Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 648,069         Comments: 2,374

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

2374 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Michael on 9th February 2014  

My parents were proud to have me attend the town's grammar school, and they would never have thought to object to, or even query, the rules regarding uniform. Because of this the (rather old-fashioned - even for those days) uniform list was followed in every detail, and one of the items stated that all boys should wear regulation grey short trousers for at least their first two years at the school.

This meant there was no argument or even debate on the subject, at least in my home. In any case my parents had far more important matters to consider, not least of which was affording all of the uniform on the list.

The blazer alone was a significant amount of money in the early 1960s, so any economies which could be made on other items, were very welcome indeed. In this light, short trousers made good financial sense as well as complying with the school's regulations.

On the other hand my younger brother 'failed' the 11+ and attended a secondary modern school, which had 'optional' uniform, allowing him to wear long trousers from age 11.

Accordingly I found myself in the strange situation of wearing shorts to school until I was nearly 14, at the same time as he was wearing long trousers. To my dismay, this sometimes led to people assuming I was his younger, not his older, brother.

Comments by James on 9th February 2014  

I do agree with Christopher Hall that we had "NO real input"on what we wore for games and physical activities.As you say the school dictated what we wore and it would have been futile to object as possible retributions would follow.
Before I attended my new secondary school the list for my uniform arrived and my Mum noticed,with glee that I could stay in short trousers for another four years.No amounnt of persuading or cajoling would make her change her mind.

Comments by Christopher Hall on 9th February 2014  

To quote James "the option for boys to wear short trousers was for the parents not for the pupil"!
You are not wrong there! When I was at school we had absolutely NO real input about what we wanted to wear, parents (well Mums) told you what you were going to wear to go to school, teachers told you what (if anything) you were going to wear for games, pe, showers, swimming etc. Even parents had no say once you were at school, everything was flagged up as 'school rules' so there was no discussion and no dissent allowed! How things have changed!

Comments by Christopher Hall on 8th February 2014  

Hi Roy,
Evidently you are a little older than me, but I think it depended on the school. As I said, at my boys only Grammar school, MOST boys started year 8 (what used to be called second year) in shorts, including me. However the number gradually dwindled during the year and I think the last die-hards were in longs by the start of year 9. At the Secondary Modern school however, all the boys wore long trousers, even the year 7 'first years'! And yes, we were a little bit jealous, especially when we got teased for wearing shorts by boys who were two years younger than us!

Comments by James on 8th February 2014  

It was no fun wearing shorts at secondary school espiacially as only four boys were still in shorts out of 250 boys and the teasing was almost continuous and unmerciful.
To clear up the misunderstanding,the option for boys to wear short trousers was for the parents not for the pupil,I hated wearing them and found them humiliating and bitterly cold in the winter.
As I had a 26 inch waist I could be kitted out in shorts which were more suitable for a more junior boy which had the desired effect.When standing straight my finger tips touched the hem of my shorts which left an inseam of one inch.When told to 'wrap up warm' a waist length anorak was worn which of course left my legs bare and open to the elements.

Comments by Roy on 8th February 2014  

I agree with Christopher Hall in that when I was at school in the early 1960's all boys in what is now Year 8 would be wearing long trousers.

Comments by Christopher Hall on 8th February 2014  

I didn't realise it was an option, I thought you meant they all had to wear shorts! I think it was brave to wear them to leaving age!
I went into 'longs' in my second year at Grammar school, it got really cold probably about February and as a thirteen year old I pestered my mum into letting me have long trousers although some brave souls hung on until the end of the second year. I do remember that the 'official' uniform shorts we wore at grammar school were quite a bit longer than the ones I had worn at Primary school, but they were still fairly short! There was some rule that the leg of your shorts had to be at least one hand width below the bottom of your blazer, but I don't remember any teachers actually checking it though! Also, long grey socks and black shoes with shorts, except in summer when we could wear short socks and 'proper' sandals, but we weren't allowed to wear sandals if we wore long trousers! So many pointless rules!

Comments by James on 8th February 2014  

In reply to Christopher Hall,the uniform requirement was shorts optional,with no upper age limit.One boy wore shorts right up to leaving age,one up to his second year,myself and another boy up to their third year.

Comments by Christopher Hall on 8th February 2014  

I really dont buy James idea of boys at secondary schools wearing shorts to leaving age, I was at Grammar school in the late 1970s and while the first-year boys (what would now be called year 7) all had to wear shorts, and many of the boys in the second year also wore them, however nobody was in shorts by the time we were 14. Frankly, I cant see boys at ANY school being prepared to wear shorts at that age as most people walked home from school in those days and kids from other schools would tease them to death for wearing shorts!
And the one inch leg length that James mentioned, junior school boys certainly wore very tiny shorts that barely covered their underwear, but I dont think 12 and 13 year old boys at any secondary school would have been prepared to wear them that small!

Comments by Jools on 7th February 2014  

Debbie, I am grinning at the idea of all those little boys running around the campsite every evening wearing nothing but pyjama jackets and with all their bottoms and willies visible, it would have been quite amusing to watch but of course in those days I suppose there was no girls in the cubs, except for leaders of course. I can't help wondering if your brother (or any of the boys) were embarrased by having to go with no pants on in front of the leaders, especially if one of them was his teacher.
An intersting thread, and all this has come up from someone saying that the boys and girls at a primary school in Kent all used to swim together completely naked in their school swimming lessons!
I see you have put your email address, can I mail you direct to chat?

Comments by Debbie on 7th February 2014  debbie.richards@hush.com 

No problem Jools
It was about 1984 as he was born in 1974.
Yes the Cub leaders were female, there was three of them as far as I can remember and the main one, the Akela was a teacher at his school. My mum and dad knew they went naked because when they were going to camp they all had to get a letter signed by mums or dads to allow them to go, it always had a kit list on it and I am sure the kit list said they should only take a pyjama top to wear in bed. I remember mum packing his kit for camp and asking him if he was going to bother with swimming trunks, he took them with him but I don't suppose he wore them!

Comments by James on 7th February 2014  

Hi Jools,

I'm from the Midlands,yes I did wear boxers but went on to wear Y fronts when I went on to Secondary Modern School where shorts were optional right up to leaving age.
My parents chose shorts as it was a family tradition.
The fashion,as you say was for shorts to be very brief as it seemed pointless to wear knee length shorts with stockings.

Comments by Jools on 7th February 2014  

Hi again Debbie, thanks for telling us all that information about what your brother wore at cubs, how long ago was that?
I am sure you said the cub leader was female, I am still wondering if your parents knew knew he was going naked at camp and what they thought about it.

Comments by Jools on 7th February 2014  

James. I am not sure where you are from, but surely in the 70's little boys all wore Y front undies rather than boxers? I don't think those would have shown below your shorts. I do agree though that in those days boys shorts did get very short indeed, and they all seemed to wear them at junior school and sometimes even after a they started secondary school. As a girl, I remember our skirts were getting longer in those days!

Comments by ambrose on 6th February 2014  

Dave, the point I was making was the inequality that existed so far as staff were concerned. The men were not allowed to supervise girls changing areas, but it was perfectly legal for the ladies to walk in on adolescent boys when they were undressed!

I, and several other non PE specialist male teachers refused to take mixed sports clubs during lunchtimes and after school since we couldn't control what went on in the girls changing rooms: and the girls were just as bad as the boys at bullying and horseplay if there was no one supervising them!

Comments by Debbie on 6th February 2014  debbie.richards@hush.com 

I asked my brother about this, (he's not really 'little' any more), he said that at cub meetings they sometimes took their tops off when they were playing games but they always kept their shorts on, but he said that when they were at camp they were always sent to wash and get ready for bed after flagdown and before they had their supper, he said there was a 'sort of' pack rule that they could only wear a pyjama top or a t-shirt, and Akela always encouraged them not to wear any pyjama pants when they were at camp, while vests, underpants and socks were also not allowed. He said that once they has got undressed and had supper they had an hour or two of playtime before going to bed, he said that the younger boys went to bed earlier but the older boys could play on the field for a lot longer before they had to get into bed.
Normally during the day they wore normal camp stuff like t-shirts and shorts but when they were playing in or near the river they could wear trunks if they wanted to, although they often went in with nothing on.

Comments by James on 6th February 2014  

Hi Jools

I used to wear short pants to school and cubs and later scouts usually without underwear mainly because shorts were much briefer in the seventies with an inseam of about an inch.Any underwear would have shown under my shorts.


Comments by Jools on 5th February 2014  

LOL Debbie!
I looked down and found your older message. I like the idea of the cubs only wearing pajama jackets in bed, that's so much more comfortable. You also said "I think there was some sort of old pack tradition that they didn't wear pants or underpants at camp." Did they have to go like that all the time at camp? I think its a great idea, did the leader ever get them to take their tops off and go completely naked? Little boys always look so cute when they are nude ;-)
I just wonder how the leader persuaded the boys to run around at camp without any pants on, and of course how they persuaded the boys parents to let them, certainly wouldnt be allowed now!

Comments by Dave on 5th February 2014  

Ambrose, I am surprised that female staff were allowed to supervise the boys toilets and changing facilities at the secondary school where you worked. Although this was common in many primary schools, including mine, it never happened at my secondary school that I can recall. But I suppose it could have happened in some other secondary schools.
As for PE it was also normal to change in front of the class teacher, be they male or female, in primary school. We changed for PE in just white T-shirt and shorts, both boys and girls. But there definitely were some other primary schools who did PE in just underpants, as some other posters recall.
It was different in secondary school of course, but there could have been exceptions, especially in private schools, that is non-state schools.
It was the same with nude swimming I suppose, where it was more likely for junior boys to have female teachers supervising and teaching, but less likely with older boys.

Comments by Debbie on 4th February 2014  

Hi Jools, I was just having a look back at this page and saw your question. I put another message longer ago which explains it, but my brother wore grey shorts at cub meetings like all the other boys but I think there was some sort of old pack tradition that they didn't wear pants or underpants at camp. I know they weren't allowed to wear them at bedtime and they were only allowed to wear a pyjama jacket, but I have no idea why that was. Didn't seem to bother him though.

Comments by Andrea on 4th February 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

There was no nude swimming when I was at primary school in the 1960s. The boys wore swimming trunks and we wore one piece bathing costumes.

For pe. I generally a pe skirt or shorts and a T shirt. As there were no changing rooms we had to change in our classroom along with the boys, so by the final year I got quite adept at putting on my pe kit before removing my school skirt! I was still flat chested when I left primary school so changing into the T shirt wasn't an issue (I generally wore a vest anyway), but a few of more more 'developed' classmates were allowed to go to the toilets to change.

Secondary pe came as a bit of a shock at first, our pe kit was gym knickers and a T shirt and showers were compulsory!

Comments by ambrose on 3rd February 2014  

Iain's memories show one of the inequities of teaching during the 60's/70's/80's.

At the Midlands state secondary/comprehensive where I worked, female staff were allowed access to supervise the boys toilets and changing facilities, but male staff were prohibited from the girls facilities.

One notable occasion proved the point when a female PE teacher went into the boys shower room to quell an argument that had developed into a brawl. (The male member of staff had been called away to attend to an injured boy.) There was alarm and horror as the mostly naked 15 year old boys saw who had entered the room and several complained to the Headmaster of their embarrassment at the female intrusion. However, the Head was forced to support his female teacher since according to the regulations at the time she had not infringed any rules.

It was more usual for the ladies to knock and ask if anyone was changing if they had to enter the room to use the only telephone in the sports block!

Comments by Jools on 3rd February 2014  

Question for Debbie, you said your little brother didnt wear any pants at cubs? It seems a bit strange that, boys not wearing pants at cubs, were they allowed to wear their underpants? What was the reason for it?

Comments by Jools on 3rd February 2014  

I am amazed at all these stories of girls and boys doing naked mixed swimming lessons at school and of all doing pe wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. It was nothing like that at MY junior school but I wish it had been, Im a girl but I would have LOVED to go topless or nude at school, even with boys there!

Comments by Iain on 1st February 2014  

It was an indoor pool and is ((as far as I know) still there and still in use, other staff members did very occasionally come in, either to take the lesson or to speak to the p.e. teacher.
Galas and competitions were nude when they were 'school' only, if our parents were invited or we were swimming against other schools we usually wore trunks. I think even for junior boys, nude swimming galas and competitions in front of mixed spectators would be pretty unlikely!
When we were very young we had our p.e. and Games lessons taken by female teachers who obviously also supervised us in the changing rooms and when we went in the showers, but as far as I can recall we had male teachers only by the time we were about 10.
I don't know how common this was at other schools though, ours was a private school and I think few 'state' primary schools would have had much in the way of changing and showering facilities!

Comments by Dave on 1st February 2014  

Thanks Iain. Was it an indoor or outdoor pool, and did any other teachers or school staff watch watch the nude swimming lessons besides the swimming teacher?
I heard that in some schools they also had swimming galas and competitions in the nude, especially junior boys, in front of mixed spectators. Could this be true?

I am also curious to know if any schools had compulsory showers for boys after PE under the supervision of female teachers.

Comments by Iain on 1st February 2014  

In reply to Dave, we also had to swim nude at school, it was compulsory for all Junior boys and the lower school boys in the Grammar school, ie up to about 14. That was Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, it was an all boys school and I am sure we had a female swimming teacher in the junior school but we certainly had a male teacher by the time we were 11 and went into the lower school! I don't think we gave it much thought at the time. I started there in 1967 and I think the nude swimming went on until the early 80's.

Comments by Cynthia on 26th January 2014  

During primary school, I remember how during sports we would all take of our shoes and socks and we girls would participate in our skirts and vests, which we all wore under our blouses on the necessary days, while the boys removed their shirts and were made to take part with bare chests, wearing only their shorts. I don't know how they felt about it really. Some were fine, but some seemed more shy than usual.

Comments by oldscotsguy on 26th January 2014  

I attended an all boys secondary school and if we ever forgot our swimming Speedos then we had to do the class naked. I only forgot once but some boys were regularly naked.

Comments by Dave on 26th January 2014  

Debbie and Martin, thanks for the clarification.

Tim, did you have female teachers supervising, or present, during the boys nude swim classes?

Anyone else had nude swimming classes in British schools?

Comments by Debbie on 11th January 2014  

I am a little bit confused here by Mathews comments, it seems that it was Dave who was seeking information about the mixed nude swimming that Martin mentioned. I had a look at the facebook links that Martin gave and they certinly did seem tohave mixed nude swimming at his old junior school and there are lots of people who remember it. I think it maybe wasn't such a big deal back then, my little brother didn't think there was anything wrong with not wearing any pants when he was at cubs.

Comments by Tim on 10th January 2014  

These comments bring back many memories. At my all boys prep school in the 1970's, it was the norm that you did swimming in the nude, no question. This had been going on for years and went on until the 1980's. I only started at the school when i was 10 and it was a slight shock to do swimming in the nude but I soon got used to it. It also gave the pe teacher the perfect opportunity to inflict a sharp cane to the bare backside which always left a red mark.

Comments by Matthew on 7th January 2014  

Have you not read Dave's perfectly clear explanation below about exactly when swimming took place and whether it was obligatory to wear a costume? If you have I can only conclude that you have a gratuitous and unhealthy interest in this topic.

Comments by Martin on 7th January 2014  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

Hi Dave, Let me clarify....
I went to Shears Green Primary in Kent, a mixed County Primary school in the South East UK.
They had nude swimming between about the late 1960's until (I think) about 1988. Nude swimming was ALWAYS voluntary and was in extra lunchtime and Saturday sessions but NOT in regular planned swimming lessons, (we HAD to wear swimwear for them!) Nude swimming was open to all, from 7 to 11 years old and when I was there it was girls on monday lunchtime, boys on friday lunchtime and mixed (boys and girls) on wednesday lunchtime. For the same-sex sessions I think we just had to turn up, I don't think we needed our parents permission, but we needed their permission for the 'mixed' nude swimming (not every week, we only needed to get the form signed once!) Saturday morning was 'clothing optional', ANYONE could go and it was up to us whether we wore our swimwear or swam nude.
This was the ONLY school I attended (or taught at) with nude swimming, as I have already stated mixed nude swimming must have been incredibly rare although apparently it wasn't unusual for boys to swim nude at prep and private schools.
I have included a couple of facebook, friends reunited links so you can look for yourself and read the comments from the very large number of kids who took part over the years!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2232710443/ http://www.friendsreunited.com/shears-green-county-junior-school/Discuss/9b5c582f-4f9b-40f0-9be8-8695265ccc0c

Comments by Dave on 5th January 2014  

Martin, are you saying that all the primary schools you went to and taught at as a teacher all had mixed nude swimming?
Do any of these schools have a Friends Reunited site? I bet they have a lot of old memories to talk about.
I know there were some schools which had obligatory nude swimming for boys, maybe for girls also, but never heard of mixed nude swimming at school.
Were the other schools the same as the one you mentioned, that is voluntary and optional swimsuit, or obligatory nudity?

Comments by Martin on 21st December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

to Mathew: I agree with most of what you say, however I will have to disagree on a couple of points, I went to a number of different Primary and Secondary schools over the years and later taught in a couple of secondary schools. In all the primary schools and in one of the secondary schools swimming lessons were mixed, it really wasn't as rare as you seem to think! At primary school (Shears Green) we swam nude, (look it up!) the lessons were mixed but it was only in optional sessions at dinnertime and saturday morning, and you needed your parents permission, regular 'class' swimming lessons where done in swimwear. Nude swimming was not common in state schools, but it certainly was in the 'public' school sector, although usually in boys only schools, (both junior and senior) there is ample evidence of this, I suspect the likelyhood of nude swimming lessons above the age of 11 being supervised by female teachers is highly questionable!

To Dave: It was boys and girls nude swimming on wednesdays dinnertime and on saturday morning (and everyone swam nude) girls only on Monday dinnertime and boys only on friday dinnertime. It was an extra-curricula activity and was NOT compulsory, for the mixed sessions we needed our parents permission, but I don't think it was required for the same-sex sessions. This was at Primary school so all the kids were between 7 and 11½. This had started in the late 1960's and apparently went on until the mid 1980's, when I was there the mixed nude sessions were very popular and were well attended by both boys and girls. I suspect that mixed nude swimming like this was VERY rare, even at Primary school level, I only know of 3 other schools in the UK that allowed it!

Comments by Christopher on 21st December 2013  

That must have not been very nice for your brother, Theresa. How would he respond?

Comments by Dave on 20th December 2013  


Could you make things a bit more clear?
You said they were nude mixed swimming lessons at school. Was it both boys and girls in the nude, or boys only?

Was the nudity compulsary or optional?

Comments by Matthew on 20th December 2013  

Let's get some facts straight. In the majority of schools, primary and secondary, from 1946 onwards, swimming lessons were single sex only. Further, nude swimming was very rare. Likewise this obsession with boys wearing or not wearing underpants has become ridiculous. Almost all schools wore just shorts indoors and full sport's kit out doors. This is based on practice in several school from 1946 to 1960. Many commentators here are showing an unhealthy interest in this site and perhaps would find more satisfaction on another site.

Comments by Theresa on 20th December 2013  

My brother and I were in school about 30 years ago, and yes, it was in England. The other girls certainly did tease the boys, and while the boys tried to appear confident, it was obvious that they all felt slightly exposed. The girls were interested in the boys bodies, but where interested in teasing them just as much. Outside in winter, boys did PE separately, and I can't remember what the boys wore. The girls normally wore tracksuit-like trousers, shirts and jumpers. In the Summer, girls wore shorts and blouses, and boys wore shorts and sleeveless vests.

Comments by Spence on 19th December 2013  

What period are we talking about here? Recently?
You say you teased your brother. Did other girls tease the boys? What was the boys' reaction?
Were the girls really that interested in the boys bodies and what did each gender wear outside?

Comments by Dave on 18th December 2013  

Hi Theresa!

Was it England? I've thought they have single sex PE lessons a secondary schools.

Comments by Martin on 18th December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

Yes, mixed nude swimming lessons at my Primary school were for real, with crowds of boys and girls up to the age of 11, swimming together stark-naked twice a week! We also had boys only and girls only nude swimming lessons every week as well, I always went to the mixed sessions and I also went to the boys only sessions with my friends on fridays.
Shears Green Primary School in Kent, look it up on fb or friends reunited!

Comments by Martin on 18th December 2013  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

You think THAT would cause an outcry these days? I remember taking a letter home from Primary School when I was about 9 asking my parents for permission for me to swim naked in the mixed nude swimming lessons we had twice a week at school! Imagine how that would go down these days!!! As I recall, almost everyone who asked to go to these sessions managed to get their parents permission, most of the boys in my class wanted to go and I think we all managed to get it 'signed off' by our mums!

Comments by Theresa on 17th December 2013  

I remember when I went to secondary school with my twin brother. Gym was mixed and while we girls wore shirts and gym knickers, which were really just tight shorts, boys wore just shorts, with no shirt. He was a shy boy, and I always teased him about it, by telling him about my friends' opinions of his body and constantly commenting on his physical development.

Comments by Yorkie on 16th December 2013  

Reading the last person's comments you can imagine the outcry if a teacher pulled out the back of a pupil's shorts these days.

However, I suppose this wowukd not apply as I suppose that underwear is worn. Possibly jockstraps are worn because the modern boxer shorts which I think most lads wear would give no support.

Comments by Stuart Beech on 13th December 2013  stuartbeech65@gmail.com 

I have read with interest the posts about the wearing of PE kit, I would add my experience at an all boys senior school between 1959-1964, we had blue rough cotton PE shorts, no underwear and always a quick underwear check in the changing room, the teacher pulled the back of your shorts away to check, if we were in the gym it was barefoot and bare chests, like the boys in the picture, if we had PE outside we wore white plimsolls and a white vest, if there were team games, one team went bare chested.

Another thing we had were compulsory medical examinations at age 11 and then at 13, the leaving age being 15. These examinations were always done prior to PE lessons, so we were just in shorts and lined up against the wall waiting to go in individually in the large gym storeroom converted temporarily for physical examination days, inside was a desk where a nurse sat and checked you in then did the eye and hearing tests and then you waited until the boy in front of you had been examined by the doctor behind a curtained off area, so there was a steady stream of boys getting examined.

If anyone would like a bit of a comprehensive description of the PE activities we did or the medical exam, or have any memories from their school days then feel free to email me at stuartbeech65@gmail.com

Comments by Debbie on 13th December 2013  

In answer to Benny, I am sure this was often the case at Primary school level, but I think it pretty unlikely it happened at Secondary school (ie age 12 and above)however back when I was younger I think relativly few Primary schools would have had 'proper' changing rooms and showers anyway, most kids changed in the toilets, cloakrooms or in their classrooms. As I stated before, my younger brother was in the Cubs when he was at Primary school, in a Pack where all the leaders were female. When they were on camps or sleepovers, my brother said they had to get undressed and ready for bed after flagdown, but before they had their supper, which I am guessing was probably about 7:00, they all had to wear a pyjama 'top' or a t-shirt but they weren't allowed to wear any pants, he said that after supper they all ran around the camp with bare 'willies' playing games for a couple of hours before they went to bed! I used to tease him and his friends about going 'bare' at camp and the leaders seeing them like that, but they seemed very unconcerned! I don't think kids that age (8-11) are too bothered, or they weren't in those days!

Comments by scotslad on 13th December 2013  

I response to Garry's comments, did your wife say what she wore for pe class?

Comments by Benny on 13th December 2013  

Talking about compulsary group showers after PE, a friend once told me that at his primary school it was usually their class female teacher who supervised the boys during their showers after PE. Was this common in some schools in England?