Fulwood Counry Secondary School
Item #: 1608
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1958
Hi Andrea - during the last heatwave my old school allowed pupils to wear their PE kit all day. I think the media seem to have missed the point that the 'boys in skirts' are only using a simple loophole in the school rules for one day, because they can't wear shorts in the summer!
I don't remember the girls at my primary school tucking their skirts in to do handstands. Of course wearing shorts under their skirts was also an option.
We were often sat boy / girl in other subjects, so I didn't really think PE or Games should have been that different. Given the choice we tended to pair up with members of the same sex anyway, but at times we were in little mixed groups and it probably helped everyone's confidence too.
As far as I can remember, the only after-school clubs were for team sports, so football / rugby for the boys and netball / hockey for the girls. Dance didn't seem to feature in lessons or after-school clubs, and I don't think there was a gym club either.
You're right - 'larger' is probably a more appropriate word to use here. I think girls in some of the years below us may have been able to 'celebrate' the end of the leotard, but girls in my year wore them for the 5 years we were at school. Other than gymnastics, I know my late friend was a lot happier when she could wear shorts in PE and Games.
Branded underwear and having it showing also makes no sense to me. I guess people like to show off that they've bought one pair of pants for thirty quid or something!
Hi Adam, We all enjoyed watching the boys remove their vests but nobody ever dared wolf whistle. A trip to the Head would have followed at the very least. Once you'd overcame your embarrassment, would you have preferred to have spent more time exercising bare chested? O think you'd have got on just fineAndrea rightly pointed out that sports bras simply didn't exist when I was at school. For us if we'd forgotten tops we'd wear bras in the gym and were given a top from lost property if outdoors. You knew afterwards why it "lost" property!
I agree that girls should have the choice to wear trousers or skirts and that boys and girls should be allowed to wear shorts in hot weather. I suppose that the schools stipulate trousers for girls have either had problems with skirts being worn too short or have done overboard on the gender neutrality of their uniform.
We couldn't wear trousers at primary school either, but used to get over the handstand issue by tucking the bottom of our skirts into our knickers first, so we didn't show too much!
I agree with you about ties, I don't think I've worn one since leaving school and as time goes on, less and less men seem to be doing so either.
I sounds like you enjoyed your mixed PE lessons.
We never wore leotards at school and when my son was at secondary school it was only the girls who did GCSE dance or were in the gym club who wore them. I would imagine that some of the 'larger' girls would have been glad when they were no longer required at your school!
Of course when I was at school, there were no sports bras, so we just wore our ordinary bras for PE.
With regard to the boys (and men too), it surprises me many of them have the tops of their underwear showing above the waistband of their shorts!
Hi Louise - I only had to do PE topless once, probably in Year 9. A few of us lads had brought the 'wrong' top when we switched to doing gymnastics in PE for the autumn and winter terms.
We all had the same sort of 'summer' and 'winter' tops. The girls gymnastics kit was a leotard and footless tights - instead of their usual top, gym skirt and knickers. Obviously my school thought us lads had to have a 'different' kit too. The vest was worn with our usual shorts.
I was a little embarrassed at first but got on with it. We had been warned that bringing the wrong top would mean doing the lesson topless and I admit I occasionally needed that sort of 'kick up the backside' at times. A few girls got a bit giggly and wolf-whistled us but it was probably their chance to get their own back on us being equally daft about their gym skirts and knickers at times!
By 1996 the lads' gym vests, along with the girls' leotards and PE knickers were all quietly removed from the uniform list.
Hi Andrea - At one point deodorant sprays were banned and we had to bring roll-on ones in instead. I remember there were always stories in the news about girls not being allowed to wear trousers to school. It was never an issue at either of my schools. In the last few years of primary school it was also an easy solution for the more gymnastic girls who still wanted to do handstands and things at break without showing their underwear.
In some ways I'm quite pragmatic now, yeah teenage girls are going to try and wear their school skirts as short as possible but just banning them feels like a step too far. I'd have a choice of skirts or trousers, and if we're having heatwaves a lot now maybe we should have a 'shorts for all' policy in the summer too. It would save another year of "boys wear skirts to school" headlines! Girls wearing ties is another thing that strikes me as odd - I don't know any women who've had to wear one since leaving school.
Mixed PE felt like an extension of primary school really. My eyesight meant I was also in the bottom set for Games which was otherwise single gender. That suited me as I wasn't football-obsessed like most boys and we did a right mix of stuff - basketball, indoor hockey, volleyball, badminton etc. We even played netball a few times when the girls' half of the class won the endless 'basketball or netball?' discussions. Of course us lads just tried to play it like basketball and were told off by the teacher. The girls got very stroppy with us for not knowing the rules, too.
I remember the taller and, er, 'fatter' girls had gymnastics leotards which were always a bit lower cut. In terms of bras you'd occasionally see a girl's white bra strap poking out from under the sort of shoulder strap on her leotard, so I guess they just wore their 'normal' bras in PE. If any underwear has to be specified now, sports bras would make sense, and well done to that teacher for mentioning it in the changing rooms too.
Oh, and for all I've said about the occasional flashes of girls' knickers… I can remember having a few girls gleefully telling me what colour underpants I was wearing in PE because our football shorts had a habit of gaping open at times if we sat awkwardly. With hindsight it all feels rather 'innocent' now in some ways.
Hi Adam, I grew used to it and from around 13/14 didn't really care muchdoing laps in skirt and bra, I just wanted it over. Depending which other boys you were sent out with, it could be a nightmare with remarks about my chest (or lack of) being common.
We were both aware of boys watching us and o guess would have been the same for then. Due to the school policy they were out in all weathers mainly stripped to the waist or for half a class, vests if they were lucky. I thought it brutal in the winter especially on a freezing cold morning/afternoon seeing them exercise in only shorts and trainers.
But in fairness it was very difficult not to see boys go topless. The majority of classrooms overlooked the school yard and playing field. You could pick any day and the chances of seeing boys strip off on the tarmac yard or playing field were high. The gym had huge reinforced windows all the way down the corridor.and depending on where you needed to be was very easy to take a look and watch for a couple of minutes, it was for me a highlight to walk down the corridor past the gym and often see boys topless, with sweat visible on their upper bodies, no vests were ever worn in the gym. In the summer we played a few games of rounders but their were no other mixed sessions. I'd love to know your thoughts about doing PE/Games stripped to the waist in front of girls and how you got on.
We had compulsory showers all through secondary school, but by the time my son was there showers had been abandoned. I always made sure he had a can of deodorant in his PE bag!
I would have loved to have worn trousers to school but they weren't allowed.
By the time my son was at secondary, the girls could wear either skirts or trousers. I believe a few schools have gone completely the other way and insist on trousers.
Yes, we were supposed to wear full uniform, including ties and berets whilst travelling to and from school.
With regard to your comments about mixed PE sessions, how did you feel about that, did you think it was OK or would you have preferred boys only groups?
My son's school had a mixture of single sexed and mixed PE lessons and I don't think he minded, but I'm not sure how the girls felt. I remember one mum saying that after one lesson her daughter's PE teacher spoke to the class in the changing rooms and advised them to wear 'appropriate bras' for the next lesson as it would be mixed fitness session with the boys.
Hi Louise - when did you go to school? Running laps with your top off sounds like the teachers just copied the 'boys' punishment for the girls and as Mary suggested, used it to humiliate some of you.
What would you have 'preferred'? Running in bra and gym skirt - or t-shirt and PE knickers?
You said you were caught watching the boys do PE - were you aware of the boys watching you do PE? As I had both mixed PE and Games lessons, there were times when we were encouraged to pair up boy / girl, or work in small mixed groups.
Hi Andrea - I can certainly remember the 'small fish in a big pond' feeling, yeah! My high school had three floors, two canteens, a gym, sports hall and two sets of changing rooms. It all felt very large indeed for the first term or two.
We had compulsory showers, but I remember we just sort of stopped taking them after about Year 8. The teachers couldn't enforce it any more and decided we could spend the few minutes saved just doing more PE. The changing rooms stunk of 'Lynx' deodorant afterwards!
PE being the only lesson where there was still a rule about knickers meant it stood out to everyone. A late friend of mine hated wearing a gym skirt as she disliked skirts and always wore trousers to school. As for tights I think girls in lower school (Years 7 - 9) had to wear opaque tights and girls in upper school (Years 10 & 11) could choose to wear 'sheer' tights too. I don't remember any girls cycling to school, although some walked in from the nearby villages.
Were you stuck with rules about always wearing the beret on the way to school or anything?
The most common punishment at my school was the one I dreaded most. Laps of the field wearing only gym skirt and bra. The boys were made to initially change into vests and shorts until the supervising teacher forced them to strip down to the waist to run as if it were a normal PR/Games lesson.
I was fairly flat chested and running like this only increased teasing from some of the boys both during and after the run. I also had a female teacher who really hated me with a passion and the feeling was mutual, as each lap I ran was always down to her.
One example was when I was 15 she gave me 7 laps and 12 pull ups after being "caught" looking through the gym windows watching boys in my year doing PE/Games bare chested whilst it was our lunchtime. I do admit to enjoying watching boys exercise bare chested. It was very rare to see a boys PE/Games class with all boys in vests, more often than not they were either all stripped down or in teams of vests vs skins indoors and outside it made no difference.
Hi Mary - well no wonder you were in fear of a slippering if they were given out that frequently and harshly!
I would be inclined to agree with your thoughts about your cousin. I suppose in those days teachers thought it was easier to just call her a troublemaker and slipper her, rather than asking her if there were any problems at home or something that may be causing her behaviour.
Even in the 80s we were not immune to the occasional spanking from our parents if we were misbehaving. 'Pants down' was always the last option, and let us know we had gone too far, though.
Mary, gosh that sounds horrific, I'm not surprised that some were traumatized for years by the experience! It sounds like your teachers were from middle class schools / households and had an inbuilt prejudice about working class families.
We would sometimes have a whole class detention if there had been misbehavior in lessons, but corporal punishment, although used, was nothing like as extensive as it was at your school.
Adam, the whole experience of starting secondary school was very different from primary. We certainly felt like small fish and in a big pond and everything felt strange at first. Compulsory showers and indoor PE in gym knickers rather than shorts were certainly part of that, but so were things like homework and the more formal uniform requirements generally (I hated having to wear a beret and not being able to wear tights - especially when cycling to school on a cold winters morning!).
Perhaps the biggest difference was that it was an all girls school.
My secondary was single sex (albeit adjacent to a boy's secondary) and there was a firm belief amongst the staff that working class girls were work shy with a latent tendency towards criminality. As we working class girls were in the majority the teacher's default response to any breach of standards (academic, uniform, behaviour or civility) was to over punish as a deterrent to other likely offenders. Normally, but not always, the over punishment was reserved for those girls that displayed working class traits.
Another factor was that there were no boys present and so a victim's modesty could be compromised without the teacher fearing sanction. I remember early in my first term at the school our teacher saw a girl remove chewing gum from her mouth and stick it to the underside of her desk. She was hauled out to the front of the class and berated by the teacher for her foul practice. Another girl was despatched to return with two prefects and when they arrived the teacher announced that there would be a desk inspection undertaken by the prefects. Teacher said that all the desks had been cleaned over the holiday and any girl found with gum stuck to their desk would be slippered.
The prefects carefully examined each desk and at the end nine girls were at the front of the class. I remember the teachers words "it seems a shame to have only 9, lets make it 10, any volunteers? ..... Ok, Helen come up here you look like the kind that would do this". Helen fitted the troublesome working class stereotype and was undoubtedly chosen for that reason alone.
All lined up the first girl was ushered to bend over teacher's desk with her bottom facing the class, her knickers were pulled down to her ankles and she was given 12 hard swipes of the slipper. Those waiting in line were visibly anxious and some were sobbing. All ten received the same punishment and all were clearly affected by the experience. My cousin was one, she definitely didn't stick gum to her desk, it must have been put there by someone who thought there might be an inspection at some time. The punishment was wholly disproportionate to the offence but it was a timely warning to any girl who might contemplate any sort of inappropriate behaviour.
Similarly extreme punishments were metered out to groups of girls wearing tights (not actually prohibited but frowned upon), smoking, eating chips from the shops at lunchtime, rolling up their skirt's waistband and running in the corridors. My class was one of three in the year and an entire class of 40 or so girls was slippered for something obscene about their teacher being written on the blackboard. No-one admitted to it so the whole class was slippered.
The slippering of my classmates affected me, I had nightmares and became paranoid that I was being set up for a slippering by one or more of the other girls. My cousin was a wreck. She was shocked that she had been accused of chewing and disposing of gum and that within minutes her bottom was exposed and she had received an extremely painful physical punishment. At no time could she protest her innocence and afterwards there was no appeal.
It certainly affected the rest of her schooling during which she became timid, withdrawn and subsequently under-achieved. These traits resulted in more slipperings which led to more behavioural problems. She would agree that in adulthood she found it hard to maintain relationships, her marriage was always precarious and she had a difficult time with her children. I am not suggesting this was all caused by one slippering aged 12 but it certainly did not help.
Pete - well there was no corporal punishment when I was in school. I think my two ‘incidents’ of forgetting my kit and having to do PE in my underpants and vest at primary school in the mid 80s, and doing gymnastics topless when I brought the wrong top in high school, were not bad going really.
I suppose what sticks in my mind is the fact that after Reception class, I always had some variation of a top and shorts as my PE kit. The girls had this rather sudden change from shorts at primary school to skirts and knickers for the first three years of high school.
That was school policy at the time and nowadays things have changed for the better. I think anyone hoping things will go back to the "good old days" has to accept that won't happen. There are all sorts of rules and guidelines now about doing PE topless / in underwear as punishment, having 'gendered' PE kits like skirts, and other things.
Some of the practices described do seem to be designed to humiliate, especially making boys wear girls PE kit if they forgot their own!
Similarly, speaking to girls about which knickers they should be wearing within earshot of the boys in the class seems insensitive at best. As Adam says boys are starting to take an interest at that age! Thankfully I went to an all girls Secondary, but even in our final year at Primary some of my more developed classmates were starting to come to the attention of the boys in the class!
Overall I would say that although my teachers were strict, including use of the slipper on occasions (which of course is illegal now), I don't think they were abnormally so by the standards of the day.
I would agree. I can still remember my own embarrassment at being made to do PE in my vest and underpants when I forgot my kit once. The experience has stuck with me for over 30 years now, I was probably 6 or 7 years old at the time.
I suppose my experience at primary school always helped me to remember my PE kit. I cannot remember what my high school’s forgotten kit ‘policy’ was, I guess it would have meant finding something in a lost property box.
I completely agree. At secondary school the sanctions and corporal punishment took on a whole different meaning. I tried very hard to avoid getting into any trouble and until the end of my final year I had no detentions or slipperings. My best friend Susan and I were probably the only girls in our year with a completely clean record.
One day our form teacher told us to hurry up to the dining room for lunch, then as soon as we started to walk more quickly she told us to standstill. We did as instructed only to be told to go to the changing rooms and put on our PE kit. Our teacher returned and told us to stand at each end of the playground. It was pouring with rain and we stayed there for 4 hours until school closed. We were both completely soaked.
Things got worse. In the last week of term Susan was accused of muttering about the form teacher. She was told to come to the front of class and was berated by the teacher for being such a goody two shoes and told she deserved a good slippering. Susan was duly given six really heavy swipes of the slipper for no reason. I feared I would be next and didn't sleep properly until the end of term. It remains to this day a recurring nightmare.
Teachers in the 60s when I also was at school certainly exercised their power over pupils.
One thing that is not mentioned was their free use of corporal punishment in class at their whim and for every excuse, some teachers more than others.
At my primary school if you forgot your PE shorts you had to do it in your underpants. In Secondary you would get a slippering or something like Adam described.
All this, including checking girls for wearing proper school knickers, would be considered as abuse today, but as Adam or someone else described in his case parents usually went along with teachers who were greatly respected in those days.
It was the same in my case, whenever I told my parents that I just got corporally punished at school they would say that it means that I deserved it.
There was a totally different mentality in those days than there is today, although some may say that we have gone to the other extreme.
I think the answer to your question is humiliation. In my experience teachers in the 1960s humiliated boys as well as girls to retain control. At secondary school the inspections were subtle humiliation. The lasting mental distress that such actions inflicted on the pupils was not even considered. You and John refer to boys having to wear girl's PE kit if they forget to bring their own. That is humiliating. It is also a very effective deterrent.
Hi Mary - Not a problem, I am using one of my middle names on here anyway.
I don't remember the 'nit nurse' still being a thing by the 80s, but there were a few outbreaks at my primary school. We had to get a special shampoo from the chemist's, too.
When I was in high school a few girls were left slightly embarrassed after wearing their 'normal' white knickers under their gym skirts. The PE teachers couldn't really do much but remind them to wear black knickers. I thought it might have been better if they did that in the girls' changing rooms, and not mixed PE lessons though!
I'm not surprised the boys found out why the girls were being kept back for 'inspection' - at that age we do seem very aware of anything to do with their underwear!
On the point of uniform never being pristine, quite agree. It was all quite subtle, standards had to be maintained by us council estate kids and scruffy uniform was the thin end of the wedge for the middle class parents who had previously in the majority.
I never really questioned why we had to wear regulation green knickers as part of our uniform. In retrospect they were warm and comfortable largely because they were made of thick sturdy cotton with strong elastic. They were much higher waisted than most other knickers and so they were very "modest". Most important they were tough and could stand being worn all week. Being dark in colour the gusset did not show stains as badly as white knickers would. It was not only the council house kids that changed socks, knickers, vests and blouses once a week, most of the middle class kids did the same. Green (or navy) knickers saved our mothers work so they would not be arguing to increase their weekly laundry burden.
Mary, I understand now why uniform inspections were more commonplace at your school now. Thinking back there were a few pupils who's uniform was never pristine, particularly at primary school.
I never really understood why we had to wear the regulation knickers under our normal classroom uniform, unless it was to ensure that when we had PE we didn't have the excuse that we hadn't got our gym knickers.
I wonder why bare feet were compulsory for boys but not for girls! I used to find it exhilarating running cross country barefoot. And in the winter, when it was cold, we didn't hang round, lol. But I guess that was the intention.
So, at your school, on cross country, all the boys had to be barefoot, and the girls could have footwear if they wished? Did most girls wear pumps for cross country, or, like you, did they run barefoot?
Stewart, for the boys it was compulsory to be barefoot for all PE and sports afternoons. Choice for girls and as I say I always enjoyed doing sports on the grass barefoot and running cross country. My older brother was at the same school and he said that they did PE barefoot without the choice.
Adam and Andrea
I feel somewhat exposed as I forgot to use my pseudonym in my last reply. I will answer your questions together as they are linked.
We lived on a council estate that grew and grew over the years and the majority of the children at my primary school and secondary school came from the estate. Most families were poor and it was the 1960s and there were not the "Benefits" there are today. We went hungry if my father could not work. A bath on Sunday night and fresh clothes on Monday for the week.
My sisters and I were well behaved but teenage mothers and STDs were common place. I didn't realise it at the time but it was clear that the school kept more of an eye on us than they would in the more affluent areas. We probably had more inspections than at other schools so that they could stamp out problems quickly. When a nit epidemic broke out we all had to wash our hair daily in the school showers with a foul smelling blue shampoo. Similarly when a number of girls at secondary modern school started wearing little white cotton briefs from the market they were threatened with the slipper and given old school knickers to wear.
Adam, at primary school the boys were not told but knew why the girls had to stay behind.
Jane...interesting that boys did all outdoor PE barefoot, including rugby, at your school. Was that their choice, or was it compulsory? I ask, because you say girls had the choice of wearing pumps for outdoor work.
Hi Mary - thanks for the reply.
That sort of reaction from your grandchildren to the PE knickers does not surprise me. A younger relative of mine left high school a couple of years ago. As far as I know, she has always worn t-shirts and shorts or skorts for her PE kit.
I expected that 'knicker inspections' would involve something like the boys being removed from the room while the girls just lifted their skirts up, so thank you for confirming that. Did the boys know why the girls were being kept back? The practice seemed to have died out by the time I was in primary school in the 1980s, so it's always rather intrigued me in a way.
The full uniform check certainly sounds like it would have taken a while! I can't remember anyone ever being told about their uniform or PE kit being dirty or worn out at my high school. The girls' PE kit included the dreaded 'gym skirt and knickers', which seemed fairly standard for the 1990s. I can remember the girls being told to wear black knickers in a mixed PE lesson in Year 7 (first year), and that was about it!
I don't think we had any 'health' checks beyond annual eye tests and a dentist coming in to look at our teeth in both primary and high schools, and even then they were quite basic compared to what you'd get at an optician or dentist.
Hi Andrea - that doesn't surprise me really. I would guess that by then very few parents were picking the 'skirt and knickers' option. About 4 or 5 of the girls in my year group were still wearing them when I finished high school, and that was in 1996.
How often were those inspections done at secondary school?
The only time I can remember anything like that was when we had school medicals, one in the first year and one in about the 5th year.
Our PE teachers saw us stripped off for showers after lessons, so would occasionally advise girls about personal hygiene or the need to wear a bra.
Adam, I showed my grandchildren (boy 10 and girl 12) the picture of the girls and they thought the knickers were "ugly" and that it was weird to wear nothing over them. My granddaughter attends a comprehensive school and has a leotard for gym and a skort for outdoors with different trainers for indoors and outdoors.
Knicker inspections varied. Our primary school was co-ed and knicker inspections took place after the daily assembly. They were completely random and unannounced and happened 3 or 4 times a term. The first we were aware was that the boys were told to file out to lessons and the girls were to remain seated on the floor. We then had to line up in our classes and then the youngest class went first. When instructed we had to line up in front of the exit and then each leave slowly one at a time. As we approached the two teachers stationed at the door way we had to lift up our skirts and pause until told to put our skirt down and proceed to our class.
Anyone without the correct green knickers were told to wait in the girl's changing room. Routinely, girls wearing the correct knickers were sent to the changing room anyway for a full uniform inspection. I wore what I now think might have been "Montforts" for about 2 years. They were probably 3rd or 4th hand and very faded. At the time all I knew was that they were the comfiest knickers I had ever worn. Compared to a new pair of knickers from the local Co-op they looked barely green hence I was on many occasions told wait in the changing room. Our uniform was given the once over along with our PE kit. If it did not comply, was particularly dirty, worn or damaged a note was taken and a letter sent home to our mothers.
At secondary school it was only girls and inspections took place in the classroom. This was always a full inspection of uniform and PE kit followed by a health check. We had to strip down to our knickers and vest or bra and place our uniform on our desks in a specific order, skirt at the bottom, blouse, tie, jumper, socks and shoes, then our PE kit. We stood by our desks and the teacher went through the uniform looking at correctness, cleanliness and condition.
Then followed the health check, first your hair would be checked for lice and nits. You then would be asked to put your hands on your head so that the teacher could assess your personal hygiene, then drop your knickers for the all important "gusset inspection" and lastly the soles of both your feet. Some girl's parents received letters about a lack of hygiene or cleanliness but thankfully not me.
I don't know what my sisters had to do at their schools but I imagine it would be similar.