Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 686,789         Comments: 2,472

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

2472 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Andrew on 15th January 2019  

Much like Anthony I did indoor PE in little more than shorts even by the later eighties, so things hadnt changed much since the 60s/70s many posters refer to.

Comments by Frank C on 15th January 2019  

Hi Paul kindred spirits it seemed!There were the school open days a showcase for prospective pupils and their parents and family members.The best swimmers were selected to display there skills and aptitude in the pool including the twelve to thirteen year olds.Like you we used to the regime and quite enjoyed the free open movement without the restrictive effect of trunks.

Comments by Pipin on 15th January 2019  

I have just watched a television programme showing school days going back in time. The episode was between the wars. There was a sequence which showed an all boys class being taught their normal lessons at their desks in the playground. They had not tops on only grey shows. According to the sound track of the film this was introduced to make sure that they were exposed to plenty of vitamin d from the sun,because rickets was common at that time. So I wonder whether the rules for being stripped to the waist for P.E. and games followed on from that idea.

Comments by Rachael on 15th January 2019  

Robbie,interesting that although your kit listed a vest your teacher(s) made you strip off outside,and in the winter too. A vest isn't much but it's better than nothing. How did you cope with the temperatures, was this commonplace in UK schools?

Comments by Paul on 14th January 2019  

To Edward, Frank and others who were made to swim naked at school,

At my prep school in the 70s we had the same rule, not allowed to wear anything for swim classes.
It was not such a big deal since we were all boys and actually enjoyed it. But there was some embarrassment during swimming galas when we also had to be naked in front of parents, sisters and other relatives and guests, some of them women and girls our age.
The younger boys up to 10 or 11 didn't seem to mind, but at 12-13 it was somewhat embarrassing.
Did you also have swimming galas at your schools in front of mixed spectators?

Comments by Robbie W on 14th January 2019  

Hi Gary Though our outdoor kit comprised of a pale blue vest. In reality we were made to strip off to the waist as we did indoors, and regardless of the weather. We had 2 double and 2 single lessons each week.

Comments by June on 14th January 2019  

You mentioned you went to school in the 80s, and, therefore, i am intrigued as to what clothing you wore for outdoor sport. One also hears that today youngsters shower in their underwear or go home to shower! Was that your experience? What sort of school did you atttend etc.?

Comments by Anthony on 13th January 2019  

Yes we did pe indoors in just shorts and barefeet that was in early 1980s
I don't think it did us any arm at all

Comments by Gary on 11th January 2019  

Hi John

Indoors I was fine with stripped to the waist/bare feet.

Outdoors I think most boys would have liked to have been allowed to wear a top. As you will guess there was no debate, we did as we were told, or came back from the run to face a caning.

Comments by John on 10th January 2019  

Hi Gary,
Your PE kit rule was the same that I had in the 1970s. Would you have preferred to have been able to wear a vest or t shirt for indoor PE and cross country or did you get used to wearing only shorts and come to like it?

Comments by Gary on 10th January 2019  

My school was normal for the time (early 70's), indoor PE in shorts only, cross country shorts/plimsolls, stripped to the waist. We had 2 PE lessons a week, one inside, one cross country, so we ran all year around.

At the start of the 2nd year we had a lad move to the school, because his parents moved jobs. He was used to wearing much more kit, and was shocked on a frezzing cold day to be told he had to run minus his rugby shirt or vest, and in only his shorts.

Comments by Edward on 8th January 2019  

Further to earlier comments I recollect swimming without trunks at a boy's private school in the 1950s. I was reticent at first and wore trunks. I was soon ordered to strip off. I never dared wear them again swimming naked thereafter taking only my towel to the pool.

Comments by Frank C on 7th January 2019  

Stuart was bang on the money by stating that our parents were aware of the no trunks rule at the prep school mine from 8 to 13 just a clean towel to pack each week.Agreed the maturing issue could be problematic for some especially if they were self-conscious of their physique .

Comments by Rob on 5th January 2019  

Toby P, Just as John said, we boys were worked hard and always sweated profusely. I used to enjoy feeling the sweat running down my whole body and glad that I was only wearing PE shorts. We all used to look forward to taking our shorts off and getting under the showers to freshen up afterwards and had no problem about being in the nude together either.

Comments by Pipin on 4th January 2019  

I agree with all that you have written and as you state about showering at swimming pools, I to notice that youngsters shower in their swimwear. It is the modern society we have to blame. Sadly, the time has now come when I also keep my trunks on when showering at the swimming pool (certainly if there are younger people in the area) for fear of comments from other people about being naked in a male changing area.

Comments by Stuart on 4th January 2019  

Ivor, Pipin,

At my all boys prep school we had an indoor heated pool and we all swam naked from age 9. Most boys were perfectly happy with it certainly early on. Once puberty kicked in for some it was more awkward as they developed ealrier, but I found it probably more embarssing by the fact that I dveleoped late and by the time we left the prep school I was still a "boy" and most of my classmates were not. Havings aid all that back then we never thought of questioning what was a given - you swam naked, you shwoered naked afte pe and games and did as you were told. this was the early to mid 70s in the UK. Our parnets knew and accepted it as they snet us to school with just a towel.
The only times I recall females being present was when the Head was showing prospective parents around and ther annual house swim gala when the very few female members of staff were there.

Comments by John on 4th January 2019  

Toby P,
That never happened to myself or other lads because we always sweated profusely as we were worked hard. Shorts only for PE made total sense and was healthy, such a well thought out PE rule should still be the order of the day. As other people have commented there’s no problem as a lad doing PE shirtless even if PE sessions are mixed sex.

Comments by James on 4th January 2019  

My last post should have read,I felt ludicrous wearing short trousers when most of my contemporaries"were" wearing long trousers.

Comments by Toby P on 3rd January 2019  

I don't know about others but if we weren't sweating freely down our bare tops at the end of the lesson you went back to the gym after school and do the whole lesson again.

Comments by Rachael on 3rd January 2019  

Hi Fiona, Indeed! We do come out of things well. Fashion has benefited us a lot more than men. Buying something straightforward for boys can be difficult and most shops cater for females.

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.