Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood > Schools


Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 182,698
Item #: 1602
Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

Comment by: William on 28th December 2019 at 15:01

Mr Dando, Fiona's point had also occurred to me. In your campaign against school showers you have described them as humiliating, dreaded and barbaric. The majority disagree, citing hygiene and developing bodily confidence as among the benefits. I found communal showers slightly embarrassing the first time but quickly got used to them. After all, we were all boys and much the same. Why did you find them humiliating (Hesketh Fletcher, 21st December)? A history website is more about past experience than current practice. What made your experience so grim?

Comment by: Fiona on 23rd December 2019 at 00:13

Mr Dando, none of the three school PE kit lists that you have posted in the last couple of days specifies that showers shall be taken nude, and none of them describes the pbysical arrangement of the showers thenselves,so they might be enclosed cubicles.

Comment by: Mr Dando on 20th December 2019 at 20:58

After more than 30 years since I left school in the 1980's it is time to ban mandatory showers and state enforced nudity in schools!

PE uniform

White PE Shirt with school logo
Black Shorts or Black Skort
Fleece with school logo - optional item for colder weather
Black Jogging Pants - optional item for colder weather

White PE Shirt with school logo
Black Shorts
Fleece with school logo - optional item for colder weather
Black Jogging Pants - optional item for colder weather
All pupils are required to change for Physical Education into the PE uniform and pumps (not leisure boots as these have ridges on the soles).

In order to promote personal hygiene and independence skills, pupils are expected to shower after PE lessons. Pupils attending Hydrotherapy sessions should bring their own kit.

Comment by: Mike C on 18th December 2019 at 16:19

Hi Ben, ! was "introduced" to skins when I was a 9 year old. The big change at my new school was being made to strip down outside, something my new classmates were used to and I wasn't. Each day there was a d PE lesson timetabled, a double for four days and a double and a half lesson which really was hard. I remember the teacher telling me at the start of my first lesson I'd be striping off outside for each lesson for the first couple of weeks to get me used to it but was soon regularly picked to strip for the skins team. When we were inside there was an expectation you would sweat which was okay as everyone was stripped to the waist. As for those of us who were sporty and made the school/county teams we were told we'd strip off all the time. I think it was a school thing as we also did x country competition s against other schools stripped down too, now that made people look twice! I did enjoy PE. I think being made to strip off gave me a lot of confidence. Boys really don't need a t-shirt or vest on indoors and would be better off being pushed hard by a good teacher and sweating freely, regardless of their age is more beneficial.

Comment by: Dave on 11th December 2019 at 15:17

Max, I can't see what's the problem of boys having to do PE shirtless. They don't wear shirts for swimming.What's the difference? There isn't any rude or harmful thing about being shirtless doing sports especially gymnastics.It's practical.

Comment by: John on 8th December 2019 at 21:48

Indoor PE was done shirtless and most lads by the age of 12 had stopped wearing vests underneath their school shirts. So it was simply a case of going into the changing room and changing into shorts and pumps, we weren’t going to do gym in our school shirts. Therefore we weren’t made to remove our PE shirts as we didn’t wear them anyway.

Football was sometimes played shirts vs skins if the PE teacher ran out of coloured bibs, on those occasions half of the lads had to remove their shirts. It never did us any harm.

Comment by: William on 8th December 2019 at 20:33

Max, If you think it's ridiculous, violating and crude for boys to do PE without vests, what do you think they should wear for swimming? And do you truly think that the boys in the Burnley Grammar photo look crude or violated? I don't think so.

Comment by: TimH on 8th December 2019 at 11:49

John - no offence meant & none taken (looking back to 15th Nov).

I agree that the whole topless thing was probably 'historic' - some schools did games topless - others didn't. It may not have been down to LEAs - just down to individual Headteachers and Boards of Governors, who probably had more important things to think about than whether or not boys did gym shirtless or minus underpants. (I think a lot of basic commonsense on hygiene comes into this).

Off at a tangent, places like Whitehough Camp School, an LEA outdoor education centre had their own regimes - I think I'm right in saying that Whitehough had a rule that all their boys went into shorts for all activities (including sailing, climbing, etc.) during the period of 'British Summer Time'. (Sadly Whitehough closed about five years ago)

Comment by: Max on 6th December 2019 at 23:54

It is not a good policy to have “lads” remove their shirts for p.e. Actually it’s down right ridiculous, violating and crude! I am strongly opposed to such a rule or even such a choice.

Comment by: John on 6th December 2019 at 01:13

Chris G,
It’s great to hear that you regarded the introduction of topless PE as being a positive experience by not being made to wear a shirt or a vest. So many contributors to this forum have spoken about disliking being made to strip to the waist for PE but often seem to have found it a more comfortable way to exercise after a few lessons.

I disliked being made to go topless for PE when I was introduced to the new rule at age 9 but that was simply because it involved change. My initial dislike turned out to be an irrational fear as I quickly came to prefer doing PE shirtless because it was more comfortable than having a sweaty shirt sticking to my skin.

Comment by: Danny on 5th December 2019 at 22:44

Coloured armbands were also commonly used to distinguish between the topless teams. They were elasticated so could not fall off or get in the way, unlike waist or shoulder sashes.
The coloured armbands were also commonly used in nude swimming competitions or galas to distinguish between the teams, unless swimcaps were worn.

Comment by: Chris G on 4th December 2019 at 22:32

John, when we used sashes to distinguish teams, we either tucked them into the waistbands of our shorts or tied them round our waists.

Comment by: John on 4th December 2019 at 00:31

Whilst I think that your school had a sensible policy of all lads remaining shirtless for PE, did you not find that the sashes kept slipping off your shoulder?.

Comment by: Chris G on 4th December 2019 at 00:16

I think I must have been about 12 when my school introduced topless PE, and I don't remember anyone in my class having any qualms about appearing in the gym minus a vest. In fact, I think we all enjoyed the liberating experience, and as I've said before, it quickly led to me and most of my class stopping wearing underwear vests altogether,

Comment by: Ross on 3rd December 2019 at 06:59

A few messages here about shirts v skins and reminded me of my own PE lessons where we all went topless but were given a red or green narrow sash to identify the two teams.

Comment by: Ben on 2nd December 2019 at 16:31

Mike C, sounds as if you enjoyed the vests and skins experience at school! Do you think it made a difference being used to it when you were that much younger? I was 14 the first time I did PE in skins and it seemed like a big deal at first, maybe because by that age boys are more likely to be self conscious about body image.
Interesting that they made the more sporty boys take their tops off outdoors, I wonder what the logic was to that?
For indoor PE, was that the official kit for every boy at the school, ie: just shorts? Or was it just the teacher's decision for your class?

Comment by: William on 1st December 2019 at 08:43

Dr Wallace, There is much online about nude swimming in American schools. Pastor Frank Senn wrote about it at length last year in his blog Frank Answers. There was a lot of comment from those who experienced it.

You are right about different stages of development. I was 11 (mid '60s) the first time I went naked into the communal showers at school. Many of us stared in disbelief at the bush of pubic hair on a 12 year old who had been held back a year. No-one had told us about that. One or two boys from more relaxed homes said they had seen hair like that on their parents.

Comment by: Mike C on 30th November 2019 at 21:35

Hi Ben & John, At my first school skins vs vests were all done in the gym though the teachers who picked the teams definitely made some lads strip off more than others. I moved school when I was 11 and the difference was immediate. My new teacher insisted the whole class went topless inside and, though we were told a shirt or vest would be worn outside, teams of skins and vests were preferred. If like me you showed sporting ability you were expected to strip off outside regardless. Quite why no-one knew but it did form a basis for a team of skins and others were simply picked out, dropped their vests and bingo 2 teams. Happy days.

Comment by: George Spelvin on 30th November 2019 at 01:09

Hello, Martin!
Hello, any other Shears Green alumni!

I understand that you folks had quite a discussion on Friends United.
I looked you up on Facebook and found you, but I got a message saying that Friends United has been taken down.
Can you tell me what was in that discussion?
I am fascinated with Shears Green because I would have liked to be a student there.

Comment by: Doctor J Wallace on 29th November 2019 at 21:17

Shrinkage? We INVENTED shrinkage!
Every now and then I'll wind up in a conversation with someone regarding the horrors of junior high school gym class. This chat will invariably lead to me saying,

"... and the worst part is, the boys all had to swim naked,"

to which the recipient of that comment will stare blankly at me in disbelief as if I had just told them I was really a convicted murderer but am pretty sure I'm through with that phase of my life now.

I find the response to my gym class confession both amusing and disturbing. Amusing, because of the way it stops people dead in their tracks, which causes me to imagine how their minds are trying to process the image of thirty 12 year old boys running around naked in the public school's pool center. And disturbing, because to date, I've never met anyone else (besides the kids who went to that school) who has ever said, "oh yeah, me too," which forces me to question the practice of that particular Phy-Ed policy in the first place.

The oddest thing about swimming nude at our junior high school was that we never questioned it, as if it was a right of passage included in the advancement from grade school. You're a man now. This is how the MEN swim! Men don't wear swimming suits.

My guess is, the whole decision to swim nude was nothing more than a cost-saving measure. No suits to buy, no laundry to do, no unauthorized swim wear screwing up the PH balance of the water. In retrospect I suppose they could have allowed us to bring our own suits, but again... no one seemed to question this arrangement at the time.

The only thing we really seem to care about was how damn cold it was. Not only was the pool water kept at a mere 70 degrees (freezing by recreational pool standards) but the entire pool facility itself was cold as well. Add to that the fact that the bench where we had to sit (on our naked butts) and listen to our coach lecture (for several minutes) was made of ceramic tile, and you have yourself a shivering herd of blue-lipped tweens.

Another area of, how shall I say... "interest" at this time was the issue of physical development. In our school district, junior high ran from 7th - 9th grade, or ages 12-15. Being as how this is also the age span at which young boys may or may not experience puberty, you don't have to stretch your imagination very far to realize that some boys looked different than others. In 7th grade it wasn't that big of a deal... we basically all looked like we were growing a small mushroom on barren ground. But by 9th grade, some of the more muscular jocks were already growing beards and sideburns... and had the shrubbery to match. This was especially evident with the aptly-named Peter, who after being held back, expelled and truant countless times, was 18 years old by the time he was finally able to leave 9th grade. Let's just say we never had to wonder who we wanted to grow up to be like.

So that's my story. Just one of many skinny, naked, freezing boys, dutifully doing their time every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., hoping some smart-ass didn't put tape over the latch on the door that opened to the hallway so someone could fling it open while we were in mid-march to the poolside, causing everyone to dive into the freezing water before every girl within 100 feet could run up and sneak a peak. No big deal. Literally.

But what I really want to know is... was my school the only one who had naked swimming for the boys? (the girls got to wear suits btw) Was this standard policy in the mid 70s or was our coach a little "different" than the rest?

Comment by: Turner on 28th November 2019 at 16:03

At my traditional grammar school in the sixties our cross country route was entirely along pavements on the edge of town, so we probably returned no more muddy than when we set off. This was long before the popularity of road running as a hobby. I suspect the school at Clitheroe must have done something similar despite the caption.

Comment by: Ben on 28th November 2019 at 01:28

It wasn't a case of boys volunteering to play in skins, our teacher decided who would play for which team at the start of the lesson. Initially I think the majority of us hoped we wouldn't be chosen to take our tops off.
In theory the teams were always random but some boys were definitely assigned to skins more often than others - and I was among the former group. However, it's probably no bad thing that we weren't given a choice - otherwise I suppose only the most confident boys would have volunteered and the rest would have remained lacking in confidence.
For outdoor football, we usually wore reversible jerseys but sometimes in warmer weather one of the teams would be skins.

Comment by: John on 27th November 2019 at 07:39

Did you volunteer to be on the skins team?, our PE teachers had no shortage of lads wanting to take their tops off for football outdoors.

Comment by: Ben on 25th November 2019 at 17:27

John's description of the PE teachers running out of coloured bibs was rather like what happened at my school in the early 90s. Up to age 14 we wore different coloured bibs for basketball and 6-a-side football, the next year they put us into bigger groups for PE - something to do with the timetable, I think. Suddenly that meant there weren't enough bibs to go around and the teacher's solution, of course, was one group of boys playing in vests, one group in skins. Some of us, including myself, were quite taken aback when we were instructed to take our tops off, it wasn't something we'd been used to. For the next two years, however, vests against skins became the standard arrangement in our PE lessons and I got to understand the logic. First, it was so much easier to pick out a team mate, and also at times in a hot stuffy gym, it felt more comfortable to have sweat evaporate off your bare skin than clinging to a damp vest. Now I wonder why we didn't do vests and skins at an earlier age!

Comment by: John on 24th November 2019 at 17:28

Andrew C,

Sometimes we played football outdoors shirts vs skins, occasionally this happened in winter too when a whole year were having a PE lesson and the PE teachers ran out of coloured bibs. Indoor PE was shirtless and if we played basketball or 5 a side football one team were given coloured bibs or armbands to wear. The age range was 11 to 18

Comment by: Andrew C on 23rd November 2019 at 22:43

Hi John, I too did X country barechested or stripped down, as the teachers called it. It wasn't fun but sometimes it made a change from stuffy classroom. Were you split into vests and skins anytime and what was the age range at your school.

Comment by: John on 15th November 2019 at 23:47

Tim H,
Please accept my apologies for the last post, it was supposed to be addressed to you but from me.

Comment by: Tim H on 15th November 2019 at 17:31

I think that the topless PE rule for boys was dependent upon which Local Authority Grammar Schools came under. In the Northwest of England and many parts of Yorkshire topless PE seemed to be the norm for Grammar and Secondary Modern schools and the rule continued into the 1970s and 1980s when many of these schools became Comprehensives.

Cross country was also normally done shirtless by these schools.

Comment by: TimH on 15th November 2019 at 09:10

I have to 'disagree' with John about topless cross-country. I went to grammar school in 1960 - we didn't do it 'topless' and, as far as I can recall, neither did the other boy's grammar school.

For the record, gym was white shorts either with or without a T-shirt, plus plimsolls. Many of us started off wearing the T-shirt, but as we grew and became more 'confident' we tended to discard it.

Comment by: Ross on 13th November 2019 at 22:56

Ahh yes Tim you are right! Sorry. I guess it must be posed then for an article.

There definitely does seem to be a split among lads that ran shirtless and barefoot to those that were allowed shirts and footwear.