Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 712,228         Comments: 2,598

Burnley Grammar School

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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

2598 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Chris on 1st February 2020  

John, was the "topless" rule made by the school staff, and if so, what was the reason for it, or was it just dormitory culture established by the bullies?

Comments by LeedsLad on 1st February 2020  

That's entirely true of course, but unless you give every patient a private room....! Why not suggest it to the NHS?!

Comments by John on 1st February 2020  

My experience in dormitory wasn't so beautiful. Out kit was pajamas, but only for the bottom part. So if we wanted to wear a pajamas shirt, we couldn't do it. But the problem was the initiation game in this dormitory. You had to show your strenght if you wanted other guys didn’t disturb you during the other days. I remember I was tied to a lamp with my arms up, for all the night, with a band on my eyes, so I couldn’t see what they would have done to me. It was terrible to be hit, and tortured in several ways. The day after my chest was a battle camp. But in this way, I earned the respect of everyone

Comments by Chris on 31st January 2020  

Graham, Paul

Like both of you, my boarding school clothing list (circa 1960) included pyjamas, 3 pairs changed fortnightly to suit the laundry schedule, and while these were generally expected to be worn, the expectation only extended to the bottom half, and most of us slept topless, especially in hot weather. For PE in the gym and cross-country runs around the school grounds and surrounding countryside, vests were mandatory, which the relatively large number of us who had come from schools with topless PE policy found rather irksome, but which ongoikng campaigning failed to alter, and the swimming pool had prominent notices warning us that "swimming costumes must be worn at all times".

Comments by John on 31st January 2020  

Leeds Lad,
Within a single sex ward of male patients how do you know that any gay patients would want the rest ( straight guys ) looking at them either?

Comments by Leeds Lad on 31st January 2020  

It's ok to say "only one sex therefore nudity is ok", but that's assuming it's only the opposite sex that fancy the gender in question. Within one sex, there may be several gay people who the rest might not want looking at them. That's just the way the world is! I've said the same thing in my hospital, when they introduced single sex wards. They wanted women to feel men weren't looking at them, but I said "How do you know some women aren't looking at them?!" We just don't know. People think we all fit into nice boxes so they can say "Phew! problem sorted!" Their logic is amiss!

Comments by Graham on 31st January 2020  

Paul - Your experience sounds very like mine, except that my three pairs of PJs, newly purchased from M&S as per the boarders kit list, never got worn at all. My first night sharing a dormitory room with an already established year-group of seven other lads soon established that birthday suits were universal night attire throughout the school.

Henry - Sleeping naked wasn't a school rule, as witness the PJs on the kit list, but it was certainly not frowned upon, and was even encouraged by the "house-parents" of the boarding house, as contributing to the ethos of manliness. Not that any of us needed any encouraging!

Comments by Brit in Berlin on 30th January 2020  

I went to boarding school in the 1970s in the UK. It was much as others describe, dormitories, communal showers, white shorts only for gym with no underpants. For bed we had to wear pyjama trousers, no jackets, no idea why that was the requirement. Swimming was naked and I never thought anything of it, it seemed quite natural. Punishment was the cane of plimsoll always on the bottom.

Here in Berlin and of course the Germans have a different attitude to nudity at my gym there is not a shower cubicle and it's communal for about thirty and you don't either see any towel dancing in the changing room.

I swim at a pool which has a mixed day on Sunday and other days are men or women only. I never go on a Sunday - too many children - but on men's days there is a big notice up in the changing room which says 'Badhosen verboten' - swimming trunks forbidden. Nude swimming is therefore compulsory on men's days and no one seems to think it's in any way abnormal.

Comments by Henry on 30th January 2020  

Not all boys and men are the same concerning modesty, especially today. Some are very reserved about being seen nude by others even if they are the same sex.
Maybe it is a cultural thing of what one is used to. Going to my local swimming pool over many years I have noticed that the nudity in the changing room and showers has grown less and less over the years when it has now become standard for boys and men to shower in their swimming trunks.

Also it was not always the case in some schools of being a male only environment. From what several other posters have said they had female teachers and instructors during their nude swim classes.

Comments by Henry on 30th January 2020  

Was the sleeping nude a rule of the school or the boys choice?
I had a friend who went to a boarding school where they had strict rules about wearing pyjamas for bed. He told me that he was once given corporal punishment for wearing underpants under his pyjamas.

On the same theme, what about the bedwetters which one always finds in such institutions especially among the young boys?
From what I have read and is well documented it seems that some boys were punished or shamed when they wet the bed. At my friend's school the boys who were regular bed wetters were woken up during the night by the person in charge at night to take them to the toilets to relieve themselves so as not to wet in bed.

Comments by Paul on 29th January 2020  


You ask about pyjamas, we had them as part of our uniform list so I had a couple of pairs however after the first couple of weeks no one wore them. Apart from a couple of times I've been in hospital I've never worn them since. Even if sharing a twin room with another man it doesn't bother me and almost every man I've shared a room with has slept naked.

For anyone interested, this is where I used to swim when I lived in Helsinki:


As you will see there are no mixed days. If you should be visiting Helsinki and fancy a swim, I recommend it - it's a lovely pool and has great saunas too - it is Finland after all.

Comments by John on 29th January 2020  

I wholeheartedly agree with everything in your recent post. In a male only environment I cannot see why trunks need to be worn.

Comments by Josh H on 29th January 2020  

Paul I agree with your closing comments. I find it ludicrous in our male changing room that usually the younger men and lads all hide behind towels or in some cases complete their. changing in the privacy of a toilet cubicle. After all what have we got to hide?

Comments by Graham on 29th January 2020  

Paul - as I've said elsewhere, when I first went to boarding school, I expected, and found, communal nudity in showers, changing rooms and dormitories, just as you have described. What I didn't expect to find, though, was that everyone, without exception, slept nude as well. Did this happen in your school?

Comments by Paul on 28th January 2020  

Josh H,

We had nude swimming at school (boarding school 1960s/70s) and it wasn't that it was imposed, it was just what happened. Trunks were not part of the required uniform so no one had them. We were used to being naked in the dormitory, showers and changing rooms so swimming was not alien to that. In men only situations at the time nudity was quite normal - did anyone ever see a partitioned shower in a men's changing room?

I lived for quite a few years in Helsinki and my local swimming pool had men's days and women's days. I don't know what happened on women's days but on men's days there were no trunks to be seen and that is still the norm at the pool I used to use.

I prefer that to dealing with men with hangups dancing behind towels in changing rooms in case anyone sees a bare bottom or worse still a penis.

Comments by John on 28th January 2020  

Josh H,
I didn’t swim naked at school but my cousin did and had no issues with it and it wouldn’t have bothered me at all. From what I have read on the subject, nude swimming was imposed for boys because back in the 1950s and 1960s the trunks were often made of wool or cotton and the fibres from these garments would block the filters of the swimming pool. Back then the filters were apparently less sophisticated than they are now.

By the 1970s nylon swimming trunks were available and the issue of fibres from the lads’ trunks blocking the pool filters was resolved. At a boys only school I cannot see why some people find swimming naked such a big deal.

Comments by Josh H on 27th January 2020  

Although having read it in several comments, I still wonder why at many schools trunks were not worn for swimming and why it was done in the nude. We had swimming lessons every week and there was no stipulated colour for trunks although in the 60's we all wore the briefs type.
I suppose I would have coped with naked swimming because the whole class would be the same. But why was this rule imposed at so many schools?

Comments by Stuart on 26th January 2020  

Forgetting P E kit in my prep school resulted in a slipping as a "reminder" not to forget it again and using kit from the list property. No pants were ever worn under shorts so always a risk borrowed pair might slip off, though our swim lessons were nude so we all saw each other naked anyway. The nudity wasn't the problem it was the whacking and being the odd one out which caused pain and embarrassment respectively

Comments by Josh H on 24th January 2020  

The punishment in my school was having to write lines or the cane across the hand. Some teachers gave the lad the option of detention or cane. Most accepted the can.
a) It got the punishment over and done with
b) If you stayed behind at school your parents would know and you would be punished further by them. In P E the punishment was slipper across the backside and wearing only thin shorts and no pants was painful.Although I only know that from what other boys told me.

Comments by John on 23rd January 2020  

Mr Curious,
Please accept my sincere apologies for the post that appears on the 23rd of January which appears to have come from you. I have clearly made an error whilst typing, the post is from me.


Comments by James on 23rd January 2020  

Mr.Curious,corporal punishment was administered at the school that I attended and was usually used to maintain discipline.
Mainly we would receive the cane on our buttocks if we misbehaved,but frequently we would receive a sharp slap on our legs.Mainly for PE and games our teacher would use a strap over our skimpy shorts if we weren't trying hard enough.

Comments by Paul on 23rd January 2020  

Mr Curious - forgetting PE kit always resulted in a dose of the slipper and then being told to find shorts in the lost property box, if you were lucky they fitted but they were usually too tight or too big. Too tight rubbed your stinging arse and too big you had to keep hold of because you weren't wearing underpants.

For all else there was the cane, every master had one and four strokes was pretty common, six exceptionally and eight from the headmaster.

Private boy's grammar school in the 1970s.

Comments by Mr Curious on 23rd January 2020  

I was at Senior School in the 1970s and if we forgot our PE kit we were loaned a pair of white shorts and a pair of pumps. We had to route through a basket to try and find some that would fit and invariably couldn’t; the deterrent for forgetting PE kit was having to wear someone else’s smelly pumps. If we couldn’t find any pumps to fit then we simply did PE in shorts and went barefoot.

Comments by Mr.Curious on 22nd January 2020  

Another question for the posters and readers here.

Was there corporal punishment at your school and how was it carried out?

Comments by Mr.Curious on 22nd January 2020  

A simple question to those who were at school in the 50s,60s and 70s.

What happened when you forgot your PE kit for PE class?

Were you punished in some way, including corporal punishment, or made to do PE in something else?

Comments by George Spelvin on 19th January 2020  spelvin545@gmail.com 

An alumnus named Martin left some memoirs of Shears Green School on this site.
The earliest one that I can find is from December 7, 2013 and is currently on page 40.
The latest is from April 16, 2014 and is currently on page 38.

Comments by Terry on 15th January 2020  

There has been much talk of the old policies of having boys and girls topless for mixed sex gym classes. Girls topless up to the age where they required bras. There has also been much talk about boys swimming nude. There is a Facebook site from Shears Green Primary School in Kent which has comments from former students remembering how the boys had nude swimming on Mondays, the girls had nude swimming on Wednesdays and both boys and girls had nude swimming together on Fridays. Some of the comments from the girls showed that they looked forward to the mixed swimming.

Comments by Ken on 12th January 2020  

Where there also female visitors who saw the boys showering naked?
Were you also belted bare in front of visitors?
What was their reaction?

I understand that you had to do what you were told without question in those days but this seems to have been too sadistic and humiliating to me.

Comments by Kevin on 12th January 2020  

Further to the comments about visits,my school always used to include the gymnasium in any visitor's tour. Two dozen lads wearing nothing except skimpy shorts being relentlessly put through their paces by a teacher barking commands and blowing his whistle must have been a memorable feature of any guest's visit.
On several occasions a boy was slippered with visitors present.I imagine the visitors approved the firm discipline.

Comments by Olderscot on 10th January 2020  

In response to Ian and Andy, I too was at school in the 60's and remember only too well the same rules as you mentioned in your comments. The belt was seen by many teachers as just another 'teaching aid' and used frequently and with force.

With regard to following instructions the ONLY acceptable response was 'Yes, Sir'! There was no alternative response!

Despite what is mentioned, I never saw any benefit in educating children within an environment where the threat of corporal punishment hung over their heads on a daily basis.

Comments by Ian on 10th January 2020  

There weren't many visits - usually only a couple of visits per term.
Our school was a large boys grammar and the new head of PE was introducing a really tough new regime in the secondary school. The local authority used to send a few officials to check on progress. Quite a few teachers and trainees came to see how things were being done. Fathers occasionally visited, either from curiosity or concern about their sons.
Some visitors would just pop in and out after a chat with the teacher. Those staying a whole period would see us being ordered to strip then shower. The teacher would supervise us accompanied by the guests.
This happened at an age from 11 to 18, but 14 to 16 seemed to happen most often. My theory is that was when most corporal punishment was used and visitors wanted to see boys being belted and belted hard.
There was a rumour about our teacher, described as "always belting" on Friends Reunited, that he'd been asked to move on from an English boys school because he was too keen on the cane and that he'd been head hunted by our school. I have been able to corroborate the former using the internet.

Comments by Ken on 9th January 2020  


You said that "there were occasions when visitors were present" during your showers.
What kind of visitors were they, did they see the boys showering naked and how old were you boys?

Comments by Josh H on 9th January 2020  

In response to Michael's comments about obeying without question, reminds me of an article I read written by Baden Powell during my leadership training as a Scout Leader. He was sailing on a small dinghy with his elder brother when his brother shouted get down. Apparently the boom was about to swing towards where B.P. was. He said that if he had questioned the instruction/order then he would have been swept off the boat into the sea. Hence the necessity sometimes to obey without question and why he included that in the Scout Laws.
Of course p.e. being done in bare feet and in shorts with no underwear these days will not happen.

Comments by Andy on 8th January 2020  

In the 1960s/70s we always had showers after PE and they were always cold. The reason was the same as why we were not allowed to wear underpants, it was to make men of us.

Neither did any harm and I loved PE.

Comments by Michael on 8th January 2020  

Ian's comment about obeying the teacher's instructions, reminded me of an incident at my primary school, where we used the assembly hall for many purposes including PE.

It was approaching Christmas and the hall was bedecked with colourful decorations, including a tall tree and many streamers pinned around the walls and hanging from the ceiling.

My class was in the middle of a dance routine when the teacher blew his whistle unusually loudly, and we all stopped immediately as we had been trained to do.

The teacher had noticed a streamer had fallen to the floor, carrying a drawing pin in its end. His prompt action almost certainly prevented a member of my class (all in bare feet) from stepping on it.

This demonstrated to all of us, how important it was to do as we were told, without hesitation.

Comments by Josh h on 8th January 2020  

In response to your final comment Ian, i.e. obey without question, it reminds me of one of the original Scout Laws I was brought up with as given below.
A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS of his patrol-leader, or scout master without question. Even if he gets an order he does not like, he must do as soldiers and sailors do, he must carry it out all the same because it is his duty; and after he has done it he can come and state any reasons against it: but he must carry out the order at once. That was discipline, and usually accepted as part of life.

Comments by Ian on 7th January 2020  

Showers, stripped naked, were compulsory at my school in the 60s - after gym periods, before and after the swimming and after games. The punishment for trying to skip showers was six of the belt given full force by the PE master. I found this out the hard way!
Cold showers in front of the rest of the class were also used as punishment.
There were occasions when visitors were present, but we taught to obey our PE teacher's orders without hesitation.

Comments by Michael on 7th January 2020  

At my old grammar school we had PE/Games sessions three times a week, followed by a compulsory shower. The water temperature was regulated by the teacher from toasty warm to freezing cold.

There was some speculation that this depended on the teacher's opinion of how well we had worked during the session, but of course there was no proof of this.

But, whatever the water temperature, there never seemed to be sufficient time allowed to get properly towel dried afterwards. This meant that one was either late for the next lesson - resulting in a detention - or in time but still dripping wet.

One teacher commented that my class always arrived for her lesson looking like 'drowned rats'!

Comments by Mr Dando on 5th January 2020  

The research goes on. Let us not forget there are many pupils returning to school with dread tomorrow. I will end school showers, topless swimming for boys, skorts for girls and allow both boys and girls to wear tracksuits and base layers all year round for full body modesty. All pupils should change in gender nuetral cubicles so they do not see each other naked.

There are still some schools that insist on towel for showers!



Wearing uniform is obligatory; all pupils must comply with the school's uniform code. Not only does the uniform and smartness of our pupils add to the school's image and prestige in the wider community, but it contributes to a business-like atmosphere conducive to achievement.

A high standard of appearance is required at all times and is integral to all pupils time at Cornelius Vermuyden.

Plain black blazer with the school badge
Plain black v-neck pullover with yellow stripe round neck
Plain white shirt with collar
School tie (to be worn at all times)
Plain black trousers
Plain black socks
Sensible plain black shoes without decoration (no trainers or sling backs)
Plain coat or anorak, preferably in a dark colour
Boys Indoor PE Kit
Black and gold shorts
Black and gold polo shirt with collar and logo
White/black sport socks
Trainers (laced, non-marking, no converse/vans/huarache or fashion shoes)
Black athletics short (compulsory if selected to represent in athletics or cross country)
PE planner
Boys Outdoor PE Kit
Black and gold rugby shirt
Black and gold shorts
Plain black jogging bottoms (optional)
Black and gold hooded sweatshirt with logo (optional)
Black and amber waterproof (optional)
Black football socks
Football boots
PE planner
Plain black blazer with the school badge
Plain black v-neck pullover with yellow stripe round neck
plain white shirt with collar
School tie (to be worn at all times)
Plain black pleated skirt (school approved style) with hem no more than 2'' above the knee and not below the mid-calf
Plain black trousers - optional
Plain black socks
Plain black or natural tights
Sensible plain black shoes without decoration (no trainers or sling backs)
Plain coat or anorak, preferably in a dark colour
Girls PE Kit
Black and gold shorts/skort
Black and gold polo shirt with collar and logo
Black and gold hooded sweatshirt with logo
White sport socks (will need black football socks for girls football and hockey)
Trainers (laced, non-marking, no converse/vans/huarache or fashion shoes)
Black athletics shorts (compulsory if selected to represent in athletics or cross country)
Plain black jogging bottoms (optional)
Black/white sports socks
Black and amber waterproof (optional)
PE planner

Please lets show true 2020 vision and have no nudity in the New year term.

Comments by William on 3rd January 2020  

Would the schools be offended by Mr Dando's observations, or would they dismiss them out of hand on the ground that what is asserted without evidence should be dismissed without evidence? Showers are not self-evidently abusive and to keep asserting that they are without offering any evidence, justification or analysis is a pretty pointless exercise. I should, however, like to thank Mr Dando for his research since it has revealed that some schools do still have showers, which is heartening in itself.

Comments by Fiona on 3rd January 2020  

A bit harsh, possibly even actionable, to describe a school that requires children entrusted to its care to shower after exercise as "an offending institution", when this requirement is explicitly stated in its policies.

Comments by Andrea on 3rd January 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Mr Dando,
Given that nowadays parents are not forced to send their child to a particular school, they could always choose not to send them to a school which has compulsory showers.

Comments by Mr Dando on 2nd January 2020  

Pupils should always be given the option NOT to shower. It is disgusting that with more schools having only optional showers or no shower requirement at all that some pupils are forced into nudity.

An offending institution is shown below:


P.E. Kit
All items of clothing should be labelled with the pupil’s name. All jewellery must be removed prior to a lesson and pupils should ensure that any valuables are handed to a member of staff in the changing rooms.

Pupils should bring their PE kit to every lesson. If a pupil has an injury, they must still bring in their PE kit and a note as they will be asked to change and adopt a different role in the lesson (i.e. Coach/Umpire etc.)

Our requirements for PE kit:

Plain round neck white T-shirt with the Heathland crest
Navy blue shorts
White ankle sports socks
Navy blue games socks (knee length)
Navy school sweatshirt with the Heathland crest
Trainers (non-marking soles) or Astro Trainers (It would be beneficial for boys to have either Astro trainers or studded boots for their rugby lessons)
Towel – showering is compulsory
Plain navy track suit bottoms and a white base layer are allowed during the half terms either side of Christmas or in extreme weather conditions
The School’s preferred uniform supplier, School Bells, is the only shop where ‘official’ Heathland uniform (blazer, tie, jumper, P.E. T-shirt and sweatshirt) can be purchased. Other items required (e.g. shirts, trousers etc) can be purchased anywhere as long as they reflect the School’s Dress Code as outlined above.

Contact details:

School Bells
48 Bell Road
Hounslow, TW3 3PB

With new school term fast approaching in January it is time to boost child protection and not return to the barbarity of the past.

Comments by John on 31st December 2019  

Helen R,
We were never given the option of wearing a top once we developed chest hair. The rule was strictly stripped to the waist for gym, some lads tried to appeal and had parents write letters saying why their son had a health issue that required them to be allowed to wear a top but no exceptions were ever made.

The PE kit list sent to parents indicated that a top could be worn for outdoor PE such as athletics but several PE teachers ignored this and made all lads do athletics shirtless. The stripped to the waist rule was done for health and safety reasons to prevent lads being injured from tops falling over their heads whilst using wall bars and for hygiene because showers were not available after gym classes (only after football which was a longer period and there was enough time to have a shower before the next lesson)

Comments by Helen R on 31st December 2019  

Sorry if my question seemed odd. Obviously I know having a hairy chest does not stop you exercising, I just thought the schools may allow you to wear tops when you reached this point.

Comments by John on 30th December 2019  

Mr Dando,
From reading the comments on this blog and from my own experience lads disliked being a skin when shirts vs skins games were played. The anxiety was created because lads didn’t know if the PE teacher was going to pick them to be on the skins team, if selected they then had to strip to the waist and felt self conscious in front of the lads that were still wearing shirts.

Whereas for gym classes all lads got changed & stripped to the waist and put on shorts and pumps or trainers and everyone was treated fairly and no lad was made to feel different; you all entered the gym shirtless and soon worked up a sweat. The PE teacher made us work hard and we didn’t have time to reflect that we were shirtless. Shirtless gym class was more comfortable than being made to wear a shirt, all lads were treated equally and it was in no way abusive or inappropriate.

There is no need to ban shirtless gym lessons for lads, I suggest that shirts vs skins games are not necessary as coloured bibs, armbands or sashes can be worn to distinguish teams.

Comments by Fiona on 29th December 2019  

Mr Dando

Whitburn Church of England Academy

"PE Uniform
Academy PE polo shirt or Academy long-sleeved multisport top
Academy PE shorts
Academy PE socks
Shin pads and football boots
Mouth Guard for contact rugby and hockey"

"Student Showers
Pupils are expected to shower after taking part in PE lessons as it is unhygienic to remain unwashed after vigorous physical activity. However, we would like to assure you that your modesty and safety have been taken into account when designing the changing rooms and the cubicles are for individuals. You will therefore need to bring a towel and soap/shampoo on the days that you have PE."

SO -
NO topless PE
NO communal showers


Comments by Mr Dando on 28th December 2019  

It is time to show some 2020 vision and ban shirtless pe along iwth compulsory showers.


Student Showers
Pupils are expected to shower after taking part in PE lessons as it is unhygienic to remain unwashed after vigorous physical activity. However, we would like to assure you that your modesty and safety have been taken into account when designing the changing rooms and the cubicles are for individuals. You will therefore need to bring a towel and soap/shampoo on the days that you have PE.

Comments by Ben on 28th December 2019  ben.thomas19@yahoo.com 

Like you the question struck me as a strange one! I can't imagine why you'd think that having chest hair might be a reason for a boy to be excused from going shirtless.
I also felt self-conscious about having hair on my chest before my 15th birthday. Unlike many of the posters here, we didn't have a shirtless PE uniform at my boys only school - this was in the 80s - but we often did team sports with one team in 'skins'. So for a while I was quite apprehensive about PE lessons and the prospect of having to do it with my top off.
I did get some sarcastic remarks from one or two of my classmates when I was a skin and they saw my chest hair, which at first made me feel like some kind of freak. What a relief a few weeks later, when I noticed another boy who had been chosen for the skins team and took his top off to reveal a hairy chest! Suddenly not being the only one made a big difference and I gradually became a lot more confident.
It's interesting you say the boys who were still smooth were jealous of the hairier lads, maybe it was the same in my school?

Comments by Danny on 28th December 2019  

Helen R, I don't see what having a hairy or smooth chest has got to do about it. I had a hairy chest at age 14/15 and even facial hair and some of the still smooth boys were jealous about it, although I felt a bit self-conscious about it.

It had some advantages though, as when I was allowed to enter a cinema theatre where an 18 plus film was showing since I looked older with my moustache while the other boys my age were not allowed in, even though they may have been taller than me but still with a smooth face. :)

I was in a boys only secondary school, but do you think that girls would have been more interested in hairy chested boys than the smooth ones doing PE if it was a mixed school?