Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 699,287         Comments: 2,553

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

2553 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by RobinC on 5th February 2017  

Sorry Gerald for the late response.
1) I did not know of any schools at the time that swam without trunks. The school I went to was quite isolated and I didn't know anyone who went to other schools nearby. Our school was one of the last to have done nude swimming.
2) Our teacher was indifferent. He didn't seem to like or dislike the policy but he did his job as he was told to by the headteacher and heads of department, who only later ruled that we should do swimming with trunks.
3) eventually the school banned it because it just became very outdated. No one saw any reason to continue the policy. I think they should have stopped it earlier.

Comments by Willy on 4th February 2017  

Hi James, at what ages were the boys in your school made to wear these flimsy slips?

Were they made of nylon or cotton?

Did they ever give a reason why the boys were made to wear these slips instead of normal swim trunks?

Did you or the other boys feel embarrassed or humiliated by being made to wear these slips for swimming lessons?

Comments by Claire on 4th February 2017  

Hi Jim, We never had a male teacher it was an all girls school. It was hard enough going topless with just female groups. Girls can tease just as much as boys.

Comments by James on 3rd February 2017  

I remember wearing the slips that were mentioned and they were also tied at the hip to keep them in place.
I don't recall any'malfunctions'and they were quite comfortable to wear,albeit they were very minuscule.

Comments by Turner on 2nd February 2017  


It was boys only. I did not attend this school but came across the kit list so wondered whether anyone had experience of these slips that tie at the side. What did they feel like? Did they malfunction e.g. come untied or become knotted so you couldn't get them off?

Comments by Willy on 2nd February 2017  

Turner, was this a boys only or mixed school?
I presume that these slips were only mandated for boys during swimming at the school.
I guess that some schools really stuck to tradition, but at least a tiny nylon or cotton slip was a step up from complete nudity which was common in many schools for boys at the time for swimming lessons.

Comments by Turner on 1st February 2017  

King Edward VII Grammar School Sheffield Sept 1961 P.E. requirements:-
P.T.: black shorts and gym shoes.
Swimming: non-swimmers - white cotton slips, triangular, with tapes to fasten at the side.
swimmers - blue nylon or cotton slips.
These should be contained in a polythene or waterproof bag, as there are no drying facilities at the School.
Were these slips like the German Dreiecksbadehose? I thought they had been replaced by trunks with elasticated waistbands in the 1940s or 50s.

Comments by Jim on 30th January 2017  

Did you girls ever do PE in just underwear or topless with a male teacher?

Comments by Andrea on 30th January 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Claire & Louise,
I can remember my sister telling me that my niece hated wearing a vest once some of her friends had started to wear bras, so even though she was still flat chested at that point Sis bought her some crop tops so she wouldn't feel left out.

When I was that age in the early 1970's there were no such things as crop tops (or sports bras). Until we were sufficiently developed for a 'teen bra' (a scaled down version of what our mothers wore), we wore vests or nothing under our shirts - just like the boys. Getting your first bra was a sort of rite of passage (which some girls looked forward to, but others didn't!).

Comments by Claire on 30th January 2017  

Hi Louise,

Up to yr7 it was just a standard vest and after yr7 a sports bra.
My simple problem was I didn't start to show until towards the end of yr9. To be honest, I was apprehensive about going topless in the gym but being average build I felt it was the only option. One thing that did ease off were the ribbings, they stopped after a couple of months which was a huge relief.

Comments by Louise on 30th January 2017  

Hi Claire

No way did girls have it easy! I think we've proved that!

Up to yr7 was it your underwear vest that you had to wear for PE? From yr7 was it just your regular bra or did the other girls bring sports bras to wear? How did you feel having to go into the gym topleas - I bet it was worse being the only one like that. What else did you wear in the gym?


Comments by Claire on 29th January 2017  


Poor you! PE lessons were an endurance test for me. Our kit on top was supposed to be a vest up to yr7 then just a bra. I was still flat chested at that stage and was told by the teacher to either wear a vest, and be the only one to do so, or go into the gym topless. I was ribbed enough as it was so topless was the only option. Who says girls had it easy?

Comments by Andrea on 29th January 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


I agree with Rob, that sounds awful. We were allowed just to wash ourselves in one of the sinks if we didn't want to use the shower at that time of the month.

As for making that poor year 9 girl do gymnastics topless, that must have been so embarrassing her! Even in year 7 some of my classmates definitely needed their bras and as far as I can recall pretty much all of us wore them by the end of year 8.

Comments by Rob on 27th January 2017  

Louise, that's terrible, I feel so sorry for you. They shouldn't have been allowed to treat girls like that. it must have been really embarrassing for you and the memory has stayed with you ever since. Boys should consider themselves lucky; they have nothing to get embarrassed about when they are in the showers.

Comments by Louise on 26th January 2017  

Rob - I think it was quite harsh making us shower even on our periods. But I can see that we were just as sweaty or muddy as the rest of the class so did need to freshen up somehow. For a lot of girls it wasn't too obvious but you're right about those with very heavy periods. I remember one lesson where I felt so weak and afterwards in the shower it was pretty messy and unpleasant.

Andrea - yes, in yr8 upwards if we forgot our kit we did it in a bra as well as our pants. For some girls that couldn't come a day too soon! I remember a girl who joined us at the start of yr9 who didn't have a PE kit. For some reason she didn't have a bra either so had to do gymnastics wearing just a pair of pants!

Comments by Peter B on 26th January 2017  

Following the comments by T & William in my era at secondary school, ie 1961 to 1966, it was not that long since ww2 had ended and National Service finished I think about 1963. Therefore in an all male school with all male teachers most of these had served in the war or national service as had our fathers they had experienced communal changing in military accommodation and to them it was just the norm. Furthermore it is only recently that changing arrangements had altered in swimming pools. I remember certainly up to a few years ago the changing facilities at swimming pools were segregated by gender and although there were a few cubicles generally all males changed in an open area and we were quite used to this arrangement so a changing room for pe at school seemed no different. Nowadays we have mixed changing villages, the trouble being at our local pool when busy there are not enough facilities which means having to wait and when you come out of the pool you are hanging around getting cold waiting for a vacant cubicle whereas previously in an all male environment you could just come out of the pool go the changing area and get changed.
Have we become to inhibited?

Comments by Gerald on 19th January 2017  

RobinC, did you know of any other schools that only recently stopped this practice? Fifteen years ago is quite recent. Were you okay with it? was your teacher ( a man I presume!) supportive of the policy or did he aim to stop it? And why did your school decide to ban the practice?

Comments by T on 19th January 2017  

To be honest, those pictures should never have been taken and in shocked that they were. I understand why nude showering is appropriate but a photographer should never have been given access to take those photos. I would have been absolutely horrified if an adult man just walked in on us and took photos while we were in that state. I'm glad that this is no longer allowed to take place. Where's the privacy in that?

Comments by RobinC on 18th January 2017  

I left fifteen years ago and I was one of the last years in the school to do their swimming lessons without trunks. Was a boys private day school.

Comments by William on 17th January 2017  

T, Interesting that your experience mirrors mine many years before: initially nervous, eventually confident and then not bothering whether you're nude or not in the showers queue or changing room. It helped that we had no choice and were all treated the same.

The photos I mentioned bear this out. The foreground figures in McBride's might well be posed but the boys in the background are not and seem entirely relaxed; and the American boys are unconcerned that they are all naked in the showers, as if it's completely natural, which I suppose it is.

Comments by T on 15th January 2017  

William, I have to agree with you that communal showers can help a lot in terms of not being shy. When I first started secondary school nine years ago, I was pretty shocked to hear that we were supposed to shower after every swimming lesson and that we had to take our swimwear off before doing so. Eventually, we all got used to it and didn't even bother covering up with towels in the queue!
So little things like this do boost your confidence

Comments by Andrea on 14th January 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Our PE teacher was a stickler for us wearing the correct PE kit and made us wear some from the lost property cupboard which if we forgot our own (which we hated as it was usually grubby and smelly!).

She had a rather different attitude to bras than yours; far from forbidding them to be worn, she would sometimes 'suggest' that it was time that certain girls started to wear one!

I would imagine that for some, running around topless towards the end of year 7 must have been uncomfortable and embarrassing?

I assume that they were allowed in later years you were allowed to keep them on?

Comments by Rob on 13th January 2017  

Louise,I was a little more than concerned and wondered what a man who said that was doing teaching PE in a girls school.However, your female teacher doesn't sound much better and I can imagine her. She probably chose the kit she wanted girls to wear from year 8 onwards until you were aged 18 so I hope none of you ever forgot your kit.With boys it's different; we didn't need anything other than a pair of shorts in the gym or outside and as we got very hot and sweaty we needed to be naked in the showers together in order to wash properly and it wasn't a problem. However, your teacher was very insensitive making girls shower when they were having their periods and it must have been very unpleasant for any who suffered heavy periods.Surely, if you brought a doctor's note this would have excused you.She shouldn't have been snooping around in the changing room anyway, our teacher never did. We knew we needed to shower and all got on with it.But then again, we were all boys and had it easy.

Comments by Louise on 11th January 2017  

Rob, in fact we always had to shower after our PE lessons. Very often our PE teacher would be in the changing room or at least come in at some point so there was no way of not showering, even if you didn't want to. Being on your period didn't get you out of it either; our teacher said that you still needed to get clean after sweating in her lesson.

At the end of my earlier message it was supposed to read "I remember her saying we were lucky to be allowed our pants!" Sorry for not correcting the bad typo!

Comments by Louise on 10th January 2017  

Andrea, no one was allowed to wear a bra for PE in yr7. Our PE teacher made it really clear that all we could wear was a pair of pants. I tenner he saying that we were lucky to be allowed our pants!

Comments by Andrea on 10th January 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Our PE kit in the early 1970s was white polo shirt and navy gym knickers. The shower rules were the same as described by your wife. A few girls would try to get out of showers by saying they were on their period when they weren't, but our PE teacher soon got wise to them!

Were you allowed to keep your bra on if you were doing PE in underwear, or was it strictly knickers only?

Comments by William on 10th January 2017  

The recent discussion has highlighted the change in attitude between now and 50 years ago towards nudity in single sex schools. We had communal showers at school after gym and were told to get on with it as we were all boys together and there was no reason to be embarrassed. Most of us quickly stopped being shy about being nude. I never saw a master behave improperly in any way.

Will McBride famously photographed the boys washing at Salem School in 1963. Germany has always been more relaxed about nudity than Britain; but the US was more like us and there the change in attitude has been equally striking. In Life magazine dated 13 Jan 1941 there is an article on Democracy in US Schools which includes a photo of about 20 boys back view in a communal shower. Life was a mainstream magazine widely available on US news stands and the photo was uncontroversial. Very different from today's attitudes.

As this is a history site I thought referring to a couple of primary sources would be interesting.

Comments by Bradley on 10th January 2017  

Gerald, I'm not the one you asked but I can say that it is an anomaly. Very very few schools still have compulsory showers, especially nude. It's a shame because the area covered by swimwear is one of the places most prone to infection.

Comments by T on 10th January 2017  

Gerald, it was an anomaly as none of my friends from other schools had the policy of compulsory showers after swimming. I'm glad that this is a rare case, more and more schools are realising that showers are better done in the privacy of one's own home rather than in front of your classmates.

Comments by Rob on 9th January 2017  

Louise, my wife told me that at the mixed school she attended in the 60's the girls PE kit was white shorts and polo shirts. After every PE lesson they all had to go naked in the communal showers unless they were having their period when they were excused showers. No doubt this quite normal for girls at that time and you probably didn't have to take showers at your school. At the boys school I attended, we wore just shorts and plimsolls and nothing else and of course there was no excuse for anyone not going naked in the showers afterwards.

Comments by Gerald on 8th January 2017  

T, thank you for the response. So it seems that even today schools still allow for nude showers. Was this the case at other schools do you think or was your school an anomaly?

Comments by Louise on 8th January 2017  

I've read most of the comments and a lot of people are surprised that girls used to have to do PE in their underwear or even just their knickers, but a lot of these messages relate to lessons in the early 1990s and earlier.

I'm 24 and went to an all girls school from the ages of 11-18. When I was in year seven in 2004 we did indoor PE twice a week and we didn't have PE kit. We all had to just strip down to our knickers and do the lesson like that. It was embarrassing to start with and it was cold in the winter! From year eight onwards we got a kit to wear but it was a pair of tiny gym knickers and a thin cotton vest, always with bare feet. If we forgot our kit then it was back to doing it in our underwear!

Comments by T on 8th January 2017  

Daryl, I agree with your point that showering is important. After swimming, showers were compulsory at my school. Most of us did take our swimwear off before hitting the showers. Since the showers were communal, you can understand why some might have preferred to keep their swimwear on, however the rules were that swimwear should not be worn in the showers.

Comments by Gerald on 5th January 2017  

T, thanks for your answer. Was showering done with or without trunks? And did you have to shower after PE or just after swimming?

Comments by Daryl on 4th January 2017  

In my day, if you even considered not showering you were given the slipper and made to shower. It's just not hygienic to go from high octane exercise to a lesson without having washed yourself. T, did your school have showers? And was it compulsory to shower?

Comments by T on 4th January 2017  

Gerald, at my school, the sports we played were football, basketball, rugby, cross country, gymnastics and athletics.
There was compulsory showers after swimming but not after PE.
It is a state-run boys only school.

Comments by Gerald on 3rd January 2017  

T, were there showers after PE or did you not have them?
Also, what sports did you play during your time at the school? And was this at a private or state run school?

Comments by Lewis on 2nd January 2017  

T thank you for your response. Your comments re underwear show how times have changed since I was at an all boys school from 1961 to 1966

Comments by T on 1st January 2017  

Yes we wore our normal underwear under our shorts. All our kit was bought from a supplier so everyone wore the same kit.

Comments by Lewis on 1st January 2017  

T it is interesting to read comments from a person who has recently left school. For PE were you allowed to wear pants under your shorts or like us from older generation was underwear banned? The fact that you wore swimming briefs in the pool is interesting but I assume that was the rules, because one rarely sees males wearing swimming briefs in public these days

Comments by T on 31st December 2016  

At my school, we did PE in shorts and a t-shirt. For team games, we would use different bibs and for colder days, such as for cross country, we wore jumpers. I finished school last year so this is quite an accurate representation. For swimming, we wore swim briefs.

Comments by Edward on 27th December 2016  

In response to Willy.

Swimming lessons were in an indoor pool not large enough for spectators with a male supervising master.

Comments by Willy on 26th December 2016  

Edward, can you describe how the swimming sessions were carried out?
Were they swimming lessons or free swims?
Did you have swimming competitions or galas in front of spectators?
Also were female teachers or staff ever present during your nude swims?

Comments by Edward on 26th December 2016  

In response to Willy.

I attended a boy's only Preparatory/Public School.

Swimming without trunks was obligatory for all.

Comments by Willy on 24th December 2016  

Edward, could you elaborate and clarify further, was it a primary, prep or secondary school?
Was it a boys only or mixed school?

Comments by Edward on 23rd December 2016  

Further to recent comments tradition was not the pretext to swimming naked at the school that I attended in the early sixties.The regime was imposed at the whim of the Headmaster.

'Get used to it' was the response from other staff.

Participating nude was initially daunting, but I became accustomed to it, with the added benefit of no wet trunks.

Comments by Lewis on 21st December 2016  

In response to your comments Willy, I think you are correct. It was either school or district policy that governed rules on nude swimming. We had weekly swimming lessons at our secondary school but we were taken b y coach to the local municipal pool. It was a session just for our school which all boys but swimming trunks were worn. For PE it was like most schools shorts no pants or top and plimsolls only no socks. Our parents knew this and no one thought anything about it.

I expect at the first lesson I thought it strange and felt a bit uncomfortable but I knew what was coming because my elder brother was already attending the school and he had told me about the minimal clothing in PE and I know he tried to tease me by saying that with no pants and only shorts everything would hangout. In spite of everything we all survived.

In answer to the question about dress for PE today I know from my son's high school ti is shorts for outdoor football etc. although winter he can wear track suit bottoms and they always wear a top and underwear. There is no mention of showers and he does not have to take a towel. It seems from what he says several PE and sports lessons are spent talking about the theory of keeping fit with very little exertion

Comments by Willy on 20th December 2016  

It was not teachers that made boys swim nude. It was either the school policy or district policy.
If it was illegal it would never have happened anywhere.
The main reason was tradition and the culture of the time. In fact most all parents of the time accepted it as normal and never objected.
It was the same with PE kit of shorts only or underpants unly, or even supervised communal showers at school, all of which would be seen as unacceptable today.
I guess the only tradition from among these that still survives today, though probably getting rarer, is the compulsary communal shower after PE.
Does anyone here know of any schools which still have any of these old traditions?

Comments by Paul on 20th December 2016  

I never minded nude swimming once we got used to the idea. Equally communal showers were quite healthy places where there was always a bit of chat and banter which was much more fun that the closed cubicles of today.

It's always a mistake to judge other times by values of a different age. I certainly never met a teacher who seemed to have any untoward intentions, no doubt a very few did but it's so wrong to judge the majority on the basis of that.

Comments by Gerald123 on 18th December 2016  

Why did they insist on nude swimming? Why shouldn't people wear trunks? I honestly think these teachers should be tried- they may have had some wrong intentions... absolutely awful that this happened.