Burnley Grammar School

Childhood > Schools


Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 1,455,575
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: Stuart on 27th August 2009 at 11:13

I went to a all boys grammar school in the mid 1970’s, all we were allowed to wear for indoor PE was white shorts, nothing else. Although our official kit included a vest and plimsolls, at the first lesson the teacher made it very clear that he expected everyone to have bare feet and strip to the waist. We just accepted this, having no choice in the matter anyway.

We had one two PE lessons each week, plus a sports afternoon. One PE lesson was always indoors, with the other involving a 5 mile run, so we did cross country every week, irrespective of the season or weather.

The supplied kit list specified white PE shorts, running vest or rugby shirt plus plimsolls & socks as appropriate kit, and we all duly turned up at the first lesson, and changed into this kit. A couple of boys didn’t wear socks, and more importantly didn’t wear a shirt or vest. We soon found out why, they had older brothers at the school, and knew what was going to happen. ! Lined up outside we were all made to take our socks off (which I didn’t mind), and then told to strip to the waist (which I did, it was freezing). One boy complained it was cold, and rapidly earned a cold shower for his efforts, never had 30 boys pulled their shirts off so quickly. From then on we always ran shirtless, with a couple of boys always running in bare feet as well, yes it was cold, but everyone had to strip, so you just did it.

Comment by: Paul on 27th August 2009 at 08:50

At grammar school in the 1970s we did pe in white shorts - no tops, no pumps or socks. It could be quite cold in winter. I remember a couple of times the teacher telling us to wear our school jerseys into the gym to warm up (I remember the prickliness), but then we were told to hang them on the wallbars and carry on the lesson barechested. If you forgot your kit (which thankfully I never did) you had to do pe in you underpants! If you forgot your towel you had to try and share someone else's or "drip dry" as the teacher put it. Not being so keen on semi-naked piggy backs and wheelbarrows, climbing ropes and wallbars, vaults and trampettes (though they were quite good), or "circuit training", I was glad when I went into the 6th form and no longer had to do it.

Comment by: Stuart on 22nd August 2009 at 17:05

I went to comprehensive in the early 1970's. Our kit was blue shorts and trainers for gym. No shirts, socks or underwear. For outside sport and cross country rugby shirts and socks were worn but no underwear. We also had a sports hall called a games barn. It was very cold in winter but we had to play five a side football shirts vs skins. The PE teacher always picked which team would be skins. The class was divided into four teams. Two would play while the other two watched and between each round the skins team would quickly put their shirts back on in the hope that in the next game they would be shirts. We had coloured bibs but these were only used by the girls. Every PE class was followed by a shower.

Comment by: Joseph on 21st August 2009 at 15:38

When I was at primary school, I remember being impressed by the lads from the nearby secondary school who had to run cross country stripped to the waist in all wheathers. I thought they looked tough and was looking forward to doing the same kind of exercise. This was in Kingston upon Hull in a built up area. Too bad for me that I went to another secondary school.

Comment by: Ned on 20th August 2009 at 10:30

Were compulsory shirtless cross country runs common?Did boys have to run through streets either only in shorts?I think they did because there are schools which are far from the countryside.

Comment by: Mark on 18th August 2009 at 14:25

Funny when you come to think of it. I clearly remember a winter cross country run in Hertfordshire with a teacher all dressed up and twenty-so shirtless boys shivering their ass off.

Comment by: Craig on 13th August 2009 at 10:25

This brings back happy memories. I was at school in Scotland in the 70s and our gym kit was shorts and gym shoes only. We were not allowed tops or socks indoors. For anyone who forgot (or didn't have) gymshoes it was barefeet. And some boys chose to do gym barefoot.
Outdoors we wore rugby top, shorts, trainers and rugby socks. Occasionally, depending on the teacher's mood, we would go outdoors without tops, and sometimes wearing shorts and shoes only. I remember once wearing shorts and school shoes (black leather) for field activities as I had forgotton my trainers. I was lucky not to get the belt as some boys did for forgetting kit. I don't recall anyone being barefoot outside but it might have happened.
If we had been outside for part of the lesson and were finishing off inside (sometimes we had a double period) we all had to go in barefeet - shorts only - as the rule was no outdoor shoes in the gym.
I remember feeling awkward initially about wearing so little in the gym, even embarrassed, but we were all the same and soon didn't even think about it. It was the norm for everyone, and I even came to enjoy it
I was quite shy about my body and I think my PE experience helped me to come out of my shell.
I think we've gone too namby pamby these days. Boys don't know what they are missing.

Comment by: HOWARD on 16th July 2009 at 19:09

I went to a comprehensive in Cheshire in the 1980s where a lot of kids were from poor backgrounds. P.E. had to be done barefoot and all ball games were played shirts v skins. Like most of the lads I preferred to be in skins. You would be in trouble if you forgot your whole kit but if you just bothered to take your 'kecks' it was ok.

Comment by: Pete C on 21st June 2009 at 14:08

This is similar to my experience at a boys school in Lancashire - though we were barefoot. I recall doing pe outside too, only in shorts, playing football on the school playing field. In theory you were allowed to wear plimsolls, but boys often didn't bring them since you weren't allowed to wear them in the gym.

Comment by: Ned on 6th June 2009 at 21:19

According to the links shirtless PE is still a practice in some schools:




Comment by: Michael on 6th June 2009 at 17:39

When I was at secondary school in the 1960s boys had to do P.E. in just black gym shorts and plimsolls with no top. Boys were not allowed to wear anything under their shorts. I believe that this minimal P.E. kit was common practice in British schools from about the 1940s until the 1980s. I don't know if such requirements have existed at any schools in more recent times.

Comment by: willy on 27th May 2009 at 12:28

This is so like my own school in NE England at the same time: I left in 1960. Gym kit was white shorts, only. No tops, socks, shoes. No underwear was allowed until in the games master's judgement puberty had advanced sufficiently to need support, when briefs or a jockstrap were permitted, provided they were specially for gym/games and not one's ordinary underclothes. Infringement of this rule led to attention with the "slipper" - a large black gymshoe which stung badly. (As we always had a shower together after the PE session, it was easy enough for the master to check our physical development.)

Comment by: Wayne on 21st May 2009 at 00:50

Interesting to read Howie’s comment that their teacher was shirtless as well as the boys. Personally I always regarded being shirtless in PE as a discipline thing, because if you had a PE detention at my school you had to get changed into your usual kit but with no top. Basically the dynamic was this: the teacher was the one who wore a shirt and gave the orders, we lads had to shiver in our shorts and do as we were told.
In the same way, Shirts and Skins – which continued to be common practice until we were 16 - was something I associated with a punishment. We'd be split into four teams - two in different coloured bibs, a third team in white PE vests and the fourth taking their vests off. So if you were picked as a Skin, there’d be only four or five other boys with bare chests while most of the class kept their tops on and you felt you were being made to stand out from the crowd. Of course, the teams were picked completely at random, yet every time I stood in line in the gym, saw the teacher point in my direction and say the word ‘Skin’, it seemed to me as if I was being punished for no reason.
On the other hand, swimming lessons never seemed like that because, of course, every single boy in the class was shirtless. So I don’t think it’s a bad idea for boys to do PE shirtless, just as long as it’s the same for everyone and no-one feels singled out.

Comment by: Ben on 14th May 2009 at 16:53


Is this still a practice there?What is the name of the school?

Comment by: Howie on 14th May 2009 at 04:42

This photo brings memories of grammar school I attended in the United States. Our PE uniform was blue shorts, no shirt
and no shoes. The teacher was also shirtless,maybe as an example.The idea being that shirtless was part of a boy's life.

Comment by: Peter on 29th April 2009 at 06:40

Yes, an excellent picture.I also grew up with gym simlar to the picture.We all wore white shorts for what was then known as P.T and we were not permitted to wear any underpants under our shorts.P.T. was followed by a shower or nude swim in the schools pool.I think that as kids we were much healthier with the no underwear rule which was followed for all sports both at school and at home.Incidentally I grew in Cape Town.

Comment by: Ben on 26th April 2009 at 17:20

Hi Aidan!Is it still a practice there?

There is a video on youtube of a Pe lesson.It is a teacher training video.It seems not too old.
Boys wear white shorts only and girls wear leotards.
It seems it is still a practice in some schools:


Comment by: aidan on 24th April 2009 at 22:56

I went to St Cuthberts, an all boys school back in the 1980s, shirts were a strict nono in the gym and it was compulsory for lads to go topless, only a pair of white shorts was allowed. basketball was normally played shirts vv skins. think back it was quite liberating and enabled you to become body conscious , not a bad thing though think it must have been quite difficult for the fat guys

Comment by: Gabriel on 12th April 2009 at 21:49

Which grammar school was it?Name?

Comment by: d. bromley on 7th April 2009 at 12:06

I went to a Comphrensive school in the early 1990s and we were reguired to be shirtless for indoor pe. I loved it -it gave a realy sense of freedom.I think its a shame schools dont seemed to have continued with the practice.

Comment by: Jon on 7th March 2009 at 15:31

Hi Nick! Which school was it? Thanks for your answering!

Comment by: Nick on 19th February 2009 at 00:14

I went to an all-boys school in southern England during the 1980s where the official PE kit was white vests, white shorts, socks and trainers. I remember getting changed for the first lesson in the gym, only to discover that whatever the uniform list might have said, our PE teacher’s view was rather different and we were ordered to take our vests off. From then on it was ‘skins’ and no exceptions, in the gym at least.
We still had to bring our vests for outdoor lessons like cross country, but even then we sometimes had to run in teams, which meant half the class in vests and the other half bare-chested, even in the rain. There wasn’t any point in complaining and most of us wouldn’t have dared to in any case. A lot of teenage boys can be quite cocky, but I think having to go shirtless so often possibly helped to make us better disciplined that we might have been otherwise.

Comment by: K on 30th December 2008 at 22:30

I've heard there are still some schools in the U.K. which require shirtlessness for PE.Which are these?

Comment by: Alan on 20th December 2008 at 10:53

I attended a northern grammar school in the 1970s and our pe kit consisted of shorts and plimsolls only.

Comment by: John on 27th November 2008 at 20:07

Yes, takes me back. At my school we did all indoor PE shirtless and in bare feet. Only a pair of black shorts was allowed to be worn. Outdoors in winter was in rubgy kit; in summer and for cross-country we were allowed to wear a white vest (singlet) and plimsolls, but nothing more. For summer athletics and track-and-field on the grass we we encouraged to go with a shirt and be in bare feet.

Comment by: Ben on 26th November 2008 at 11:14

Same for me, I went to a strict comprehensive school in Yorkshire. Indoor PE kit was just a pair of white shorts, no top, no shoes, no underwear.
Outdoor games was a pair of black shorts and trainers but no top and outdoor PE and cross country was white short and plimsoles. We had outdoor PE throughout the year and can even remember being sent outside once with snow on the ground only wearing a pair of shorts.
I wasn't too keen on the cross country runs as we had to run through our neighbourhood to reach a field. You always had quite a few people looking at you, and yes the girls liked that.
Shame they stopped all that, it sure would toughen some of our teenagers up and instill a kind of gentle discipline.

Comment by: Harry on 30th September 2008 at 20:33

Same for us in our school. We always had to be topless for PE and the girls enjoyed watching.

Comment by: Greg on 4th August 2008 at 15:19

i attended a Grammar School in Hertfordshire in the 60s and it was the same for us. our games kit consisted of a pair of white shorts and a pair of white plimsolls. All PE, both indoors and outdoors, was performed shirtless. We were also barefooted indoors and outdoors on the playing field. We wore plimsolls for out door PE on the playground, and cross country runs were performed in the same way. This was the case all year rouns and in all weathers. I have to chuckle when I hear of modern schools either having no games/PE at all or reserving it for good weather.

Comment by: Stephen on 10th June 2008 at 15:20

Nice picture, taking me back to my PE lessons, which for us boys were always shirtless and probably much more demanding than today. We even did cross country runs in winter without tops being allowed.