Burnley Grammar School

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Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 772,003
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: Mr Dando on 19th March 2020 at 20:16

With the outbreak of Coronavirus and the premature closing of educational institutions, it has made me question the whole principle of compulsory PE in school.
If this practice is to survive, all PE kits must be gender neutral with tracksuit bottoms to cover the legs and there must be a complete ban on male toplessness for both swimming and gymnastics.

It is also time to call time on the mandatory school shower with all pupils provided their own cubicles to change into, so they are not forced to show their underwear in front of others or subject to mobile phone photography.

I still find it hard to believe there are still schools that mandate showers for outside sport and I provide an example below:


P.E. Equipment
Plain black shorts with school crest (2 pairs are advised, but this is optional).
Black sweatshirt with school crest.
Black polo shirt with school crest.
A black long sleeved /or legging-style base layer may be worn under the regulation kit during the colder months (this period is at the discretion of the teachers)
White ankle sports socks.
Black football socks for hockey and cross-country.

Towel for shower taken after every outdoor lesson, optional for indoor lesson.

Football boots.
Students who are not doing PE due to injury/illness will still be expected to bring and wear their PE kit in order to participate in an alternative role in the lesson.

Come let us stand up to this institutional abuse and campaign for better child protection in all UK schools.

Comment by: James on 18th March 2020 at 15:05

Hi Dave,I attended school in the 70's and we had shirtless PE and a female teacher.Yes, there was a reaction at first to be seen shirtless and an overall shyness and reluctance to be wearing just our shorts.It was discussed between ourselves,but we had to comply with the uniform requirements that our teacher stated what we must wear.We certainly made a less daunting prospect to our teacher when we were seen in our shorts and bare chested and less likely to be unruly and disobedient

Comment by: GSB on 18th March 2020 at 09:01

Peter R - please tell us all about the boxing at your school. I posted once before that I was hugely disappointed to move to secondary school just after boxing had ceased, and have been intrigued ever since as to how it all worked and what it would have been like. Was it compulsory for every boy, and how many loved it, hated it or just accepted it? Were you taught how to box properly, and was there just sparring or were there proper contests and competitions? Did you have a different opponent every lesson, and how was it decided who opponents would be, etc, etc? Any specific memories of things that happened?

Comment by: Peter R on 18th March 2020 at 00:14

Hi Jim, Not once. It was made clear if we mucked around then it straight to the Head. We knew how far we could go, but no-one overstepped the line.

Comment by: James on 17th March 2020 at 16:26

Jim,we weren't supervised by female teachers in the showers,that would have been inappropriate!

Comment by: Dave on 17th March 2020 at 16:01

To all of you either who had shirtless PE kit and female teacher in the same time: When did you go to school? (601s,70's,81s,901s..etc.)
Was there any reaction or talking from boys having to be shirtless for PE?

Comment by: Ross on 17th March 2020 at 07:08

As others have said I also had female PE teachers mostly throughout my school life in primary and middle school I had female teachers then again in my last years of high school. The pe kit for most if my school years was shirtless, shorts and bare feet. The teachers were professional and we didn't care that they were female.

Comment by: Peter R on 17th March 2020 at 00:56

Hi Jim, Not once. It was made clear if we mucked around then it straight to the Head. We knew how far we could go, but no-one overstepped the line.

Comment by: Jim on 16th March 2020 at 14:22

To James, Peter and others who had female teachers for PE lessons. Did they also supervise you in the showers after the lessons?

Comment by: Peter R on 14th March 2020 at 21:01

James, at no point did I infer abuse of any kind. Our PE/Games lessons were the same as if we had a male teacher. We were pushed hard and in the gym the expectation was that we'd sweat and we did in spades. This itself justified having us topless. Toby, our boarding school had us doing basketball, fitness drills indoors and outside, boxing, x-country.. and an early morning run at 5.45am regardless of the conditions. Stripping to the waist was practical and emphasised we were young men. No-one objected to lessons being taken by a female teacher we all got on with it or we'd have laps of the field and a one and half hour visit to the gym in our own time that evening.

Comment by: James on 14th March 2020 at 14:42

Danny,Toby,we were frequently taken for our sporting activities by female teachers and became accustomed to wearing shorts and being topless.It was never considered an issue with boys being topless and teachers accepted it, although some boys were extremely self-conscious.

Comment by: Toby on 13th March 2020 at 16:46

Danny, you're right. Peter R's post about doing PE topless with a female teacher is really telling, clearly she felt comfortable having boys exercising topless. Would Mr R advise if what activities you did topless? However it's good to hear of a confident remake teacher working young men in the same manner a male instructor would have taken the class.

Comment by: Danny on 9th March 2020 at 11:24

I don't see why all the fuss about boys doing PE shirtless and bare-chested. After all that is how boys swim in public everywhere.

Compulsary nudity for school swimming is a different matter, although some argued that since boys took naked showers all together before or after the swim lessons why make them wear suits for the swim lesson if it is just boys?

As for female teachers supervising boys in the changing room and showers I think it depends on the boys age.

Comment by: Kirk Selvaggio on 7th March 2020 at 17:11

My High School didn't have it's own swimming pool, so we went down the street to the community college to use thier pool after school for swim practice. We were not required to swim nude, unlike our swim coach during his high school years, but that didn't spare us the indignation of before swim inspections, when our coach required all boys on the team to wear pantyhose for training. His explanation that the hose increases resistance to water when swimming laps as practical for conditioning, and the humiliation of students seeing us in our ladies undergarments while running stairs in the six story building would motivate us to keep a move on, so female students wouldn't have time to get a good look at our reproductive organs, which were easy to see through our wet, see through garments. Technically, we weren't naked, since our reproductive parts were covered, so no local ordinances or school policies were violated. The college swim staff were on board, because we came across as hard core and borderline militant in our resolve, which is what our couch was shooting for, shaming the upperclassmen and college swimmers to man up and get it in gear. The fact that calisthenics and running in place allowed any female in attendance an unobstructed view, was simply a girl's entitlements for supporting the team, and a non-issue if they were girlfriends and family members. If anyone on the team complained, it could only mean there was an issue with fitting or positioning of equipment inside training apparatus, which carried the same entitlements for female staff or volunteer coach assistance members to take care of the issue as athletic supporters did, and perform full pre-swim exam. I had no desire to have my boy parts pulled up and ass cheeks spread open in front of everyone, so I kept my mouth shut until I was in the relative privacy of the pool area during after swim showers so the guys wouldn't see me getting hard and turning beet red when hose came down and parts got lifted and spread apart by female classmate, Jr.Coach assistant, in front of her mom (senior coach assistant an the two ladies who helped me purchase hose in the first place) as required by coach to ensure proper fitting. Based on stories exchanged while waiting for our sports physical, the football, basketball, wrestling, and track coach had thier own way of dealing with wussyness among thier athletes. Since I had joined track as well, I learned that those stories had some basis in fact.

Comment by: Peter R on 6th March 2020 at 22:57

We had a female PE teacher for 2 years when I was 12 to 14. There was never an issue. She stayed out of the changing rooms altogether but we still did PE and Games lessons stripped to the waist just as we did with male teacher before and afterwards.

Comment by: Danny on 4th March 2020 at 00:18

Petronius, it must have been really crowded with 50 boys sharing just one bathroom with only two showers and one bath.

When you say that the teaching staff came into the bathroom while the boys were showering, were they also female teachers or just male?
Did they come in there for supervision or just to look at the nude boys?

I agree with you that if there was no particular reason for them to be there it was not proper and can't blame you or the other boys for feeling uneasy about it, especially at the older ages.

Comment by: Leeds Lad on 28th February 2020 at 11:57

Some excellent points Petronius, and - might I add - exceedingly well written for this day and age! ;)

Comment by: Petronius Walker on 27th February 2020 at 15:19

I attended residential special school in England and housematrons would routinely be in the boarding house washrooms where we had one one bad and two open showers. They were usually there to assist children who had physical disabilities who were using the bath but, like the teaching staff who did 24-hour house duties, they might pop in to check on us (for behaviour).

There were 50 boys in each house, using one of the two bathrooms (one on each of two floors). The younger boys were upstairs; the older ones downstairs. Despite our ranges ranging from 3 - 19, there was no difference in how staff approached their presence in these areas. We were also used to them being around when we changed for swimming.

I think that, once you've been seen naked, there's simply nothing left to hide and we all accepted the situation. However, I would say that, if there was any resentment at all, it was aimed more at those teaching staff on duty who came in because, really, unless there was an indication of trouble in the bathrooms, their presence was more 'out of place' than that of the housematrons.

We mostly slept in pyjamas but, once your voice had broken, it's was pretty unmanly if you wore a top in the boarding house after changing (the time could be anything after 9.00pm). Looking back, I think was a mixture of unspoken peer pressure, normal male bravado wanting to show off, and simply that we didn't see the point of the tops.

Our swimming was never naked and, given that this was the 1980s, it's interesting that some schools in England did still have naked swimming. I've read the earlier observations that naked swimming in schools may have been because material from old-fashioned trunks would clog the vents, but I don't agree. This may have been used as a later justification but, on a history web page ike this, we should remember that naked swimming did not suddently start. It's less astonishing if we remember that nudity was much more usual in the times leading up to schools with pools, including males being naked in front of females in public places. Naked swimming in schools was not the start of something new; it was the dying stages of broader public nudity.

I also think that those who effect astonishment at the past could usefully remember that not every Western society is quite as 'private' about bodies as they might like to imagine. Despite increasing changes to design, in England those who designed the vast majority of public showers and toilets for men evidently assumed that men would be full-body naked in front of each other, or have no worries about letting others see their penis when urinating.

It's also worth remembering that is acceptable can change from place to place, as well as over time. At festivals (that I have never attended), social media shows us that public urination at communal urinals can be privacy-free, visible to absolutely everyone walking by. I remember reading an article once where a lady reported that women used men's toilets at such an event. She reported that they could clearly see men's penises sideways on as they entered, but people accepted accepted the situation; they were all just there because they needed to relieve themselves. In another situation, just entering could get you in trouble.

Let me leave you with a thought. I support schools with safeguarding and we are clear that adults must not use pupils' toilets. But take those same adults, and those same children, and put them in a shopping centre's toilets on a Saturday afternoon and no one would bat an eyelid. Whether we perceive that we are nude (to one degree or another) and whether that matters, has as much to do with 'situation' as it does to actually how nude, and exposed, we are.

Comment by: Brit in Berlin on 25th February 2020 at 21:23


There are certainly pools in Germany where there are different days for men and women but that's nothing new, it's because swimming is naked at those pools. It has always been the case and nothing has changed. Believe me, it would make the news here in Germany if something like that was to be introduced.

Equally in Germany nudity in a mixed sauna is quite normal and always has been. There is nothing to do with any muslims or other religion about it.

A pool in Helsinki was mentioned a couple of weeks back which has segregated days again because swimming naked is normal and it has been ever thus at a pool which is almost a hundred years old so again nothing to do with muslims.

Perhaps you could cite your source?

Comment by: Danny on 25th February 2020 at 11:20

One can't take Mr.Dando seriously.

Boys must be made to wear tops for swimming, tracksuits for indoor PE and other nonsense which I find extreme and hilarious.
Why should Muslims dictate our customs in our own countries?

I wouldn't be surprised though if silly leftists give in to them to accomodate them.
I read that in some German and Scandinavian towns public pools have imposed separate days for men and for women to swim separately so that they do not not mix because of Muslim pressure.

Comment by: William on 24th February 2020 at 15:05

Mr Dando, In your comment on 20th February you refer to modesty and the feelings of muslims. Is your campaign against school showers and boys swimming topless principally motivated by cultural/religious considerations?

Comment by: Mr Dando on 23rd February 2020 at 18:58

Fiona we have a new headmaster and PE teacher who are introducing a gender nuetral PE kit for September 2020, and the parent Governor's have assured me that no child will be forced to do PE in just their underwear again. A spare kit policy has been introduced which means the school can make this attire available if a child does not have the appropriate.

I have turned my concern to the plight of secondary school pupils and the desire to end compulsory showers which affected me when I was a teenager. One such offending school is https://www.greenparkschool.co.uk/school-uniform.

PE Kit
Pupils also need a PE kit which consists of

Plain red T-shirt

Black shorts

PE pumps/trainers

For swimming sessions pupils require


A towel

For reasons of hygiene and health and safety, families of those pupils with incontinence needs can order from school ‘freestyle’ swimming pants for use under costumes or order these directly online from Kiddicare.

For both PE and swimming programmes pupils need to provide a toiletry bag containing soap/shower gel and shampoo for use in showering programmes that follow physical activities (when appropriate).

Parent Governors, PE Teachers and the headmaster will be petitioned until this practice is stopped and like Corporal punishment, eventually abolished throughout the UK.

Comment by: Fiona on 22nd February 2020 at 23:09

Mr Dando

A while back, you told us of your daughter's experience after a rather wet PE class outside:

"... the teacher decided it was raining too hard to continue and moved the class to the gym for the rest of the lesson. There, she said that all the pupils had to take off their wet kit and do the lesson (gymnastics) in their vest and knickers and bare feet. She did let them go and get their vests, but my daughter, along with many others, doesn't wear a vest to school. So she had to do the lesson in just her pants. . . . . . I was appalled when my daughter told me, and am seriously considering approaching the school over this."

Did you raise this with the school, and what was the outcome?

Comment by: Mr Dando on 22nd February 2020 at 20:51

With the end of half term pending it is important we keep up the pressure to end compulsory showers, so no-one has to put up with invasion of privacy I encountered between September 1985 to April 1987.

Here is another offending institution. https://www.st-hughs.n-lincs.sch.uk/page/?title=School+Uniform&pid=45

Indoor PE Kit
White T-shirt
White shorts
White socks
Black jogging bottoms - if needed
Trainers with light coloured soles
Outdoor PE Kit
Black shorts
Black jogging bottoms
Black sweat shirt / zip tracksuit top
Towel and wash bag with own shower gel - to be provided for all PE lessons

Please ensure that all of your child's belongings are clearly named so that we can find and return any lost property.

Forced showers must be ended now we have entered the 21st century for child protection.

Comment by: Mr Dando on 20th February 2020 at 19:45

I think it is a travesty there are still UK schools that mandate showers when others make the shower optional on the grounds that pupils can shower at home. These institutions that make showers compulsory take no account of the right to modesty for pupils and the feelings of muslims who do not want communal same-sex nudity forced upon them. Here is such a school https://www.sph.academy/parents/information-parents/school-uniform

P.E. KIT – The Essentials
Black or white approved Polo shirt with school crest.
Plain black PE shorts.
Trainers or plimsolls.
Black socks.
Optional approved sweatshirt with school crest.

P.E. Kit – Additional
A plain black track-suit where P.E. staff say it is appropriate for winter – no logos or designer outfits.
Ties, jumper with school crest and all items of P.E. kit can be purchased from school.

A current price list is included.
Physical Education is a National Curriculum subject and all students are required to participate in the course

All students are required to shower unless there is a confirmed medical reason for not doing so.

*If this school wants a confirmed medical reason how about severe psychological trauma brought about by bullying pupils and wicked PE teachers. These schools modernise with the 21st century.

Comment by: Alan on 19th February 2020 at 08:16


To answer your question.

My father worked abroad, my mother had her own life, so by 14/15/16 I was pretty independant - wearing or not wearing pj's didn't concern them much (if at all).

(This sounds terrible, but it was generally the way many fairly rich parents treated their offspring in the 1960's)

Comment by: Mr Dando on 18th February 2020 at 19:20

Listening to the historic stories of child abuse perpetrated by schools and parents on this column is heart breaking. There are still schools that force kids into showers and make boys swim topless which is gender discrimination and plain wrong. Here is another institution that mandates compulsory ablutions


For All Indoor/Outdoor Activities
A plain white or navy T-shirt. Plain navy shorts or tracksuit bottoms and a plain navy
jumper/hoody should be worn for Physical Education.
No team strips or training wear (football, rugby or otherwise) may be worn to Physical
Education. Similarly girls are asked not to wear vest tops.
Madras College sell a range of high quality items of clothing with the school crest which are
very popular with pupils and staff. However, there is no requirement for these to be purchased.
Trunks/costume, towel, goggles.
Madras College Handbook 2016/2017 25
Time is allocated to allow pupils to shower at the end of every lesson, therefore a towel should
be brought to all PE lessons.
School Teams
• Pupils may be required to provide their own clothing, especially short and socks.
• Football teams wear navy top, white shorts and navy socks.
• Rugby teams wear navy shirts, white shorts and navy socks.
• Hockey teams wear white polo shirts, sky blue hooded tops, navy skirts and white socks.

Together we should campaign for better child protection and gender equality in all UK institutions!

Comment by: Archie on 18th February 2020 at 16:57

@john. I sort of knew my father would expect me to sleep naked as he’d made my older brothers do so when they got to that age too. I suppose it was a mix of emotion - from wanting to be seen as a grown up vs being cosy in my old Jim jams!

@william. In the mornings after sleeping at school we also had the morning run routine wearing just skimpy black shorts (no pants) and plimsolls Sometimes that was followed by a few lengths of the school pool (naked, of course) then (thankfully warm) showers.

Comment by: Fiona on 18th February 2020 at 00:00

Alan, were your parents OK with the phenomenon of the gradually disappearin PJS?

Comment by: Dougie on 17th February 2020 at 22:28

Alan, we stripped to the waist for an early morning run except on a Sunday. PE lessons were held outdoors as much as possible again with all lads stripped to the waist. Happy days!