Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 676,759         Comments: 2,437

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

2437 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Rob on 8th October 2013  

But if the boys are unhappy with it they probably can't do anything.

Comments by Richard W on 7th October 2013  

Can't really see why this is such a big deal, we're talking about primary school children not teenagers. When I was that age the boys and girls had swimming lessons together, naturally the boys were all barechested while the girls were not. Does it really matter if that's the case in the gym as well? And as John pointed out, if parents are unhappy about their sons having to do classes with their tops off, they can always send them to another school.

Comments by Tim H on 7th October 2013  

Ofsted report from St Michaels, Bamford, Rochdale ...


Comments by John on 7th October 2013  

Hi Rob, lots of things are enforced in school, you ahve to wear a uniform, you have to go to classes etc etc. Why should it be different for boys going barechested in PE? It's a policy that has it reasons (H&S, discipline, gender indetity, ..) as has any other policy. If you're not happy, go to another school that doesn't have has a different PE uniform!

Comments by Rob on 6th October 2013  

John, boys may not need shirts for PE, but it cannot be right to force them to go without one. There is no need for that either.

Comments by Maltamon on 6th October 2013  

I have found the offending school. All other St Michael's schools across the country allo boys to wear t-shirts and shorts but this one in Rochdale:


8. For P.E. boys are expected to wear shorts. Girls should wear knickers and vest (young infants and all Reception children), shorts and white t-shirt or black leotard (older infants and juniors.) Children will do P.E. in pumps or bare feet.

How do they justify this rule. Boys are expected to wear shorts and possibly pumps on their feet but says nothinh about knickers and vest for boys.

Why cant boys wear shorts and t-shirts? If girls can wear black leotards why cant boys wear black leotards with shorts on top like at professional gymnastic academies?

It seems the dead hand of Cyril Smith MP is still alive in working class male Rochdale and we all know what that "liberal MP" done to boys in children homes!

I wonder what the female teachers who often run these primary schools would do if they were forced to turn up to lessons in just a pair of shorts.

They would be going straight to their Trade Unions, go on strike and sue the local authority under the Equalities Act 2010. Well Sex Discrimination laws apply to all services and Education is a service. Equal protection for males and girls doesn't come into force at aged 18, children are covered as well.

Comments by John on 6th October 2013  

If the school rule is that boys do PE barechested that that's the way it is. Stop going on about it as if it was a bad thing. Boys are not girls they do not need a top for PE, let them grow up into healthy men!

Comments by Rob on 5th October 2013  

Look at rule 8 of the the school rules section of the St Michael's Church of England Primary School. They also seem to require boys to do PE without shirts, whereas girls can chose between shorts and shirts or leotards. The youngest wear vest and pants, but boys have to wear less than that all the way up to year 6

Comments by Maltamon on 5th October 2013  

Now is not the time to go wobbly. There are still at least 2 primary schools in the UK that force boys do indoor pe, topless.

These shameful schools are


Clothing for P.E.

Girls - Black leotard

Boys - Black PE shorts

A change of clothing is required for outdoor games

Black Shorts and white T-Shirt

Trainers/black plimsolls—not shoes worn during the school day.

Track suit - advisable in cold weather

Online uniform ordering formation 2012


No child will be allowed to participate in gymnastics and games unless appropriate clothing and footwear is worn. Clothing for educational gymnastics and dance:

•Girls: T shirt / school polo shirt and shorts or leotard.
•Boys: shorts.

Larkshill remains a partial victory against state sponsored paedophilia because since 2009 boys have the option of wearing a vest and since 2013 the pe kit is now just "recommended" and not compulsory. Yet the school still thinks it is acceptable that boys aged 5-11 dress less modestly than girls.


Pupils Recommended Dress for PE Indoor:

Boys: dark shorts and white vest/bare chest.

Girls: navy/black leotards (Reception to Y3); navy/black leotard or white T-shirt and dark shorts (Y4 – Y6).

Footwear is not worn for gymnastics or dance. Written exceptions for medical reasons.

This is indefensible on 7 grounds

1 There are no showers in primary schools so barechested boys have to put on their regular school uniform back on their dust covered bodies.

2 A boy with a skin infection on his back could pass it on indirectly through doing forwards rolls bare-top on gym equipment whereas girls are protected by leotards and t-shirts.

3 Under the age of 10 girls are below the age of discretion for criminal responsibility so cant be prosecuted for going topless and at prepuberty age dont need bra's for support or underwear to keep sanitary towels in place.

4 About 99% of primary schools in the uk require boys to wear t-shirts and there have been no freak accidents concerning boys getting their shirts tangled in gym equipment.

5 Girls are often allowed to wear t-shirts in schools and the pe teacher doesnt seem to be concerned about them hanging themselves on the gym equipment.

6 If you look at professional gym classes (ie outside school organisations) boys aged 3-18 often have to wear more clothes than girls.

Ie boys have to wear leotards with shorts on top to cover any bulge for gymnastics whereas girls often just wear leotards.

In ballet girls wear leotards and stockings with no underwear whereas male ballet dancers get to wear tshirts and shorts/tight trousers with optional vests and ballet belts/support underwear.

7 Pe is compulsory therefore boys have no choice but to do sport which is taught at a very basic level in primary schools. These are not adult sportspersons who have freely chosen their discipline and have voluntarily signed up to stringent rules. Therefore pe kits should be modest to placate muslims, radical feminists and shy boys!

Comments by Stuart on 20th September 2013  

I went to boarding school in the 1960s and there was no such thing as privacy. It was a shock on day one but at the end of a week it was normal.

We all slept in open dormitories for twenty of which there were five on each floor along with a further big open washroom that had basins, communal showers and toilets which had no partitions either though once we were about fifteen there were waist high partitions on the toilets but certainly no doors at any time.

Sports kit was white shorts and plimsolls or rugby kit or cricket whites as appropriate. If it wasn't rugby or cricket then be it gym, track, field, cross country or any other game it was white shorts and plimsolls. Like everyone else of my generation, underpants were not allowed either and trying to wear them resulted in a sore bottom.

Ridicule was the cure for shyness. I have to say I got over being shy very easily but I think some lads probably hated it before just accepting it.

Sports masters generally applied the plimsoll vigorously to bare bottoms, other masters used the cane in the privacy of their studies again to bare bottoms.

It was how things were and I've never thought it did me any harm and I liked school and was very happy there.

I do wonder about how boys grow up today. They seem uncertain of their identity and who they are, we didn't have those problems and I think we were better off with the perceived privations and discipline of the time than the boys of today are with their mollycoddling.

Comments by Dave on 16th September 2013  

I remember doing cross-country along the streets near to our school.
All us boys were stripped to the waist and no-one thought anything of it.

Comments by Paul on 12th September 2013  

I went to a boys boarding school where we swam naked. I'm not sure why it was insisted upon but it was just normal and group nudity was not unusual.

We slept in open dormitories, showered in communal showers, took off underpants for sport and showered in (different) communal showers afterwards often having two or three showers a day and to top it all off, we were caned on our bare bottoms.

After a couple of weeks I didn't think anything of being naked with my peers so swimmming certainly didn't bother me.

Comments by Gar on 11th September 2013  

Cornwall, the nearest thing to a difinitive answer to the compulsory naked swimming years read;


"Although almost non-existent today, institutional male nude swimming in the U.S. got its start at the YMCA in the 1890s. At the time, men wore wooly suits, which shed fibers, clogging the then sensitive water filters. It became traditional and mandatory for men and boys to swim au natural at these facilities, and many believe schools copied the policy of this respected institution."

".......one reason was discipline, and that boys were not expected to be bothered by nudity. "Nude swimming for boys was a no-nonsense, practical, easy, conforming and cohesive, method of handling 30 exuberant boys in one hour." Nudity had a calming affect for even the most boisterous boys."

Still others credit the military. Schools in the 60s were largely administered by the World War II generation, and during the war, there was little respect for male privacy. Many believe they transferred this norm to schools. And even in the early 70s, one man remembers a selective service physical where "long lines of naked guys being inspected for everything from flat feet to eyesight and hearing in a shockingly open environment."

".....Threads Clogged the Drains? Oh, Come On, This is the 60s"

"Although almost non-existent today, institutional male nude swimming in the U.S. got its start at the YMCA in the 1890s. At the time, men wore wooly suits, which shed fibers, clogging the then sensitive water filters. It became traditional and mandatory for men and boys to swim au natural at these facilities, and many believe schools copied the policy of this respected institution.

READ in full;

Comments by Cornwall on 10th September 2013  

I still cannot understand why so many schools especially boys boarding schools insisted on naked swimming. Is there a definitive answer?

Comments by James on 6th September 2013  

I remember my pe and swimming lessons very well. From about age 9 - 15, PE was always in just white pe shorts. No question, that was it. If you didn't have your shorts, you just did it in your underpants.
Swimming was always done naked. For new boys, the walk down from the changing area to the end of the pool before a lesson was always odd as you felt very exposed but once you got used to it it was fine. As a boarder we had to swim naked at weekends as well although the older boys generally wore trunks. We never thought anything of it and in fact enjoyed it. At weekends we were often supervised by a female games teach or a housemistress and this was no problem. Any other female however might have been different.

Comments by Alan on 22nd August 2013  

My first experience of barechested PE actually came when I was 16, probably much older than most of the others who have posted their recollections here. Basically I moved to a different school for the sixth form and I was surprised to find that PE was still compulsory. It didn't occur to me that I might need specific PE kit either - at my old school nobody had bothered too much about what you wore. There was an official PE kit but any kind of top/shorts/trainers combination was usually acceptable.
At my first PE lesson I discovered this was no longer the case. All the other boys wore a vest in school colours, white shorts and socks and running shoes. Thankfully my shorts were white but my coloured t-shirt and socks immediately attracted the PE teacher's displeasure. He demanded to know where my vest was and seemed less than impressed by my plea that I hadn't realised I needed one. I wasn't even sure what he meant when he ordered me to 'do it in skins' - I'd never heard that term at my old school! Most of the other lads were laughing as the exasperated teacher barked at me to take my t-shirt off, as well as the offending socks. I felt very self conscious as I went out to the gym in just shorts (thank heavens I hadn't had to take those off too!) and trainers. It wasn't that I was embarrassed about my upper body, but it felt weird to be the only barechested boy among a group I hardly knew yet and I was very aware of standing out as the new boy.
Before the next PE lesson I got hold of a school vest and wore it as we went to the gym. However, before long I had to take it off again - we were split into teams for a game of basketball and this time I understood what the teacher meant when he announced that my team were skins. The good thing was that this time I wasn't the odd one out, all my team-mates had to go barechested as well. I got talking to one of them, who told me 'skins' games had been regular practice all the way through the school and he said that had encouraged him to make sure he kept in shape and looked after his body properly. To be honest, the results were pretty impressive! I could see the logic of that and I decided to try and do the same over the next two years. Looking back, I think it's a pity I didn't have to go barechested before then and a pity for today's young men that they're never required to at all.

Comments by Pete S on 17th August 2013  

Hello Donald,

I remember the first time I went barechested at school as it was a warm September's morning and that was OK. The school very kindly rostered 2 double games lessons and 2 double PE lessons each week. We weren't so fortunate at the end of week when we were taken outside and stripped down in the pouring rain, something we'd get used to - but that was a suprise at the time.

Comments by Loz on 16th August 2013  

@ Laura, it was certainly the case at the Woodlands school in Coventry, a fact reported by local journalist Chris Arnot in his various remeniscences of his schooldays there. It was (and still is) an all boys school.

In our junior school we had an outside pool, not much more than a tank really. I can recall in all weathers going out across the tarmac playground in bare feet and swimming trunks. There was due to some architects oversight only one changing room in the school, that was reserved for the girls, the boys changed into their trunks in the corridor, modestly protected only by a hasty arrangement of stacked chairs. After the swim, boys and girls showered together (in our costumes) in the sole changing room.

Comments by Chris r on 13th August 2013  

When I was at school, gym class was always done barechested and barefoot. The teachers made us dress like this so that we knew our place, and it certainly made us feel uncomfortable, especially when we did class with the girls. I remember trying to cover my navel and nipples in my first class, and the other boys were embarrasses as well, though the girls loved it.

Comments by Donald on 12th August 2013  

To Pete S

How did you feel when u found out you had to do P.E barechested for the first time?

Comments by Pete S on 11th August 2013  

Our lessons were done with either all barechested or half the class left in vests depending on our teacher's whim.

At the start of every PE lesson our teacher made us lads line up just in vests and shorts and then picked who he wanted to strip and then your vest came off. It was exactly the same outdoors too it didn't matter what the sport was. There was a "core" group of 4 lads in every class (I was one in my class) who he always kept stripped regardless until we left at 18.

The way the school was built half the classrooms overlooked the yard and fields so you were assured of an "audience" when stripping to the waist.

Comments by Tom on 9th August 2013  

In reply to Stuart, I had a PE teacher who made me and another boy do an entire term in shorts only. Our old teacher hadn't minded us wearing T-shirts instead of regulation PE vests, or the wrong colour shorts or socks - but this one certainly did, as we soon discovered at the first lesson. He announced that, as we clearly found it difficult to remember the correct kit, he'd make it easier by restricting our kit to white shorts and nothing else, bare chests and bare feet.
The two of us also had to do a punishment in just shorts which involved running several laps of the gym and then going straight to the swimming pool, where we had to swim lengths, then climb out and do press ups on the poolside, dive back in for more lengths and repeat the press ups. It was exhausting and also embarrassing as our shorts were fairly see through when wet.
The kit restriction also partly applied to outdoor PE - we were permitted to wear trainers or football boots in addition to shorts, but we still had to do each lesson bare chested. Which wasn't a lot of fun when it was cold or raining! I was relieved when the term ended and I was very careful to bring the right kit after that.

Comments by john getty on 9th August 2013  pdsjohn@aol.com 

Ron Parry shown in the photos was a cruel bully of a man who relished in beating young kids (11 upwards) on the bare buttocks with the rubber sole that he had cut off a large gym shoe.
He was particularly nasty to overweight kids and delighted in making them do things that were clearly beyond their capabilities like watching them struggle to try and climb a rope while he belittled them in front of everyone else. He also liked to make a class of the younger ones parade through the showers naked while he stood and watched.
As a fat kid he often picked on me but I got the satisfaction of upstaging him once. We were obliged to watch play table tennis when the school got a new table. As he beat one kid after another and crowed about how good he was and how poor they were I made a comment that I thought he was pretty rubbish, only beating kids who had never played before. I meanwhile although out of shape had a table at home and played at every opportunity ( and I was good).
He challenged "the fat boy" to a game. I started slow and he got five or six love ahead. Baying at me that I should have kept my "gob shut" he posed at every point won.
I then got annoyed at him and went on to paste him by 21 to ten. Everyone there cheered and he glowered at us all. He insisted on a rematch saying my win was a fluke. I won the second and third games so he made it best of ten.
I then began to let him win (narrowly) because I knew that if I didnt he would have been even meaner towards me in the future. He won the set by one point (as I had had enough- I knew he couldnt beat me and that was enough for me) and he boasted it to all concerned. I often wondered after if he really knew which of us was best?

Comments by Laura on 7th August 2013  lcclinton4@yahoo.co.uk 

I don't have any direct experience of schools that required their pupils to swim naked as a matter of routine, but my senior school did require this of lower school girls (11-14) who forgot their swimming costumes. If we forgot our regular kit for PE lessons, we used to have to take part in our underpants, but obviously this wasn't suitable for swimming. I was actually one of the first girls in my class to forget my costume, and that day I had no idea what would happen. I approached my gym mistress with some trepidation, but I was so shocked when she simply told me to strip naked and fiel out to the pool with the rest of my class. A classmate was stood behind me and she told a similar tale of woe, with the same result. We undressed next to one another and tried to hang back but it was still obvious to the whole class that while they had their costumes on, we were totally bare.

Comments by Cornwall on 6th August 2013  

I have read on several occasions about boys of all ages having to swim naked & I wonder why schools had this rule. Can any comment whether there is any benefit in discarding swimwear?

Comments by Loz on 6th August 2013  

At first certain things make sense and then on reflection they do not.

Pe kit did not exist in my junior school, boys would strip to the waist, swap their shoes for a pair of pumps and do PE in their everyday shorts, all boys wore shorts then.
My secondary school specified a top for outdoor work only, however despite of that a T shirt was routinely worn in the gym except for shirts vs skins. (makes sense for shirts vs skins if you have a top to take off)

There was a no underpants rule and although I don’t remember any checks it was pretty much adhered to. We showered together nude. It was the norm any boy covering up was considered to be a bit of a wuss.

Now if it makes sense that kid’s should make a complete change out of their day clothes for hygienic reasons, then why was that not the case in junior school?

Similarly when you consider that most boys would spend their breaktimes running around and playing footy or whatever, they would presumably return to the classroom as sweaty as if they had been doing PE?

From a personal perspective I cannot see any reason why boys should not do PE shirtless and in a minimum of clothing. One might argue that especially in these days some boys may be self conscious about showing too much blubber, but then if one is to promote self confidence and a better body image whatever shape one is in, to cover up seems counter intuitive.

I was at school during the 60’s and the 70’s and there was at least one school with it’s own pool where the boys swam naked, hard as that is to believe nowadays.

Comments by Steve James on 5th August 2013  

In response to Stuarts comments:
I attended boarding school in the Midlands during the late 60's.
I recall only too well, the sadistic treatment of boys by one or two of the prefects.
If you antagonised them or gave them any lip, you would either be placed on 'Prefect's Detention' or your name could mysteriously end up on the Head's caning list!
Prefects Detention was held every Thursday before prep. Once, during my fourth year, for what I thought was a minor indiscretion, I was put on this 'weekly detention' for three consecutive weeks one spring term during the bleakest winter in Warwickshire!
The treatment handed out on these detentions varied according to which prefects were on the rota.
You had to report in just your PT shorts, no vest and in bare feet, whatever the conditions outside. Then Running Laps of the sports field was a very common theme. Push-ups in the cold mud was another.
These two prefects had a particularly nasty reputation and for good reason. On two detentions I and one other boy were not only made to run laps but also included swimming two lengths of the adjacent school outdoor training pool between each lap.
Normally swimming two lengths of 25 yards was not unduly arduous for healthy fourth formers but you can imagine how extremely cold the pool was at that time of year, typically 42 to 48 F.
Those prefects would delight in 'reading the thermometer' and taunting us boys with how low it read. The pool was officially closed in the winter term but that didn't deter them!
To make matters worse they would point out that as our school swimming lessons were always done naked and insisted that we removed our PT shorts prior to entering the water! On jumping in, the shock made us gasp for breath! Completing each swim in such cold, felt never-ending. Other boys only doing the laps were then coerced into running off with our shorts so we were left to run back across the sports field naked, wet and frozen!
The session always ended getting cleaned up with a shower but the hot water supply would mysteriously always get shut down beforehand!
I could hardly wait to become a Prefect myself!

Comments by Stuart on 4th August 2013  stu151@hotmail.com 

Following on from my previous post about 60’s boarding schools.

We all wore white briefs/y-fronts, boxer shorts as teenage boys wear now, didn’t exist. I guess the majority now sleep in boxers, with a few sleeping naked, for anyone at my boarding school to sleep in just briefs (let alone naked) would have been unthinkable, and also would have been seen as really strange behaviour by the other boys.

Prefects had a lot of power, and some abused it. They could punish a boy by giving you a detention, or by making you do a punishment run. Although they weren’t allowed to cane boys, they could report behaviour to a teacher, and this usually resulted in a caning, so in effect a prefect could get you caned if they wanted to.

Detentions given by prefects were gym based, involving an intense workout, and a punishment run just involved a run after lesson, in both cases you wore just minimal kit.

If a teacher or prefect told you to do something, you did it without question. It would have been pointless to start a debate, as you would just end up with further punishment, as well as having to do whatever you had been told to do in the first place.

We started each day with a run, normally in shorts and plimsolls. If it was really cold some prefects allowed you to wear a top, but most made you strip to the waist all the time. In particular there was one prefect we all hated, he would come into the dorm wake us up and say, as it’s really cold outside you can wear as shirt if you want, everyone would get ready, and stand waiting in shorts, vest/rugby shirt and plimsolls. Then he would always pick a couple of boys at random, and say “Smith, Jones shorts only” - you didn’t have any choice, you simply stripped to the waist, took off your shoes, and ran in just shorts. It wasn’t the run itself, it was the fact that he set you up to think, for once, you would be reasonably warm, then made you run not only minus a top but also with no shoes, so that you were frozen, as well getting scratches/mud all over your feet

Did anyone else have a teacher or prefect who restricted kit more than the others, or who punished boys much more than the others in their school.


Comments by alan camboy on 2nd August 2013  

I was at schools in east anglia in the 60's.

At junior school we wore underpants only for gym - nice and simple with no problems with forgotten kit.

At secondary school it was white shorts only no footwear underpants or vests for gym. Outside we were allowed appropriate tops and footwear but the no underwear rule still applied. I remember two boys found wearing underpants in football being made to take off their shorts and pants on the playing fields. They were told to leave their shorts on the touchline and walk back to the changing rooms to deposit their pants with their other clothes then return put on their shorts and carry on. The humiliation they endured meant they never wore underpants again nor did the rest of us.

Comments by Laura on 1st August 2013  lcclinton4@yahoo.co.uk 

Lots of really interesting comments on here. I note that nearly all are from men, and thought it might be interesting to offer a female perspective.

I was at primary school from 1985-1993, and my school required all pupils, boys and girls, to undress and do PE in just our underpants/knickers. This continued right until we left at age 11. My senior school was private and girls-only. For indoor lessons we wore gym knickers and a white cotton vest. Underwear knickers had to be removed and this was checked from time to time. All indoor lessons were done in bare feet. We wore the same kit for athletics in summer and for cross country in winter. Other outdoor sports had full kit as appropriate. If we forgot our indoor kit, in the first few years we had to take the lesson in just our knickers; after that we were allowed vests or bras too. The same principle applied outdoors too, but obviously it was unsafe to play hockey barefoot, so we would generally be sent to slog round the quagmire of a cross country route around the school playing field and grounds.

Comments by DAVID on 1st August 2013  djohnmesher@yahoo.co.uk 

In reply to comments made by Cornwall it was an all boys p.e class. On one occasion we all thought that we would be doing something else and did not bring our gym shorts but our PE teacher said doesn't matter. You can all do it in your pants. On occasions I and a few other classmates would purposely forget our shorts so we could attend the lesson in our white Y fronts. It was no problem and just accepted

Comments by Tony on 1st August 2013  

As Stuart pointed out, Boarding School rules were often far from logical. At mine boys would be reprimanded for failing to wear a vest under their uniform shirt, during winter term. On a winter morning we would begin the day warm in our vest, shirt, pullover and blazer. (We also had anoraks for outdoors) Then we'd swap the protection of the heated classroom and five layers of clothing for the unheated changing rooms. There we'd strip naked and put on only a thin pair shorts and proceed onto the frozen, wind swept playing fields. Vests were now prohibited! After an hour of freezing hell we'd often be subjected to a cold shower. Boys got the slipper for wearing underwear under their thin shorts and were reprimanded for failing to wear a vest under their uniform. Happy Days (I think not) Cold Days, but I never got colds or flu in my teens. I believe this was due to the minimal protection from the elements. So maybe the Games Master done us a favor!

Comments by Cornwall on 30th July 2013  

Stuart re your comments 28/7. It is strange to think you were comppelled to run in just shorts, but at bedtime forced to cover up in the dorm. Illogical especially as most lads seem to sleep in boxers these days.

David re your comments, was the PE lesson boys only & what was the reaction of boys who had to participate in pants, presumably briefs those days as boxers not generally in fashion.

Comments by Simon on 29th July 2013  

I was at a state day school in the sixties and the rule for PE and cross-country was stripped to the waist and barefoot.
For games we were allowed to wear a shirt for rugby but for soccer and also hockey we had to go bare-chested.

Comments by DAVID on 29th July 2013  djohnmesher@yahoo.co.uk 

I went to Grammar School in the 1960s and you always did PE stripped to the waist. If you forgot your kit you were made to do it in your underpants and bare feet. Felt good though

Comments by Stuart on 28th July 2013  

I went to a boarding school in the 1960’s and we always did indoor PE with just shorts, bare feet, no underpants, vests or t-shirts.

Cross country kit comprised shorts and plimsolls, so again bare backs/chests. Anyone wearing any other kit, no matter how cold or wet it was, would have been made to take it off, and would have been punished. A boy who wore a rugby shirt one very cold day was immediately made to strip, and was also caned.

We slept in dorms, everyone had to wear pyjamas, both tops and bottoms. Prefects came into the dorms at 0600, we were woken up, and sent on a 1 mile run, which took place every morning without fail. Even if it was snowing outside we knew we all had to take off our pyjamas and run outside in nothing more than a thin pair of shorts. The prefects had all experienced the same rules when they were younger, and enforced the rules 110%, so even wearing rugby shorts would have been punished, and some prefects made you run barefoot as well.

One warm summer, a couple of boys slept in just their pyjamas bottoms, thus shirtless. One of the prefects noticed this, reported them, and they were caned as a result.

Thus some boys had been caned for not wearing shirt (in bed), and also been caned for wearing a shirt (on a run) – happy days !

Comments by Tommy on 13th July 2013  

Roy stated it was "virtually obligatory" for lads to be shirtless in the 50s and 60's for games/PE. It certainly was for me.
We had a uniform list, remember those? No vest or T shirt was mentioned. I was taught at a Christian Brothers Secondary School in Northern Ireland. Vests were not even permitted under uniform shirts. Shirtless was compulsory year round. One set of bibs (two squares of fabric connected with string) was distributed during matches. Daily morning cold showers only stopped around 1960.

Comments by Roy on 10th July 2013  

When I was at school in the 1950's and 1960's it was virtually obligatory for boys to do PE etc while stripped to the waist.
I fact I was stripped to the waist for PE from day 1 until I left school when nearly nineteen.
It certainly toughened us up and after I got used to it I quite enjoyed going bare-chest even in the cold winters we seemed to have in the fifties and sixties.

Comments by Ted on 8th July 2013  

Interesting, nostalgic memories. I went to primary/secondary schools in 50s/60s. Fortunately/unfortunately no bare chests, just white vest and shorts, no forced nude showers or spankings in gym, or long country runs. But every teacher had a thick spanking ruler on their desk which was used liberally in class.
What I am curious about here is the mention of obligatory nude swimming for boys in some schools. Some even mentioned female coaches or teachers with the nude swimming boys. I am curious to know how prevalent this was, and which schools had obligatory nude swimming in their pools. Can anyone elaborate please?

Comments by Henry on 7th July 2013  

When I was in school, we had to do gym class indoors with the girls until the beginning of sixth form. The girls wore leotards and leggings, but we boys were only allowed to wear shorts, with bare feet and chests, and no underwear. Our leg, armpit and chest hair was on full show. Though some liked to show off occasionally, we all felt quite exposed, but the girls enjoyed it. Occasionally they would try to tickle our sides, armpits or stomachs, just to make us feel more vulnerable.

Comments by James on 28th June 2013  

Sorry! I meant to say teasing.

Comments by James on 28th June 2013  

In reply to Deb R,we had a compulsary school uniform,although short trousers were optional.My parents insisted I wore the full uniform to school including short trousers which meant I was the only boy in my class wearing short trousers.I was subjected to much ridicule and reasing,mainly from the girls and called names like"nappy pants".

Comments by Tim H on 18th June 2013  

@ Deb R - Thanks for your fascinating (& not unexpected?) comments!

Comments by Deb R on 16th June 2013  

A girls view here... A boys kit should either be a vest or preferably bare chest. Why? Well firstly a vest is easy and quick to put on and take off to make up two teams. There's nothing wrong with making boys show their chests to perform exercise. Well it's far more manly and I think gives boys a sense of worth and a pride in their bodies. The doors to the gym had re-inforced glass and I remember always making a point of passing the gym as often as possible (including taking messages to other teachers) to see boys stripped down and, more often than not, sweating - regardless of their age. I must have spent hours watching them barechested on the field/yard or in the gym! It's a shame boys are no longer treated like young men and what can be more manly than being stripped to the waist for PE/Games lessons?

Comments by Jon on 15th June 2013  

I remember when my class did rock climbing on a field trip, none of us brought our PE clothes. As a result, the teacher made all the boys strip off their school shirts and do it in just our shorts while the girls in our class go to sit out and watch. Certainly must have been quite a show for them getting to see all of us barechested and pouring sweat as we strained up that wall.

Comments by Rob on 15th June 2013  

We, too, had punishments in PE similar to what John describes below – the teacher would stop the lesson and say something like “Oh dear! Davis…” [we were always called by our surnames] “…was messing about and has spoiled it for everyone now. I’ve just got to pop out to the store cupboard – I do hope he doesn’t get beaten up while I’m out of the room!” Which, of course, was the green light for the rest of us to do exactly that! I know it sounds vicious but it really wasn’t – it was a different world back then and nobody ever got seriously hurt – it was understood that we were only expected to let fly with a few punches, and only to the upper body – never below the belt and never to the head or face. The teacher would return in less than a minute, inevitably to find Davis, or whoever it was, in a crumpled heap on the floor, but within seconds he’d be up and playing a full part again. It was a real deterrent because it was instant and most of us preferred it to a detention after school. I wonder what it was about PE that made that seem so acceptable and ‘normal’, when it would be unthinkable in any other lesson…

I absolutely adored PE – after hours or days of sitting behind a desk in boring lessons wearing a shirt and tie and blazer, finally you got the chance to fling off your clothes and run around exerting some energy – such a feeling of exhilaration and freedom. And, although I wasn’t that good at it, I loved the ‘fight’ type situations, of which we seemed to have quite a few in PE – punishment of miscreants as described above, fights during Killerball, the wrestling tournaments we sometimes had at the end of term, or even just trying to give each other ‘nipple cripples’ when the teacher was at the other end of the gym. Again, I know that will all sound terrible to people who never experienced it but we were just boys being boys. We weren’t all like that, of course, and the boys who clearly didn’t enjoy such physical attention were left alone – I’d like to think because we knew that that would be bullying, which we would never engage in, and there truly was an element of that, but, to be honest, it was probably mainly because it was only ever fun getting into a scrap with a boy who you knew would fight back – not someone who would immediately drop to the floor and start crying.

And I don't know if it was just me, but ‘fights’ in PE somehow always gave me an extra special thrill, for two reasons I think: (a) because you could go all out and didn’t have to hold back – there was no danger of your opponent falling and hitting his head on the corner of a desk or the concrete playground, and we knew we weren’t going to get into trouble for it, and (b) the major reason of the two – there seemed to be something extremely basic, simple, pure and uncomplicated about fighting just wearing a little pair of shorts, with no clothes to worry about getting torn or dirty (or blood-stained!) – and no clothes to cushion the blows - you felt so much more exposed and vulnerable to the blows landing on bare flesh and, at the same time, it was so much more satisfying hearing the smack of your fist landing on the other boy’s bare stomach, or the thud of your elbow on his chest or felt your arm around his bare neck as you squeezed him as tight as you could in a headlock! And you could see all the red marks you made on his body. Describing it like this makes it almost sound like a fetish, but, again, I would say we were just boys being boys – something they’re not allowed to be today, and often find outlets for their energy and natural aggression and competitiveness which are less healthy both for themselves and for society.

Comments by Graeme on 7th June 2013  

I can't understand why boys have inhibitions about doing PE stripped to the waist.
I always was stripped to the waist and couln't wait to go bare-chested where ever possible.

Comments by James on 2nd June 2013  

We used to get strapped on the bare back in PE which was very painful and left marks. We had a very strict PE teacher who used many forms of punishment including caning the bare backside. Boys were often sent to him by female teachers to be caned which he carried out by in his office next to the gym. We always had to wear our pe shorts and no tops but as the female teachers were often present, we kept our shorts on. Still hurt but taught us a lesson.

Comments by Paul on 2nd June 2013  

At first I thought Gymnastics were brutal. These sessions were around two hours and were intense. I didn't like it at first, and one time sprained my neck whilst doing head stand. Luckily, like most we were quite fit and thin, so this training wasn't too bad. After a while we got used to it and being topless helped keeping cool, even though being really skinny, still made us sweat so much that our mats were covered in it. Most of us were really skinny, and which was normal, due to very little food and intensive activities. Our shorts were blue, not white, and hardly stayed on around my tiny waist, being elasticated, not string. I don't think pupils could take that punishment today!

Comments by Archie on 30th May 2013  

I remember now - they called it a "double whammy"!