Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Item #: 1602
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
Trevor, indeed you are correct. My experience was enjoyable because my teachers were not the type you describe. I attended a small High School in Ireland. Literally every lad played Gaelic Football, Hurling, Soccer or Rugby. We used our shirts as goal posts outside school and I had open communal showers at school, both Football clubs, my boxing club and my local Leisure centre. So nudity wasn't an issue for me.
But having read more comments I can see that forcing shirtless PE was abusive and had potential to cause long term psychological problems. These so-called teachers put many people off sport for life.
I know a few PE teachers today and thankfully they are nothing like the old Kes types.
The PE teachers of today share new lesson plans and ideas on online forums. Whereas many of their predecessors put their feet up and read a tabloid newspaper.
Mr Cooper would you explain your statement?
David G. It's the one recommended by Daniel (and no doubt enjoyed by many on here).
I did not recommend anything. I wish to know exactly what you meant and why you made it?.
I have noticed though you criticise posters, you, yourself have never outlined your own experience of barechested PE.
Before you ask our PE teacher was respected not feared, ensured all lads played a full part in lessons regardless of ability and never ever came into the changing rooms until we were "decent" We felt safe with him and doing skins vs vests was not the nightmare you indicated. Very good teachers did exist even in the mid 80s.
'They seem to be enjoying themselves'.
Apart from the poor lad crouched on top of the box in the third exercise!
Tim H: At least they have a humane teacher who seems down to earth and has a good rapport with the boys (who don't look terrified of him) and it seems that they dress as they want to. It's the "Kes" teachers I have a problem with, and kids who look intimidated. The lessons can be fun, they don't have to be about discipline, obedience and fear.
Amateur footage from Parr High School, St Helens. L'pool (mid 1970s) - as someone said - 'They seem to be enjoying themselves'.
The school was, apparently, a well thought of Comp., that closed some years back, possibly over falling numbers. If you look on YouTube there are number of other films based round the school and its activities.
Hi Trevor, I went to a normal state comp in Wales. I did think being made to do gymnastics topless was a bit 'odd' for the 1990s, but then again, we had been warned about this the week before. IIRC it was in PE and the teacher we had that year was female. To be honest that sort of thing 'worked' for me as I wasn't the most organised of people at times.
Once in five years was not enough for me to consider anything like moving schools - and I doubt I would have been in the 'indoor' bottom set for Games lessons at other local schools.
Thanks for replying, I went back a few posts & realised which YT clip you were referring to. It makes sense now.
David G - sorry I sad "Daniel" when I meant Oliver. Anyway here si the link:
Oliver - there is a big difference between dometimes feeling uncomfortabe and awkward ( as I have been reading some of the extraordinary comments on this site). and setting out to make people feel uncomfortable. To make overweight boys,or boys with physical scars deliberately uncomfortable is to me the real mark of a bully, and many of those old teachers were bullies pure and simple. Many of the ex-military were probably quite upset that they were no longer saluted, so they made up for it by enjoying being called "sir" and shouting at kids and making them do exactly as they were told. What they - and some people on here - forget is that everybody has a different level of ability and physical strength. The games masters job should have been to encourage the less able just as much as the proficient, not to demean them or imagine that shouting at them and losing their temper would magically turn the less adept into the most proficient.
Likewise some boys didn't mind (perhaps even enjoyed?) having their backsides whacked with a slipper or cane, and being eyed up at in the shower, by the teacher, but everybody is a unique individual, and because you enjoyed it, doesn't mean that everyone else does.
Many people have said in terms they didn't mind it, and they didn't notice anyone else was uncomfortable - I would suggest they wasn't looking for discomfort and would either have ignored it, or been unsympathetic to it even if they had.
As I said, for those boys who liked taking their tops off, and running barefoot through the streets, I wouldn't stop them if it floated their boats, but for those boys who were uncomfortable, a tee shirt seems a ridiculous thing to refuse.
David G. It's the one recommended by Daniel (and no doubt enjoyed by many on here). The commentary is very derogatory to one of the boys, and shows again what an unpleasant lot teach and direct school PE
Trevor Cooper It is rare that one passes though adult life being completely "comfortable" A few generations ago lads the same age were going off to war. Perhaps it's a learning experience and preparation for adult life. So yes it was cold on the tip of Northern Ireland but big deal, move faster and you warm up.
Trevor Hi May I ask what YT site you are referring to?
Oliver - you might have been comfortable with it, as was many of the "discipline" fetishists on this site (and one or two leaving comments on the YT site) , but the fact remains some boys were not comfortable (again as we have seen on this site), and therefore I would say those boys who did want to wear a top should have been allowed to, and those who were comfortable with it should have been allowed their choice too.
I have never agreed with a one size fits all policy in anything, there are always exceptions, and you will get the best work out of anyone if they feel comfortable. The school gum out not be place of fear and embarrassment.
Clearly some officials in education see that now as policies are much more relaxed and the day of the martinet instructor are over - much as I am sure that upsets the older men still involved in the system.
I really don't see what the big deal is about lads doing PE shirtless.
Shirts Vs Skins was standard procedure for us in 1994. And judging from this video was also standard for those doing Key Stage 3 which was only introduced between 1991 and 1995
Ben, Trevor definitely spot on about humiliation. As punishments we were given laps of the field, determined by the teacher, to do with our vests off. In the winter it was freezing but there was no option other than to go barechested.when you were told to.. A couple of my friends had hairy chests by the time they were 17 but they weren't spared from whipping off their vests on a whim.
Trevor, I think you hit the nail on the head about teachers' motivation for making boys do PE bare chested. I'd say it was more often the latter reason, humiliation, although I suppose there might have been one or two that got off on it as well.
I went to school in the late 80s/early 90s and we did have vests/skins games during PE, although not until I was 14 so it certainly took a while to get used to that. As I recall though, the teams were chosen at random and I wasn't aware of any boys being assigned to skins more than others.
However, it wasn't uncommon for boys who had brought the wrong kit or committed some other infringement of the rules to end up being made to do the lesson in skins. I experienced that myself after stepping out of line in PE, I was immediately ordered to take my vest off and remember feeling really small just standing there, acutely aware of being the only lad who was bare chested. I tended to blush easily, so it must have been obvious to everyone else that I was embarrassed. I had to go to the side of the gym and do press-ups by myself before rejoining the rest of the class, still without my vest and still feeling small. I've no doubt that was the purpose of the punishment.
Hi Jacob (and Adam):Jacob the sort of thing I am referring to is that IF some of the recollections of some of these guys is true, it seems very dodge to me that, as several have said they were singled out to be on the skins side,did it never occur to them to wonder why the teacher always singled them out?., It could have been the teacher liked to demean certain boys (I remember reading one of them saying that his PE teacher had a distaste for overweight boys and always picked on them to be skins), so it was a question of humiliation knowing they had control, OR it might have been that the teacher enjoyed seeing certain boys more than others, and you can put whatever interpretation you like on that, I would suggest one obvious explanation. Same with certain teachers "supervising" showers - I had one like that year 7/8 he took no interest but year 9 on when there was more to see, he was in and out of that shower room like a jack in the box. Then the teacher who enjoyed jumping in the showers with the boys. There is a certain pattern to this behaviour, in those pre - CRB check days, because they might have served with a certain regiment.
Adam: If I had been a parent in the 1990s and I learned that the school was behaving although it was still the 1950s, I would have been looking for a more enlightend school. I hope that doesn't sound offensive to your parents but I thought all this strict minamalism was over by the 80s. May I ask was it a grammar school a religous school (who are often a bit "old school" ) or a comp?. I still think the way PE was/is acquainted with "punishment" and stern discipline puts off a lot of people, especially lads.
Hi Trevor, to be honest I wasn't too bothered about doing the lesson topless. It only happened the once and I think we had been told of the 'punishment' the week before. I'm glad most schools have now dropped these practices, but it was a mildly embarrassing punishment that made sure you brought the right kit.
I tend not to doubt the people who comment about things like nude swimming - I've seen a few references to it around the net in the past. To me it is no different to things like corporal punishment, or the requirement for girls to wear PE knickers. Now it sounds utterly 'dodgy' but was common at one point.
I would also say that 'discipline' can be as simple as listening to the teacher, obeying instructions and bringing the right kit. These days nobody in schools would want PE lessons to go back to being like a scene from Kes.
My PE teachers were otherwise OK and my overall impression of the 90s was that PE was always more of a problem for the girls as they campaigned for things like the right to wear shorts in lessons, or try 'boys' sports like football.
Hi Trevor, just to be clear - the PE kit we wore was in line with the actual school policy, it wasn't a case of having to take our tops off at the whim of a pervy teacher. My parents were sent a list of uniform regulations when I started at the school, so it was clear beforehand that I'd be doing PE shirtless. It was in black and white, so no real basis for any boy to object.
Hi Adam, Glad the practice has died out - if you had acne or anything like that it was very embarrassing when you were a young lad, and let's face it, there were some very seedy old geezers who were PE teachers back in the day. I know from personal experience.
I still think it shows how tyranical and petty some of them were - being punished for taking the wrong shirt in.
I also have to say I think some of the memories on this site are a bit iffy (not you) - the older geezers going on about nude swimming and obsessive interest in discipline and "obeying orders".
I hope things are better now - the 1970s were bad enough if what some of them have written about the 50s and 60s is true, they would have been better treated in prison
Trevor, I only had to do PE topless once in the 1990s, when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I was one of about 5 or 6 lads who brought the wrong top to a gymnastics lesson.
My school split PE and Games into two lessons, and PE was a mixed class with our form group. I can only assume we 'needed' a different top for gymnastics because the girls had an _entirely_ different gymnastics kit of leotards and footless tights. Instead of their usual PE kit of a polo shirt, gym skirt and knickers.
Also, re: CRB checks etc. After the age of 16 PE is not compulsory, at least in England and Wales.
Jacob, I am astonished PE teachers were still risking that in the 90s, when you consider that lads were getting far more independent minded and most 16 year olds looked more grown up than my generation did at 18.
As school can now be compulsory till 18 if they can't get jobs, I don't think they would get away with it now. Also of course, in the last 20 years CRB checks have become compulsory for teachers. I am convinced in earlier days quite a number of dodgy characters slipped through the net, in the teaching profession, added to which boys were far more innocent earlier on. Di none of the boys object in the 1990s?
Interesting that many posters who were at school decades earlier assume shirtless PE had been discontinued by the 90s. Like Daniel, I left in the mid 90s and boys' PE kit (indoors, anyway) was shorts and no top. I also played football where the teams were usually skins vs shirts.
Although our official PE kit was a red school vest, shorts, trainers, lads from 10 upwards were still being stripped to the waist to exercise. Skins vs vests or skins vs skins were common outside on the field, but in the gym all lads were expected to strip down. I left school in 1994.
Sam's comments about his kit of shorts and plimsolls in the 1980s is more recent than many posters accounts but I was another in the same situation at the same time. I have no idea how common this was by then though but is suspect I was less so.
Andy: The first secondary school that I attended changed from vests and shorts to shorts only when I was about 13. I can't remember anyone, in my class at least, objecting to the change, in fact I think we all enjoyed the feeling of freedom that exercising topless brought, I know I certainly did. An unintended consequence, given that this was back in the era when most kids were expected to wear vests under our shirts, jumpers etc., was that within a couple of weeks of topless PE starting, I and most of my mates had stopped wearing vests altogether. Mum was not impressed with this development, but eventually accepted it.
Interesting comment about a school that changed it PE/xc kit to shorts only.
I wonder if anyone else experienced this ? If so, what was your classmates reaction ?
Andy - that was the same for me - we had no choice at my grammar school but to run barefoot and barechested. I don't remember any injuries from running barefoot and we accepted our skimpy kit without any problems.
However, a friend of mine from primary school ended up at the local secondary modern school where they had a choice of the kit they wore for cross country. Whilst it was clear that bare feet and tops were preferred they could wear plimsolls or tee shirts if they wanted. Their route was similar to ours and included the same muddy stream. In September, when they began at the school, most boys started running shirtless but quite a few wore plimsolls. By the middle of winter about half were wearing shirts but very few were wearing anything on their feet. This was because plimsolls got stuck in the mud too easily and also required cleaning and drying later. A little discomfort underfoot was preferable to all that bother for my friend and most of his classmates. From the following year onwards the boys were all told ro run shirtless and barefoot just like us.
Ross - yes, I suppose it was a tough course though back in the 60s we tended to just get on with it. The sections of pavement were easy and the longer section on the way back was a relief after the stones embedded in the tracks. Wearing plimsolls would have been the only other option but they would not have stayed on our feet in the stream as the mud there could be quite thick and deep.
We ran barefoot, as I’ve described previously.
Our course was around 4 miles, country tracks, woods and fields. Some roads around the school. There was a stream to be crossed in the woods.
One track was mostly gravel, which hurt soft feet, as some boys had. Minor cuts were usual.
The point here is that we didn’t have the option of wearing plimsolls, we were just told to strip to shorts, and that included bare feet. The school always did xc that way, over the years ever boy at the school ran like this, and therefore we did !
Arguing equalled the cane.