I'm guessing boys wouldn't start stripping to the waist until they turn 13?

Comments by Ivor on 18th December 2018  

The state school I went to in the mid 1950s had a policy of nude swimming for the first three years, and all parents and boys knew that this was the case, so there was no argument about it and everyone accepted it. From the fourth year upwards trunks were optional, but most boys simply continued to swim without them as they were so used to it, and to wear costumes seemed somehow to be more embarrassing! What was more, there was a strict no pants underneath shorts for all indoor PE lessons during the other two terms, so woe betide any boy who forgot his kit because it meant PE in the nude. Again, it was school policy and there was no argument. It didn't happen all that often as we all knew what would happen, but inevitably it did happen from time to time when someone for example had accidentally forgotten their kit or else left it on the bus! To think that all of us were used to this

Comments by June on 18th December 2018  


Good to hear from you. We had friends whose boys went to grammar school and seem to have shared the same conditions as you did then. My three boys were all boarders in a public school (or private independent school if you prefer) in the 60s. As said two of my boys had no problems whatsoever with the conditions as you describe. Communal showers (often only cold water), gymnastics without tops etc. Naked swimming and wearing shorts up to age of 13. They all loved their sport. Around 14 and thereafter they were allowed to wear jockstraps and quite understandably. Yes it wasn't just the harsh Spartan conditions but also doing what they were told and without questioning authority that made them great men that I am ever so proud of.

Comments by William on 17th December 2018  

Rachael and June, I think that what turned boys into men was not just physical hardship, such as games afternoons in the winter when our hands were so cold we could not do up shirt buttons when we got changed. It was also having to do things we didn't want to do, getting on with them without making a fuss because we had no choice, and finding they weren't so bad after all.
At a boys' grammar school in the 1960s we wore nothing under shorts for gym, athletics or games. Our gym lessons were like the photograph. We had communal nude showers. I started off shy and would have avoided all these given the choice. But I became more confident about my skinny body, got used to the regime and even to like it. I didn't realise at the time but it was a good lesson for life.

Comments by Rachael on 17th December 2018  

Hi John, Thanks for the insight. As June said it makes men from boys and I'm all for that. Stripping off makes a lot of sense. I encourage my two boys to have their tops off in summer hols. If they had the chance I'd bet they'd love to do PE stripped off too.

Comments by Ben on 17th December 2018  

Hi Rachael, it is natural and more comfortable for boys to do exercise with tops off in Summer, but not in freezing Winter, especially outside.
Do your boys still have compulsary showers after PE at school?

Comments by June on 17th December 2018  


How old are your two boys? What school did they attend? My three boys all went to boarding school and the regime there was pretty hard. Two of them weathered the Spartan conditions very well but one of my boys found it all a bit too hard.

Comments by John on 17th December 2018  

My dad encouraged me and also my brother to play outside shirtless in summer, we’d meet up with our friends and kick a ball about in the road and all of us would be shirtless. None of us were self conscious about being seen bare chested and that is a good way to be.

Some lads at Senior School felt awkward at first having to do PE shirtless but that was because they had been allowed to wear vests or t shirts for Primary School PE lessons. They soon forgot about being shirtless and started to enjoy PE. If boys had started doing PE shirtless whilst at Infant School they would never have felt awkward.

Lads today should be allowed to do PE shirtless if they want to, it’s far more comfortable than having a hot sweaty shirt stuck to your back. I’m glad that I could enjoy PE in the 1970s, I don’t know why schools started to make lads cover up all the time.

Comments by Rachael on 16th December 2018  

Hi John, Thanks for the insight. As June said it makes men from boys and I'm all for that. Stripping off makes a lot of sense. I encourage my two boys to have their tops off in summer hols. If they had the chance I'd bet they'd love to do PE stripped off too.

Comments by John on 16th December 2018  


How boys were treated in the past sounds harsh to most people now. We were allowed to wear running shiorts with inner briefs but not underwear and always wore socks and trainers. Running shirtless was no big deal actually, believe it or not we stayed warmer bare chested in the rain than we would have done with a rain soaked shirt stuck to our chests. The showers were always warm too.

Comments by JamesB on 16th December 2018  


The tawse ( always referred to as 'the belt') was the implement of choice of most teachers. The PE dept also used the gym shoe across the (thin) cotton shorts for minor offences though it still stung!

There were various weights of tawse , M -medium, H - heavy and XH -extra heavy. Most teachers used the H at my secondary school though there were a few XHs around . Most had 2 tails though 3 tails were available.

I understand that the tawse was used in north east of England in preference to the cane.


Comments by Ben on 16th December 2018  

A similar custom to toughen boys up in some institutions and boarding schools was to make them take cold showers even in freezing weather.
Same for making them swim in unheated pools all year round, including in winter, often naked.
As for what some others describe making boys run outside bare chested in just thin shorts in winter, I don't know how one coulld get used to that or even 'enjoy it'.
I can't imagine this happening today without a public outcry.

Comments by June on 16th December 2018  


Guess it made men out of boys!

Comments by John on 16th December 2018  


It was daunting the first time that we realized that we’d be running stripped to the waist in winter. Part of the cross country run was on pavements outside residential properties and another stretch on pavement along a busy main road; I felt potentially embarrassed at the prospect of being seen
by adults that knew me.

We did warm up and stretching exercises before setting off on the run, running on the spot and star jumps, we quickly got warm. After a few weeks I started to enjoy shirtless cross country runs and would have hated it if the PE kit rule had changed and we’d been made to wear shirts. Whilst running we forgot that we were barechested.

Comments by Rachael on 15th December 2018  

Thank you to those who replied.It must have been daunting being outside in the winter stripped to a thin pair of shorts.

Comments by Pete on 15th December 2018  

I went to a Catholic primary to middle school in London in the sixties. The strap or wooden ruler was on every teacher's desk and was used freely by most teachers. Normally 2 to 4 strokes on the hands.
I only remember one teacher who used the ruler on our buttocks over shorts. He was the joke between us boys when boys were in his class.
Although we dreaded him more than the other teachers who punished on the hands, thinking back it was probably less painful than being hit on the hands. Maybe because it was not the norm and unusual.

Comments by Frank C on 14th December 2018  

Hi to Howard and James B, The strap was certainly on the agenda at the Catholic College I attended circa late sixties to early seventies in Greater Manchester.Nasty little beast utilised on either the hand or the behind.The plimsoll for PE..

Comments by Howard on 13th December 2018  

jamesB, were there any other instruments used in Scottish schools, like the cane, slipper or ruler?
Or was it just the tawse?

Was the tawse also used in Scottish homes, or just in schools?

The strap on the hands seems to have been popular in Catholic schools, notably in Ireland. I presume the tawse, being a two tongued strap, was more painful.

I saw a BBC short documentary once in which was stated that the tawse was the casue of corporal punishment being banned in all of Britain.
A Scottish mother took the case to the European Court after her son was tawsed at school. The European Court forced the British Parliament to vote against all corporal punishment in schools.
I think Britain was the last European country to ban CP in schools, but I am not sure of this.