Burnley Grammar School

Childhood > Schools


Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 1,470,447
Item #: 1607
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

Comment by: Aaron on 24th November 2011 at 11:30

I am 18 and I think I have been really lucky cos I have experienced both compulsory shirts and compulsory strip to waist in my school time. looking at comments for 50s,60s,70s,and 80s most were shirtless PE. Most boys my age and younger have not done shirtless but I do know some who have had to be shirtless forced on them like myself.This is because of bullying over plain shirts,and competing and stealing replica shirts and other discipline troubles. they wont bring it in on big scale cos of fairness and equality society which is pc. I have to be honest and say as a Lad who has had to do both shirts and shirtless, I definitely prefer bare chest PE/games. you are cold at first but because of that you have to get stuck in which didn't happen with alot with shirts on. The more you put into sport and PE the more you get out of it, no bullying over cheap or expensive shirts I found. The problem we have with equality is people interpret it wrong they think to treat people fairly means exactly the same things for boy or girl, I think equality means whats right for boys or girls even if it is different. I read other week about a boy 14 whose parents were angry at their son PE Kit being changed to no tops but their argument focused on girls should do PE in bras and girls might see their boy shirtless. but there is no need for that girls are probably Ok in their lessons and do well and behave well in their present kit. What they should be looking at is it better for their boy? yes,not so much bullying over replica or cheap shirts not getting into trouble for forgetting kit and a better lesson for their son, and I guess some mothers of girls at that school will be against boys shirtless cos they think boys are getting special treatment. See what I mean! eqality should be about fair treatment for a person is asking a boy to wear a pair of shorts and no shirt unfair treatment? is asking a girl to wear full kit unfair treatment? No to both. Bullying is unfair to a boy or a girl
though. But you see the full kit for girl and minimal kit for boy helps to prevent bullying both very DIFFERENT types of kit for DIFFERENT people. Also the thing about girls seeing their boy without shirt is amazing the young people near me go round together boys and girls, the boys in summer always shirtless in front of girls. You would think PE kit wouldn't bother them. Just one more thing I noted from comments pre 80s boys called by surnames by teachers.we were always called by first names both boys and girls, but in last 2 years some boys in our year asked the head if boys in our year could have a vote on being called by surnames in class, registration etc. This was cos they were lots of boys with same first names in my year. some got blamed for things wrongly they were 5 Daniels and 3 with my name. The vote was 75% for 25% against.Girls were called by first names and all other boys in school by first names but our year boys then got called by surnames from then on but it was democratic and right for us and it was right for the other boys and girls to be called by first names. See what I mean about difference can still be equal.Our year group boys didn't feel unfairly treat. When people called me by surname I knew they meant me. As there were a few in my PARTICULAR year group with same name.

Comment by: John Lavender on 23rd November 2011 at 17:35

@ London

Yes, agreed.

PE: Single sex lessons, same-sex Teacher.
Minimal kit, with emphasis on fitness, co-ordination,
discipline and ability to play in teams or as an alternative, encouragement to try-out individualist sports such as Triathlon or Cycling.

Comment by: london on 22nd November 2011 at 13:32

I was at secondary school ( all Boys )in the 60's & there was the no shirts & pants rule for pe & games

Reading the last set of comments I think it better to stop football shirts being worn to stop the one upmanship & to protect those who cannot afford the latest style. Would it be better to run pe as a single sex lesson & so return to plain short shorts not long ones like the latest football fashion & possibly ditch the boxers for briefs or slips

Comment by: Aaron on 22nd November 2011 at 00:14

I am boy 18. At primary school we had mixed PE lessons with woman teacher. Boys wore any colour shorts (not white!)strip to waist and bare feet. girls slapped us on chests but we just let them. girls didn't have showers and went straight to class after, boys had to get showers cos we stink more!the woman teacher supervised us but we didn't bother cos that was rule from beginning at that school. At upper school we had PE indoor and games outdoor lessons. We had football shirts shorts or socks of pro clubs like chelsea and man u,Leeds etc, some had basic plain kit including socks,this went on for a while but in my last 2years at the school the head was angry at expensive kits being stolen and boys in plain kits got picked on so he ordered bare chest for all boys. I didn,t mind cos I did it when younger some had never done it before and they were fourteen. Girls watched but It is better as boys don't have fallouts over footie teams etc. not much kit to remember boys forget stuff more than girls anyway. Most boys get used to it after a while.Should make boys bare chest in more schools my parents said cos thats how they remember it thats why mum never bought me PJs like sisters she said you don't get bedclothes cos you are a boy you sleep in just your underpants.

Comment by: John Lavender on 17th November 2011 at 20:55

To help people avoid having to scroll right through the thread on this very evocative photo, I have c&p'd my post from May 2011 , below, surrounded by >> and << . Anyone with any experiences of Killerball in Their School? Would be interested to hear - just email me.


**Comments by Rob, 31st July 2010
Not at all, David! As a special "treat" in the last PE lesson of each term we played a game called Killerball whereby the two teams (consisting of the boys from each of the two classes which were put together to do PE) had to score goals at the opposite end of the gym. Any tactics were allowed to get the ball in the goal - there were no rules at all! My class usually lost so rather than just use brute force and strength we hatched a plan at the end of one term whereby everyone but the biggest, strongest boy in my class was secretly paired up with a boy in the other class except their smallest, wimpiest kid. When the whistle sounded, we all went for our targets and just started fighting with them, meaning our strongest member was free to grab the ball, and only having to deal with their weakest team member, just keep scoring! It sort of worked, but backfired on us in a way because we were never allowed to play it again - I guess the teacher thought our tactics, original, inventive and intelligent though they were (in our opinion!), were just too violent to be allowed in school for a bunch of 13 year old boys even at that non-PC time!

I suspect the specifics of these sort of games and their names varied by region or part of the country - I lived in London - were there similar games in other areas?**

>>Yes they were. We played a similar game in gym class @ our Grammar school (in Gateshead upon Tyne) when I was a pupil there, 1963 - 1968.
Our Gym teacher was a serving Sargeant in Durham (as then was) Police in Gateshead.
Our variation was played between teams of Skins and Vests.
(Technically we had plimmies, white shorts and white tees as PE Kit but when we played games we divided into 'Skins' and 'Vests' - there were just two 'houses' in the school.
Most guys wanted to play in 'Skins' and indeed we tried several times to get him to change our kit to just Plimsoles and Shorts, coloured to differentiate, but to no avail.
The rules/no rules for your game were very similar to ours; sometimes our teacher would join in as well.
The goals were a mat laid at each end of the gym, and sometimes the matches would last a half-hour to 40 minutes. We played this most weeks in PE lessons.
Also, the last four guys to enter the gym for each lesson used to be told to "Run the Gauntlet" as punishment for being slow; they would be made to strip off to the waist, and then made to run down an avenue of the rest of the c
lass in two columns, who had to slap them on the back as they passed them. Some of us deliberately changed slowly to enable us to do gym without a top and get a 'gauntleting' as a way of warming up for the lesson and the 'Killerball' game!>>

Comment by: Ken from the country on 17th November 2011 at 18:44

perhaps we should return to opportunities for single sex activities camps etc so boys can be less inhibited & as prev writers have said indulge in n.e. & even activities without the restriction of clothing. Who remembers swimming naked in rivers with no thought for elf & safety which today has ruined the "Spirit of adventure" Them boys may not be so inhibited & have more confidence & not worry about exposure

Comment by: Colin on 17th November 2011 at 00:05

I was at secondary school in the 1960's, and the picture is very reminiscent. We were allowed, no, expected, to wear a white singlet, and very short shorts, with no underwear. To this day, i do not know why underpants were not allowed, as both my sons and grandsons have worn briefs under their PE shorts. I wore trunks (old fashioned name for boxers) under my shorts,and got away with it for a few weeks, before the elastic weakened, and they showed below my shorts. I got the cane for disobeying the no underwear rule!

Comment by: John Lavender on 16th November 2011 at 18:10

Dave (post on 15.11.2011)

See my reply below to Ron who posted earlier on this year on 16.06.11 .

We had t-shirts, shorts and plimmies as Gym Kit; no rule on underwear, but most of us would have just LOVED to go shirtless in Gym and we took any opportunity so to do. We were at Grammar School 1963-68. Our PE Teacher was a Police officer who encouraged us to go shirtless if we wanted to and the only time we HAD to wear a vest was if we played Killerball and we were "Vests" team; only two houses in our school. One had mid-green as a colour and the other sunshine-yellow. I would loved have worn Coloured shorts as an identifier but we only had white.
see my earlier post (02.05.11) about our Killerball games, much missed.


"@Ron. Yes I think there is a general adversity amongst boys, particularly those who have hit puberty, to Nipple Exposure (hereinafter referred to as 'NE'. This seems to go back about 20 years; before then it is generally accepted that youngsters were less embarrased about body exposure, certainly in Schools PE/Gym sessions.

The same is also true of other scenarios like the Scouts. In the pre-1980's era, in fact going back pre-WWII, going barechested (and indeed in a lot of camp scenarios, completely naked) was perfectly acceptable, because it was a 100% male environment, there was no PC to speak of, and in fact a lot of kids were eager to go to camp, not only because it was a release from the by-and-large dreadful inner city conditions, but it was bonding opportunity, you could indulge in NE or even nudity and no one bothered.

Some kids just could not wait to go for that reason and also the staff (Scout-Masters and Patrol-Leaders) were supportive; the SM in our village at the time I was at junior school, was also involved in the School itself and was a Naturist , and indeed most of the time at camp I understand he was naked or wore shorts at most. This was considered manly and anyone allegedly wearing more than shorts was generally considered to be "soft".

The parents were generally fine about this, and it is only recently when (ironically) the children of the 50s and 60s baby-boomers have started to go to senior school or scouts that this aversion to NE has manifested itself.

Gender equality has also played its part; if Scouts were male-only then I think we would probably have similar attitudes to NE as in the years before the 1980s.

I personally now wish I had joined-in the fun, a good friend of mine at the time tried to temp me to try it; I wish I had."

Comment by: Colin on 16th November 2011 at 00:51

I was at secondary school in the 1960's, and the picture is very reminiscent. We were allowed, no, expected, to wear a white singlet, and very short shorts, with no underwear. To this day, i do not know why underpants were not allowed, as both my sons and grandsons have worn briefs under their PE shorts. I wore trunks (old fashioned name for boxers) under my shorts,and got away with it for a few weeks, before the elastic weakened, and they showed below my shorts. I got the cane for disobeying the no underwear rule!

Comment by: Dave on 15th November 2011 at 21:25

Most of your posts prove that boys doesn't really mind having to be shirtless for P.E. So I can't see why most schools stopped that rule. It is much more logical and healthier being barechested for P.E. I can't see the real purpose of shirts.
Why do boys wear T-shirts in many schools for PE nowadays? Why most schools have stopped shirtless PE lessons? Any ideas?

Comment by: Graham on 15th November 2011 at 12:27

Like many people who’ve posted I went to school in the 1970’s.

We had very tightly defined uniform requirements, and this also covered PE and games kit. As was pretty common then, we wore only shorts inside, and did cross country in just shorts and plimsolls, so no shirt no matter how cold it was.

I think most boys enjoyed PE and games sessions, much more than most other lessons. I wasn’t embarrassed in any way about being stripped to the waist, and I doubt anyone else was. It was just what you did, and also we had to shower naked after any sports lesson, so you rapidly got used to seeing one another with no clothes on.

Yes the gym was often cold, and the showers were nearly always freezing, but so what. The school cross country course included some local street, and it was a common sight to see boys running with no tops on, so you knew what was going to happen before you first started at the school.

To school on a winters day, generally you wore a vest, shirt, pullover, blazer and coat, so it did seem strange to be forced to take off everything and run outside with a bare chest/back. But again, you didn’t have any say in it, and everyone had to do the same, anyway wearing a thin vest would have been little benefit anyway.

Comment by: Oldschoolboy on 15th November 2011 at 09:12

I was at school in the late sixties/ early seventies and have a vivid memory of a rugby session at the start of term. The master was a barrel chested welshman who began proceedings by having us stand in a circle round him and go through the warm-up routine, this ended with us all on our backs, feet towards the centre doing various excercises one of which was both feet up, legs straight(good for the abdominal muscles) at which point anything worn under our very short shorts was clearly on display. After this he announced that he "couldn`t help noticing" that some of us were wearing unsuitable underwear or worse, none at all and the correct item was a jockstrap and woe betide any one not having one next session.I can`t remember what the punishment was to be but I don`t recall any one not complying.

Comment by: Phlip on 9th November 2011 at 17:35

This is an excellent pic which reminds me of my schooldays. I went to boarding school at the age of seven in 1967 and stayed through prep, junior and senior houses until I was 18.

Sports kit was consistent throughout my time, for gym work we had a pair of white shorts, for outdoor PT, running etc. we added a pair of plimsols, for rugby we had a shirt, shorts, socks and boots, underpants were not allowed at any age and checks were made. Wearing underpants resulted in a slippering on the first occasion and the cane on any subsequent occasions. Swimming was always naked.

The sports pavillion was set away from the school buildings and the rule was no sports kit on the school side so we always got changed in there. There were changing bays for about twenty so space for about two hundred boys to change in ten teams and one huge communal shower so no room for anyone to be shy. There was never hot water in the pavillion so showers were always freezing.

The various teachers were strict and unbending, standards were high and nonsense was not tolerated and dealt with swiftly. That said, the sports staff in particular were generally good fun and always went the extra mile to encourage you and get you performing.

For academic work we had monthly tests and there was something called the average marks rule. If your marks in any test fell below your previous average the result was the cane unless your average was over 90%. It certainly was an incentive to keep performance up but of course the harder you worked the higher your marks got and the more you risked a caning. I got quite a few but in the end left with some very good results. Imagine that being applied these days.

Comment by: James on 5th November 2011 at 11:29

When I was at school we wore satin shorts with side slits.They were very revealing and had a shimmering affect.

Comment by: old bristolian on 3rd November 2011 at 14:06

in our day there was nom inhibition in doing pe commando there couldn't be whaat with thim white nylon shorts ( very short) doing excercises in pairs especially handstands you saw everything & showered together afterwards. are boys more effiminate now & no longer men & embat=rrassed to be naked in showers together?

Comment by: To London Lad on 2nd November 2011 at 10:02

London Lad, I'm 13, and yes, modern schools have it A LOT better!

Comment by: london lad on 1st November 2011 at 19:23

he modern schools do boys now wear underwear for pe?

Comment by: Matthew on 30th October 2011 at 17:33

How sad that people had such awful experiences as those described in the recent posts but it seems to have happened outside of P.E. lessons. Thankfully,I think most of us have happier memories and enjoyed our P.E., as those in the photograph seem to be doing.

Comment by: Mal on 29th October 2011 at 16:19

As I've stated before,I experienced morning cold showers and daily cross country runs whilst stripped to the waist.
Like 'Jon' I went to an all-boys boarding school where the PE staff insisted PE was done barechested both indoors and outside regardless of the weather.
As caning had recently stopped at the school we got seriously gruelling 'punishment hours' in the evening. The PE master was an old sadist, of that I'm now convinced. Any boy would rather have accepted a good caning than get 2 hours
one evening, never mind an ongoing nightly affair as in 'Jons' case. We had ours in the gym bare barefoot, no vest allowed.
Guys behaved to avoid these. There was a huge climate of fear during my time because of this one man.
I once had a two hour session and I was the only one being 'punished'. Although the cane, strap and slipper had been stopped while it was still legal and going on throughout most private public schools in the UK, the school had 'volunteered' to give up whacking and replaced it with something much worse.
That sadist still used the neck strap of his whistle to whip the legs and torso with at will. If one was taking too long to change after games he'd lash you with this cord. It stung like blazes and left a nasty raised stripe.
Can you imagine two whole hours with this nutcase whipping you if he decided you were not sweating enough or doing squats quick enough. Two hours with one drink of water half way. I do not recall anyone having two in a row but do remember the nurse excused lads off lessons the day following one and they'd stay in bed all day. Brutal.

Comment by: Simon on 17th October 2011 at 12:37

I went to an all male boarding school in Scotland in the mid 1970's. It was a strict regime and quite hard, especially for the new boys.
Every morning we would do a 2 mile run wearing white pe shorts and plimsolls. When it wasn't frozen, we also had to, immediatly after the run, do 4 lengths of the outdoor pool which was so so cold in the winter. We took off our shorts and plimsolls, did the swinm and then dashed back to our House to try and get warm. The thing I remember was that in the cold days of winter, our housemaster and his wife, who were all wrapped up, used to check religiously that every boy had done the run/swim and finished it off with a cold shower. There was no hot water in my House although some of the other Houses had hot water. My House was always very popular though, for some reason. These were harsh times but really only in the winter. In the summer, we all enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.

Comment by: Matthew on 15th October 2011 at 22:06

For a video version similar to this photo see the P.E. scene in the excellent "P'Tang Yang Kipperbang", set in a 1950's grammar school. It is followed by a Head's caning as mentioned by Stephen with an hilarious voice over by the cricket commentator John Arlott. The film, a touching and at the same time funny rite of passage story, is available on DVD.

Comment by: Stephen on 13th October 2011 at 06:26

yes that could be the school I went to in the 1960s White shorts and plimsols a Boy found in underpants did it bare for a few times. Showers were compulsory the only tiem a jock strap was allowed was when you played rugby against another school It ws common to see things hanging out of shorts when you were in the 4th 5th and 6th forms. In the winter cross country runs were shorts only to come rain , hail or snow. A boy who played up went to the hea dand came back with a hot bottom.

Comment by: Elliot on 13th October 2011 at 00:59

My school's PE kit is a bright yellow t-shirt with black shorts, together with the standard school socks and shoes. We also had a white vest used during different occasions. After the first PE lesson, our teacher told us to come in the vest instead. We were slightly uncomfortable at first as we could feel the breeze on our shoulders and even across our chests as our loosely fitted vests created air spaces between the vest and our 13-year old bodies. It made us feel more vulnerable. During competitive sports, one team had to be stripped to the waist to differentiate the teams, and nobody liked to be in the stripped team. Boys who did not bring their PE kit would have to borrow another boy's shorts and change out his uniform, leaving him shirtless. As mentioned by someone else, this was perhaps a show of power by the teacher, and to force the boy into a compliant and submissive state, knowing that he was being punished. 

Comment by: JohnT on 12th October 2011 at 19:18

Ahh, school PE lessons ... I went to school a little later than many others her (mid 1970s - mid 1980s) but I think I just caught the 'tail end' of the old regime, as my state schools (in the 'grim north') were rather old-fashioned with many staff (including the venerable PE teacher) having been there decades and very stuck in their (traditional) ways.

There was no uniform at my old Infant school (it was a poor school in a poor area) and this was reflected in the PE kit - boys simply did indoor work (there were no outdoor facilities) stripped down to underpants and in bare feet. Unthinkable today, but very common back there and then. I vaguely recollect being allowed to keep my white vest occasionally, but really, we never questioned or thought about it - we simply did as we were told!

Moving up to Juniors we got our first taste of 'proper' PE involving apparatus work like in the photo. Again, the school didn't have a uniform, but we were expected to bring and wear 'suitable' shorts (i.e. proper gym shorts not casual wear). We were allowed to wear black plimsolls indoors and a vest, and a few boys did, but I never bothered, largely spurred by a 'PE mad' friend of mine who always insisted on doing everything bare chested and in bare feet (he used to keep telling me how better it was).

Moving up to Seniors, and I finally got my first taste of having to wear a proper school uniform. The school also had a set PE kit for both indoor and outdoor sports. Outdoors was generally a rugby kit in school colours, although for athletics and cross-country our indoor kit was worn.

Indoors, the kit was ostensibly 'shorts only' and we were permitted to wear the same shorts as our outdoor kit (plain black). However, the rules did permit the wearing of a plain white vest and clean plimsolls or trainers for indoor work, but this was generally frowned upon by the teacher. However it didn't stop some boys from wearing the whole lot (which I always thought wa stupid). Some boys never wore anything for indoor work except their shorts (i.e. bare chest and bare feet) so classes ended up with boys in a mixture of kit. Although I was a rather scrawny boy who was rubbish at PE I always took the class very seriously and did my best, and this (along with my insistence on being bare chest and bare feet) always seemed to impress the PE teacher who was very supportive. Whereas those who wore vests and trainers and generally didn't put any effort in, were the ones who ended up having to do laps of the field in the freezing cold and pouring rain after school!

I miss those old lessons. Like others here I agree that contemporary school PE lessons are ridiculously 'soft' and lax. Yes, back then the gym was always freezing cold, and the lessons (especially circuit training) was relentless ... But at same time there was a certain 'macho' atmosphere with boys wanting to show off and prove that they were 'men' and could perform the various activities as well as the teacher (who, for an old man, was amazingly adept and fit).

But it's all gone now, along with those freezing cold dusty old gyms with their deadly wooden wall bars and medicine balls. Now we have school teaching soft non-contact sports and aerobics ... Shudder ...

Comment by: Jon on 7th October 2011 at 22:22

Our all-boys boarding school wasn't in Scotland but the PE staff insisted PE was done barechested both indoors or outside regardless of the weather or time of year. If you were seen to misbehave or not apply the required effort you were punished with a 2hr remedial session under the lights on the school yard from 7-9pm, obviously stripped to the waist and the term of your punishment could range from one night upwards to 2 weeks, determined by the PE staff. Now I can tell you this was a nightmare during the winter months!

Comment by: Mal on 1st October 2011 at 18:53

I experienced morning cold showers and daily cross country runs whilst stripped to the waist. Sheer hell in winter. However I've read of even harsher regimes in Scottish boarding schools where boys had to submerge themselves in a cold bath first thing every morning. Has anyone experienced such a thing?

Comment by: norfolk on 28th September 2011 at 18:34

yes I remember Buckmore Prk. Is there still a Scout Campsite there?

Comment by: John Cunningham on 20th September 2011 at 23:20

I attended an all-boys Kent grammar school in the late sixties/early seventies. As I recall, our PE kit was white shorts and shirts, with dark blue shorts and red and black hooped shirts for games. Having an open air pool, at least when I started, we always had to wear trunks for swimming. i was never much good at sports, but I cannot remember our PE or games teachers being anything like the hard disciplinarians mentioned here, but they still kept order and had a great deal of respect from us.
Mention of swimming in the nude reminds me of Buckmore Park at the time, a scout campsite, where at that time there were certainly some all-male nude bathing sessions!
It would be considered highly improper now, but little was said at the time, though we scouts were quite rude about the individual who insisted on it!!

Comment by: Peter Crossley on 10th September 2011 at 11:08

Yes, I remember Mr. Parry being my PE teacher back in 1962. The gym equipment is very familiar. Google Sam Hanna, the woodwork teacher. A keen photographer and I believe the first person to film Man U in colour back in 1957! Now beat that.

Comment by: Phil on 6th September 2011 at 22:20

I did p. e. in just a pair of shorts when I was at school over 40 years ago. We were all the same, no shirt, footwear or underwear, so there was no need for embarrasment. We enjoyed being able to get out of our uniforms and the cold didn't bother us in the winter, even cross-country running was done in just shorts. I think boys were tougher then and didn't have silly hang-ups about their bodies.