Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
I can still remember my very first PE lesson at my middleschool in Leeds aged 9. This would have been 1974. PE kit was blue singlet, white cotton shorts of the small kind, white socks and white plimsolls optional. I was very very keen not to be singled out for being improperly dressed so made sure my mother understood what was needed.
Come lesson time and I changed for PE with the other boys. The teacher was there with us while we changed and made sure we understood that no underwear was to be worn under our shorts. I was suprised to see that about a quarter of the boys had ignored the official gym kit and decided to just wear the white shorts. My new best friend Simon was one of them, and was right next to me so I asked him about it and he said his mother just had not bothered to buy him anything else and anyway he liked being barefoot and bare chested, he was a fit kid, slim and one of the smaller boys in the class and clearly had no hang ups being nearly naked. I did not think of it at the time but almost certainly this is all he would ever have worn in his junior school, I am pretty sure it was all I wore but I am not certain now. I was shy so had made sure I was fully atired except the white socks my mother had bought had a small black tab at the top. I should also mention that nearly all the boys had chosen the optional bare feet.
Before entering the gym we lined up in a long corridor, boys would go one way girls the other so we stood 3 foot apart, funny how the boys changing room was place furthest from the gym, it's almost like it was planned so boys and girls would be left in such close proximity. The teacher commanded us to stand straight with chin high and hands crossed behind our backs, this was his way in every future class. He liked his disapline. Simon must have attracted the eye of several girls, his body so displayed, but he would'nt have cared. After a minute or two we entered and again were ordered into line hands behind us. This new stricked disapline in the gym must have been a shock to me to have remained so vivid a memory all this time. His first job was inspection. Simon's simple attire solicited no complaint but me next in line was not so lucky. The socks were not pure white, they failed inspection and I was ordered to remove them and work barefoot. Well at least I would not be alone in this, nearly all the boys in class were now barefoot, still I had not wanted to be barefoot.
Inspection complete and disapline firmly instilled gym began. To warm us up a game. The boys who were topless would be on, the rest of us would run around while they stood still and tried to hit us with a football. When you were hit you would have to remove your singlet and join those throwing the ball. I lasted a while, I wasnt the first hit but of course it was Simon who made sure he got me. The top came off and I abandoned it at the side of the gym with the other boys. The game ended with one boy left still owning his top but now every other kid in the class was down to his small white shorts. Teacher now ordered us back into line. The rest of the lesson would be fitness activities. There was no mention of recovering our singlets, he clearly intended us all to do the rest of the session topless. I was gutted, after all my instance on the right kit I would be half naked for the whole time just like all the other boys. Maybe the winner got to keep his but I doubt it, I don't remember.
So for the rest of the class I ran, climbed and sweated in just my shorts. I guess I quickly got use to it, well you do don't you, when you have no choice. But then at the end of the lesson a final game. The same as the one we started with but now as we were hit we got to finally put our singlets back on if we had them. So I finished the lesson back in the corridor almost as I started it.
Showers were always required, teacher was there to see everyone got naked.
Looking back the lesson plan could not have been accidental, the gym teacher clearly had his own opinion of what suitable gym atired was for a nine year old. He managed to get us all stripped down to just shorts within minutes of the start of lesson and nearly every lesson was the same. For most of my gym time I would have looked just like Simon. I wonder if he had an unhealthy eye for a young boy.
I never got a gym detention but I knew they existed as Simon got one once. He had to stay after school hours for an hour and was alone in the gym with that teacher without doubt stripped down to just his shorts, makes you wonder just what might have happened but Simon said nothing. School protection measures sure have changed since the 70's.
MichaelT, with a rope and the punishment was quite tough, punch and other things. What experience did you have?
Rob, I don't like to punish or get punished at all. I just think that it seemed not that bad and I think as kid I might have joined the others.
How were you tied up and why? Who did this to you and what did they do? How old were you guys? Also I made similar experiances like you Rob.
MichaelT, I don’t understand why do you like to punish in this way. Instead, Do you like to be punished like me, I mean tied up so that the others could do whatever they want on your chest and you couldn’t do anything else than watch and take it?
MichaelT,it was quite painful to be punished like that,although they were younger there were many more of them,so trying to fight back would have been futile.
Why would you like to have done the same thing?
It was was bad enough wearing short trousers let alone having the back of my thighs smacked with a ruler.
It seems not that bad to get punished like this. Still the boys were younger, why didn't he fight back?
I just say I would have done the same and joined that group of boys doing this to him.
MichaelT, why do you think James deserved it?
Didn't James suffer enough from having to obey a domineering mother?
We all have a tendency to believe that everybody deserves what they get.
Stanley Milgram's esxperiment confirmed this.
Seems like you deserved that punishment and treatment somehow. I'd maybe even joined the gang. Seems not that bad after all.
MichaelT, it was just a swift stoke with a ruler and I immediately jumped out of the way to avoid a second stroke.They just laughed and thought it was funny. I just rubbed the back of my thighs to ease the pain. Yes they found it more amusing when they saw that it hurt.
For how long did they punished you like this? Six vs one isn't nice. sure more bad when they are younger than you and I assume all of them had a ruler and it wasn't just one ruler? What did they say when doing it? How did you deal with the pain? So did they notice you are having pain to make more fun of you?
MichaelT,I was about 13 when they inflicted this 'punishment'.I suppose it was a sort of game to them.I don't think teachers were aware of if happening.I suppose there were about six boys in a gang who took part in it.I was very shocked when it happened especially as some of the boys were younger than me and I thought the main attraction was that I was wearing shorts and they were wearing long trousers.
James How old were you when they did this to you? Teachers never noticed or said something? How many did it to you? What was your reaction to it?
Michael T, I had to suffer this indignity occasionally and it was done with a ruler on the back of my thighs. It was done in my school uniform wearing my shirt and blazer.It was always done surreptitiously so the teachers didn't notice,but the marks took a while to fade so it could easily have been seen by teachers.
James how often they repeated this? Only on your thighs? Weren't you shirtless? No teacher noticed?
James how often they repeated this? Only on your thighs? Weren't you shirtless? No teacher noticed?
Rob/MichaelT, I was used to similar 'punishments'administered by boys at school.They would sneak up behind me with a plastic ruler and pull the ruler back and then release it so that it gave me a sharp smack on the back of my thighs below the hem of my short trousers.It really hurt and left a mark for all to see,
Rob I'd say every teen will see how strong and tough they are. Sure I made similar experiances.
Hi MichaelT, for example 10 minutes of gut punch. But the problem was it was raining and it was a bit cold (5/6 C). Did you have a similar experience?
Rob,going bare chested and only wearing shorts meant that you could almost get an all over tan.
what they did to your chest?
Yeah, but I think the problem wasn’t short or trousers, but the fact we were shirtless. I was get used to that when I played with friends and a lot of punishments were very tough (stand up tied shirtless in front of them so they can do whatever they want on your chest). Obviously we weren’t at school, I’m talking about when we played outside school
James, Frank, Alan, William, Michael, Rob, Sam, Bernard, Steven, Tim, Ryan, Michael, Chris and Greg it is disgraceful to hear of the historic injustices that were perpetrated against you. As a fellow survivor myself I know the wretched practices that PE teachers carried out in the 1980's and before. I remember when our gym class was "cancelled" at the last moment in early 1987 and we were forced to do swimming in white shorts which went see through in the chlorinated water to the PE Teacher's obvious delight. Not to forget the "IRA bomb bell" which tended to go off when we were half dressed in the lower year changing rooms.
While pupils today are not subject to the same degree of oppression we suffered there are still schools which limit tracksuits to the Discretion of the teacher.
Tracksuit bottoms may be worn at the discretion of the PE staff - plain black only
(these can be obtained from the uniform supplier and comes in unisex or ladies cut
with or without elastic)
Purple tracksuit bottoms with CA logo.
Swimming costume for showers.
Additional warm clothing/base layers may be worn underneath the Academy kit during very cold weather at the discretion of
the member of staff.
Piggott Tracksuit bottoms (to be worn at the discretion of the PE Teacher. A recommended purchase if participating in school
These can be worn outside but only during November to February at the discretion of the Teacher and is sometimes barred on health
and safety grounds.
Correct kit must be worn for all PE lessons. All students will be expected to take part, unless a valid note is produced, signed by a parent/carer. If a child has a medical condition which may affect their long term participation, then they may be asked to bring in a medical note or evidence from your family GP. Students will not be allowed to wear training shoes or socks for gymnastics. Students may wear navy tracksuit bottoms for PE lessons during periods of cold weather and at the teacher’s discretion.
This school has a sexist policy with no reference of tracksuits boys but girls can only wear tracksuits at teeacher's discretion. https://www.alechunter.org/index.php/parents/uniform
PE Kit Outdoor
School Rugby Shirt (compulsory)
School Polo Shirt (compulsory, worn underneath the Rugby shirt)
Plain Black Shorts
Black Football Socks
Shin Pads (for football)
Gum shield (recommended)
School Sweatshirt (compulsory)
School Polo Shirt (compulsory, worn underneath the Sweatshirt)
Plain Black Shorts
Black Football Socks
Plain Black Tracksuit Bottoms (worn at the teacher's discretion)
By contrast this school has a better policy.
Navy/black tracksuit bottoms and/or shorts (students discretion to wear what and when)
Please join my campaign, the wearing of tracksuits bottoms should always be at the discretion of the student and not at the discretion of the teacher. To improve child protection the policy should not be restricted to outdoor sports or during inclement weather. Let us use this opportunity to build back better for today's kids.
FrankC," At primary level it was the norm to wear shorts and at senior level the progression was to wear'long' trousers".
When I moved up to secondary school my mother decided to put me in school uniform with short trousers and I wore them with distinction.
It was quite the opposite where the majority on boys wore long trousers and only a few wore shorts like myself.
When we had an influx of first year pupils most of the boys were wearing long trousers and this put me in an embarrassing position as I was still in shorts,much to my contention.Some of the pupils would question me as to why I was still in shorts when I was nearly three years older than they were.
James was correct in saying that at Primary level the norm was to wear shorts and senior level was a progression towards 'long' trousers.I remember the eleven plus exam round about Easter taken in the fourth year of Primary level quite a few boys had jumped the gun they would have had older brothers in the senior school and I think they wished to wear long trousers like them and their parents must have relented. Also it was the era of thrift and a few I knew in my class had hand me downs!
William and Michael: I have not suggested ALL teachers were paedophiles - and frankly, if they were, it would not bother me unduly if the geography master liked looking at a particular boy, because the lad will be in his school clothes. It is obvious though that a PE master, especially when he has fetishes about bare feet or bare chests, or showers is a real menace. It is also not a good idea, if, for example, that geography master has the opportunity to wonder through the gym on one pretext or another to cop a better look.
Whether you like to admit it or not, those situations DID prevail, certainly into the 1980s, and perhaps even later, and nobody thought to question it. They question it now, and I am very glad that they do.
Well said, Michael, I completely agree with you. I was fortunate to go to a good grammar school in the 1960s. We had the usual gym regime of communal showers and minimal kit and it did me nothing but good. Emphatically our master was not a pervert; we were not abused; and neither were we naive.
Perhaps too much is focused on the very few negative aspects of our schooldays, overlooking the vast majority of the time that school staff did an admirable job in less-than-ideal, often underfunded conditions.
My experience of grammar school in the 1960s was that there was a mountain of work for both pupils and teachers to do, and never enough time to do it. Everyone was under stress from the demanding curriculum, hours of homework handed out every day, relentless exam deadlines and the school's competitive ethos.
Even so, all the teachers I knew unstintingly gave of their spare time for extra-curricular activities such as hobby or sports clubs.
As a result of their workload they were often tired, and this led to occasional instances of impatience which I readily forgave. After all, we are all only human, aren't we?
With just one exception, everybody who taught my class was, in my opinion, a true professional. They really knew their subjects and the limits of our ability, and were understandably annoyed if they felt we were not giving 100% effort in return.
The one teacher who fell short of these olympian standards soon disappeared from the scene - presumably 'moved on' by the headmaster.
Hi Rob,when I was growing up it was the convention for younger boys at primary school to school to wear shorts and usually when we left and attended secondary school most boys were promoted to long trousers.
I continued to wear shorts for school until I was 14, against my will as I was subjected teasing and ridicule from other pupils both boys and girls.
I just felt that I was too old to wear shorts and wanted to wear long trousers like other boys.
Hi James, the problem was that I love to wear short, but I hate to be barechested. So the problem wasn’t shorts but my bare chest, even though I get used to that. I remember outside school when me and my friends played air soft or made punishment, I was always shirtless but it wasn’ta problem. The problem was that punishments chosen by my friends were very tough (obviously we were out of school)