Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 676,736         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 Archie on 29th May 2013  

Still an interesting discussion going on here. As we did PE shirtless our PE masters occasionally punished us by clapping their hands together with us standing in between - so one hand hit our chest and the other our back. Done properly it gave a bit of a sting! They had a name for it, but can't recall what it was. That was obviously only done for minor annoyances rather than for real misbehaviour.

If we were being actually punished we would have to put our hands up and/or bend over for a dose of the belt (tawse).

Comments by Justin on 23rd May 2013  

While I agree with Roy about the kind of punishments that have been described, I can't see why they are different from other practices that were clearly quite common years ago. In other words, why would it be acceptable to cane a boy on his bare backside but not to hit his bare back or front torso? Surely both are painful and humiliating forms of corporal punishment that nobody should have to endure, certainly not children or teenagers. I'm glad to say when I did PE in the 80s none of those punishments were deemed acceptable - we got extra press ups, laps of the pitch or something like that.

Comments by John Lavender on 22nd May 2013  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

@ John : Our PE Teacher didn't employ that Punishment method, but for a Minor offence it was 20 press-ups or squat-thrusts.
Greater mismeandours earned a 'scragging' by the rest of the lads - around 20 - in the class. lasted about 5 minutes , enough to make you think twice before repeating the Transgression. We were in plain-white Tees for PE although we did do 'Skins vs. Vests' for Killerball games. As I pointed out previously quite a while ago, some of us wanted to be barechested all the time and took any opportunity to do the lesson stripped to the waist.

We had 'Running the Gauntlet' as well as a slow-change Punishment. Some of us slow-changed deliberately so we could do it! Occasionally the Runner would stop dead and land a Punch on one of the other lads doing the Back-slapping. A brawl would sometimes break out and that was always good fun! You could always get the score evened up if you were on the Opposing Team in the Killerball game at the end of the lesson. The PE Master telling one team to get into Skins was always the sign that we were going to play it.Used to look forward to that!

Comments by Roy on 22nd May 2013  

If teachers today used any of the methods described by Adam and others it would quite rightly be described as child abuse and dealt with accordingly.

Comments by John on 20th May 2013  

I thought only our PE teacher was the only one to use such painful punishment methods. I can confirm it hurt like hell, when he whipped your back with his cord, and yes, it happened that the cord swung around your body to hit your chest or tummy. As we were always barechested for PE, indoors and outdoors and he also had a unique way of making sure we changed in the least amount of time. The two last boys out of the changing room had to run the gauntlet at the entrance of the gym hall, where the other boys would wait in two lines and hit the boys' bare backs as they passed by. I can assure you, boys at my school got changed within a few seconds!

Comments by Chris on 19th May 2013  

John's comment sent a shiver down my spine. My PE teacher also used the cord of his whistle in that way and, boy, did it sting! One of my worst memories is a PE detention when I was made to take off my vest and do various exercises, but if I failed to complete them correctly or within a tume limit, the whistle cord would come out. He must have had plenty of practice because he managed to aim the cord so that it wrapped around and landed on my chest or tummy! Not a nice man.
Even without that painful 'bonus', it was quite common to be bare-chested for PE punishments, sometimes outdoors as well as in the gym.

Comments by John on 18th May 2013  

Really? Caned on their backs? What kind of offence merited that punishment? Seems extremly harsh too me. At my school in the 70ies we got caned on our backsides but our PE teacher sometimes whipped boys on their backs with the cord of his whistle. Very painful indeed, but we never got the cane on our backs!!

Comments by Adam on 18th May 2013  

I was a day boy at a state secondary school in the sixties and on our first day there it was made clear that you did PE etc stripped to the waist both in the gym and outdoors whatever the weather.
It was no use complaining.Those who did had to do punishment press-ups outdoors for up to an hour still bare-chested.
For the very few who still objected it was not unknown to receive corporal punishment-usually the cane on the bare backside but sometimes a boy would be caned on his bare back.

Comments by Jamie on 17th May 2013  

Yes, the picture brings back memories. I was a boarder at a prep school. We always did pe in just white cotton shorts and plimsolls. If it was sunny, we would go outside and do our lesson on the grass or in the playground. If we went to the tennis courts, we had to walk along the road all stripped to the waist. No one ever gave it a second thought.
For swimming, we had to do the lesson naked. Again, all normal and everyone got on with it. It was a lot easier as you just had to remember your towell.
As a boarded, even at weekends when we went swimming, most boys were naked although we could wear trunks. The ones who wore trunks were generally the weedy one. How things have changed.

Comments by david pattison on 16th May 2013  david.d.pattison@gmail.com 

I went to BGS from 1959 to 1964.
My memories of Mr Parry are of him taking Detention Class in the afternoon.....and doing Gym work as part of detention :-)

Comments by Rob on 13th May 2013  

When I went to secondary school we were supposed to wear a vest for PE but there was one lad (who had come from a different junior school) who never wore a vest for PE.In fact he never wore one at all.
Gradually more and more of us followed his example and very soon we were all stripped to the waist.

Comments by Neil on 7th May 2013  

We used to do PE stripped to the waist whatver the conditions and I think that the girls used to look forward to seeing hunky young lads stripped to the waist!!!!
Also when we did cross-country many of the locals also used to look forward to seeing us all bare-chested and sweaty!!

Comments by Mark on 7th May 2013  

I too well remember doing PE outside stripped to the waist and barefoot with snow on the ground.
It certainly toughened us up and we certainly used to go about bare-chested whenever we could.

Comments by Toby on 3rd May 2013  

My PE teacher was a keen disciplinarian. Our uniform (or lack of) consisted of brief shorts (no underwear), vest and plimsolls or footie boots. Vests often discarded as a punitive measure or to distinguish teams (shirts vs. skins).

Very similar to my school, also during the 1970s but in southern England. We often did shirts vs skins, but I also remember having to remove my vest as a punishment. On one occasion I got into trouble for cutting corners on laps of the playing field and was made to do them again, this time in just shorts and bare chest. For PE detentions we were always in 'skins', which could be in the gym or outdoors. I never really thought about it at the time but I suppose the idea was to make you feel small and less sure of yourself.

Comments by John Lavender on 25th April 2013  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com  http://s1053.photobucket.com/user/hagi52156/media/PE.jpg.html

There is also a UK photo on this URL, Lads Shirtless.

Comments by Dave on 23rd April 2013  

Great scene.It brings back memories.Especially of outisde lessons in cold weather clad only in a vest.Are there any other european old movies which have a PE class scene?

Comments by pierce on 20th April 2013  

This is a very interesting forum which provokes many memories, some good, some bad. However my overriding memory of P E 1970s Northern England is the extreme cold. My PE teacher was a keen disciplinarian. Our uniform (or lack of) consisted of brief shorts (no underwear), vest and plimsolls or footie boots. Vests often discarded as a punitive measure or to distinguish teams (shirts vs. skins).
I recently watched a movie which also brought me back to my teens.
A scene in the film shows lads in a traditional vest and shorts uniform. The thinly clads boys are racing in a snowy park while their teacher and spectators are wrapped up in heavy coats, much like my own PE teacher wore.
Deep End was filmed in 1970 and stars John Moulder-Brown and Jane Asher.
It gave me a chill recalling those harsh winter PE sessions with snow on the ground, biting northern winds and, worst of all, sleet or driving hail stones. We suffered it all but were stronger for it, compared to todays youth who live in over insulated homes and are so susceptible to viruses and colds .

Comments by James on 13th April 2013  

viewpoint James! From what you say I'm assuming the boys always went bare chested for PE (as well as detention). Do you think that made you more keen to work hard in PE and develop a good body, knowing the girls would be watching and commenting on it? And did most of the boys in your class feel the same? We sometimes did PE bare chested (vests versus skins) but never in front of the girls and that was only up to the age of 16.

Hi Darren, The boys did indeed go bare chested for all PE/Games lessons (and Gym detentions)and I think it did give a certain motivation for boys to put the extra effort in. It was amusing that girls from all different year groups looked forward to seeing us exercise especially on the colder days. The detentions were the worst as it was just you and the teacher so it made more difficult not to put the required effort in.

Comments by Darren on 7th April 2013  

Interesting viewpoint James! From what you say I'm assuming the boys always went bare chested for PE (as well as detention). Do you think that made you more keen to work hard in PE and develop a good body, knowing the girls would be watching and commenting on it? And did most of the boys in your class feel the same? We sometimes did PE bare chested (vests versus skins) but never in front of the girls and that was only up to the age of 16.

Comments by James on 7th April 2013  

Darren, the girls used to see us barechested indoors and outside through until I left at 18 and it made no difference even when doing co-ed classes. It was always good natured banter with them remarking on how we looked, discussing it in the classrooms and us wanting to impress them at the slightest opportunity. One of those girls, who later became my wife, still reminds me about a 2hr detention I was given by the PE teacher in the gym and watching a 16 year old me dripping with sweat as the session dragged on.

Comments by Darren on 5th April 2013  

Interesting how the film focuses totally on the boys even though it's a co-ed class, the girls seem very much in the background. Have to feel sorry for poor Nick, he gets criticised for his lack of ability even though it's the other boy (with the strapping on his leg) who stumbles during the routine! The boys look about 13 or so, I can't help wondering how they felt about being bare chested in front of the girls. Not sure I'd have been comfortable with it at that age (at my school PE classes were single sex).

Comments by Tim H on 5th April 2013  

An interesting piece of film - does anyone know the date? It refers to Key Stage Three which would be late 80s/ early 90s/

The commentary sounds a bit dated but as an example of gym in the UK the 80s its pretty good.

Comments by Pandy on 4th April 2013  

Here's a fairly recently gymnastics class which features the boys shirtless & in shorts while the girls don black leotards


Comments by Alexander on 3rd April 2013  

Shirtlessness is still de rigueur in several armies around the world.
I have found some pictures of Russian soldiers exercising in what they call uniform no 2.
And judging by the leafless trees in the background you can certainly tell that not all of these pictures were taken on a warm summer's day !




Comments by Dave on 2nd April 2013  

Hi Paul!

Where is this photo from?Is this was taken from a school's website?
Yes it seems there are still some schools where shirtless PE kit is a rule.

Comments by Paul on 1st April 2013  

Compulsory shirtless PE seems still to required in some countries today. This photo apparently is of a Polish school:

Comments by Paul on 1st April 2013  

In reply to Tim,I had to change into shorts when I returned home from school,as the wearing of short trousers was not allowed at school.Under my parent's insistence and to keep me dressed identicaly as my younger stepbrother,I had to wear shorts for evenings,weekends and holidays.I prefered wearing long trousers,but as this ritual continued I became quite blase about wearing shorts and became indignant about the derogatory comments.

Comments by Tim on 31st March 2013  

My father used to keep my and my four younger brothers shirtless nearly all the time.
As soon as we got home from school we had to strip to the waist and remain shirtless for the rest of the day.
We soon got used to it and by summer time we were all quite sun tanned.

Comments by Donny on 18th March 2013  

have a look at this:

Comments by John Lavender on 18th March 2013  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

@ Dave: Yes, good video.
I do think PE should again be mono-gendered and should much more concentrate on Hard physical work in class (at least 5 1-hour sessions per week)with special emphasis on combatting over-weightness and muscle and general physical developement. PE Teachers should also be gender-specific.
Boys PE should concentrate much more on the forthcoming roles in life of the Boys, in both Sport and Personal Lives.
This might mean some howls of anguish from the "New Breed" of PE Teachers but I think after a few years result in a much better physical fitness profile of the population.

Comments by Dave on 16th March 2013  

If you watch this video you can see (from 5:15) that all the boys are barechested for massed P.T. None of them seems uncomfortable and unhappy because of the kit they have to wear even in mixed exercises.


Comments by Simon on 15th March 2013  

I attended a state Grammar School in the early sixties and altough the official PE uniform did specify a singlet many boys didn't wear them and always did PE stripped to the waist.
More and more of us followed suit and eventually we were all bare-chested in the gym.
Again a few lads went topless outdoors for cross-country and again more and more lads bared their chests and eventually we were all stripped to the waist.
Some were even barefoot both in and out of doors.

Comments by morgan on 6th March 2013  

Ambrose wrote;
When I was a pupil I thought the dress code for PE was at the whim of the teacher. We were never allowed underwear and were often without shirts; communal showers were compulsory.

Like Ambrose I experienced similar 'whims'.
I entered Boarding School in 1970, aged 15, when my parents moved abroad due to my Father's work as an engineer.
The regime there was brutal.
I soon discovered that some of the items listed on the Games Kit, which my parents purchased, were completely surplus to requirements.
Both games masters were sadists.
Every day of the school year began with a two mile run around the grounds and through the local village. This was year round in just a thin pair of shorts and trainers.
We were predominately shirtless for games including table tennis and cricket. Bare soles and chests in gym, except in teams when it was bibs vs skins. Only one set of bibs were ever issued, despite a huge supply in various colors.
Bare soles and chests outdoors were our games masters whims.
In the evenings other whims included open ended circuit training sessions with no set finishing time.

Some boys hated it and others tried to impress their hardness.

Comments by George on 5th March 2013  

Archie let me reply to your latest questions.

In the normal course of events I didn't catch that many boys up to things they shouldn't have been around the school. Those who I did catch, usually the smokers who for some reason thought a corner outside the gym was a good place to smoke were invited inside for the cane. Smoking got six on the bare bottom without exception.

In such circumstances a boy would be told to take off his blazer and drop his trousers and underpants before bending over a hurdle we kept there for just that purpose.

Also, close to the sports complex were the music rooms. The head of music was a delightful lady in her late fifties and coming up to retirement. As a colleague she was great fun and often the life and soul of a party.

As a teacher, she was mercilessly baited by the boys and unfortunately she used to rise to it. Her lessons often used to descend into chaos and she could not regain control. It was a pity because she really knew her stuff, she taught me to play the piano which was something I had always wanted to do and she was a superb teacher.

Needless to say, I and my colleagues used to pass by the music room and there was a large glass panel in the door which was at the back of the room and we could observe the class without being seen.

With her tacit agreement we would often pause for long enough to determine who the ringleaders were in any particular class and then quietly enter the room and summon them out for a 'discussion'. That usually had the effect of sobering up the whole class in an instant.

The boy or boys summoned for a discussion made their way to the changing room where they were invited to explain their behaviour, I never yet heard a satisfactory explanation and so delivered a just punishment. A first offender got four, a second offender six and a repeat offender eight, always with the cane.

The boy or boys would then be escorted back to the music class, usually with tears in their eyes and told to take a seat at the front where everyone could see them. Usually I delivered a warning that I was close by and that there was plenty more of the same available for anyone who wanted it as an alternative to working hard for the rest of the lesson.

I also used to deliver the odd warning in my classes that any boy I caught misbehaving in music classes was guaranteed a sore bottom.

Comments by Ambrose on 5th March 2013  

It's unfortunate that my original observations on how PE training and supervision has changed seem to have deteriorated into a prurient discussion on caning naked bottoms.
George's original response confirms that we were trained to be naked around boys; in my case in an inner city secondary modern/comprehensive school rather than a single sex private school. The rational behind our training was that we would not appear aloof to the pupils, and that nudity was not something to be shy about. Showering naked together was for no other purpose than to encourage cleanliness and confidence in pupils and to dispel any sense of unnecessary modesty; nobody saw any ulterior motives, and of course any touching was strictly discouraged.
It was not until the 80's that the situation changed, for whatever reason, and nowadays a teacher appearing naked in front of pupils is likely to lose his job for supposed indecency. How have standards deteriorated to this neurotic state? Are their now more teachers with an unhealthy interest in their pupil's bodies?

What are the views of older or retired teachers, or of pupils who saw their teachers naked?

Incidentally, at my school only the Head was allowed to cane;and although we used the slipper, no pupil was ever punished on a bare backside!

Comments by Pete on 5th March 2013  

I'm glad I didn't go to George's school; swimming naked, pe stripped to the waist, no underpants - none of that would have bothered me, but that 20 - 25% of boys at any time bore the marks of caning suggests to me that the custom was widely practiced. I wonder if there was any standardisation to caning or whether the number of strokes was on the whim of the master administering the punishment. Wearing underpants in pe, for instance, would hardly be the most serious "crime" that a boy could commit yet did it make any difference in relation to other contraventions of school rules?

Comments by Adam on 5th March 2013  

When we played football etc.stripped to the waist the teams were identified by wearing different coloured shorts.

Comments by Archie on 4th March 2013  

George - thanks for your latest reply. Slightly off topic, but I was wondering how you dealt with lads who were being caned or slippered but who were not already in PE kit - perhaps, if you caught a boy doing something and made him report for punishment at a particular time.

Presumably you still caned/slippered their bare backsides? Did they keep the rest of their uniforms on with just their trousers and pants round their ankles, or did they have to strip entirely? Did they just bend over and touch their toes or did you have them bend over something?

Did you often slipper or cane other than during a PE lesson?

Comments by George on 28th February 2013  

Archie, no lad was ever slippered or caned in the pool area, it only ever happened in our office or the changing room. Any lad leaving the pool area, if he was not going straight for a shower put his shorts on even if it was only to drop them a few minutes later for the slipper or cane.

Lads often had stripes from the cane across their bottoms when swimming but we saw them when lads were in the showers too. In the earlier years, I suppose it was common to see 20-25% of bottoms sporting marks of the cane, in later years it was much less common and of course eventually it would have died out.

In 1975 the school left local authority control like many others when faced with the comprehensive choice and we were lucky enough to be in a place that had sufficient demand for private education, so the cane remained for quite a few more years than it might have done.

The headmaster however foresaw a day when it would be banned and he encouraged a reduction in its use so that withdrawal would not cause a problem which in the end it didn't. I think in the last year it was legal, it was used twice on senior boys who had bullied junior boys.

The following year two senior boys who had bullied a junior boy were expelled on the spot and that's what happened to boys who ultimately would have been caned and as we were out of local authority control, there was nothing to stop it.

Personally, I still think the cane was the better solution as I doubt most school boys who overstep the mark appreciate fully what they are doing and how much expulsion will impact on their education and therefore life opportunities in a way that a sore bottom for a few days never could although I recognise it will never be reintroduced.

Comments by Archie on 27th February 2013  

I looked at your link and searched a bit online and think that the garment you mention is similar to the slips our masters (and my father) wore, though theirs were the very skimpiest kind. Most of the pictures online have fairly full fronts to the garments, and a 3/4 back whereas our PE teachers had much smaller front areas of cloth whilst their buttocks were totally bare save for a very tiny triangle of cloth at the top of their arse cracks. The strings were very narrow - say 1cm - but did tie at the sides.

George - again, really interesting to hear your answer. Did you ever slipper or cane lads when they were naked in the pool area? Presumably it was a usual enough sight to see lads with cane lines on their backsides during swimming classes?

We had the no underwear rule at school as well, though I have to admit that I (like many of my classmates) flouted it as we became older. We didn't always get away with it and the belt then made an appearance, even in 5th and 6th forms!

Comments by John Lavender on 27th February 2013  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com  http://www.ipernity.com/doc/acaciaap/11504851/in/keyword/410236/self

Hi Archie, I think you are referring in your post a few days ago to an Item of swimwear originating in Germany, named in that language as 'Dreieckbadenhose', translating Literally as 'Triangular bathing wear'
Here - the URL shown - is a photo. The Garment has ties around each hip.
If you want to correspond further off-thread, just email me.

Comments by George on 27th February 2013  

Archie, I was twenty one when I started teaching.

Usually for a swimming class we were either in the water or not, it wasn't usual to get in the water in mid class but except as below, I took my shorts off at the pool side if I did. Whether you were in or not depended on the level of the class, if they were beginners it was more common to be with them but less so once they were swimming well. You might get in to demonstrate a new stroke with the boys on the poolside but then get out to observe them, you can't actually see much when you're in the water with them.

If I jumped in spontaneously usually because a boy was in difficulty I didn't stop to take my shorts off.

As to what I wore under my shorts, certainly never underpants and nor did any other master I taught with which I know because we shared an office. I had a jockstrap for playing rugby as a team member but having worn it a few times I found I preferred not to and no one else on the team wore one or for that matter wore underpants. How things have changed now where you see a second pair of shorts appearing down the legs of some rugby players, presumably when you don't see anything they are going commando, much more healthy.

Comments by Archie on 27th February 2013  

George - that's really interesting. So when you were at the side of the pool you had your rugby shorts on and you took them off to jump in? What did you wear under them?

How old were you when you were teaching like this?

Comments by George on 26th February 2013  

Archie, in the main, we didn't go in the water with boys during swimming lessons though when we did, we were naked. The pool was available to masters and boys during lunchtimes and everyone swam naked during those times. Masters from other schools varied a bit, I can remember one or two who used to come with trunks under their shorts but most were naked in the water.

We also usually taught with bare chests, my usual kit was a pair of black rugby shorts and a pair of trainers. It was a good incentive to stay in shape! I kept a rugby shirt handy for leaving the sports area of the school but didn't see the need to wear it in the gym or out on the fields unless I was a referee or similar.

Eastender, your account typifies all that is wrong with boys today. I can't imagine the poor lad was warm in all his gear, much healthier had he been in shirt and shorts.

Cold weather was often an excuse for wearing underpants when lads were caught. They never actually thought that even it it was cold they would still sweat in the usual places while running, one layer of clothing might dry on a cold day, two would have no chance so, had it been permitted, they would have been wearing cold, damp underpants that would get colder in the wind whereas without them, the sweat would dry off immediately. Similarly if they rolled on wet ground, one layer of kit would dry in a few minutes, two would not dry at all. I suppose these days they don't roll on wet ground in case they catch cold or get dirty.

Of course, there was always hightened vigilance for underpants on cold days and any boy caught failing to take them off left the changing room with a warmer bottom than he might have wished for but he certainly could no longer complain of cold!

Comments by Archie on 23rd February 2013  

I found George's post really interesting, particularly the fact that he (as a PE teacher) was naked in the pool along with the boys. George - did that apply to all the teachers, whatever their age, and also to the ones from the other schools?

Whilst we swam naked, our teachers didn't - the head PE master who was a bit Captain Mainwaring in apperance always wore his tracksuit (he didn't get in the water) but he made the younger PE masters who must have been in their mid 20s strip down and wear a sort of swimming slip.

The best way to describe what they wore is that it was like a triangle of dark cloth to cover their privates with strings round the side and back - a sort of cloth gstring I suppose. They must have been leftover from rationing or something! My father actually wore similar when he used to take me to private swimming baths as well.

I don't suppose the teachers could complain as at least they were covered unlike us boys.

I don't recall our teachers ever showering with us though.

Comments by Eastender on 21st February 2013  

I have written previous comments about how inhibited boys have become these day and how they have become softies. Today I have senn a boy who had clearly just finished a football match. He was with his dad and the boy I should think was about 8 or 9yrs of age. Apart from his football shirt he was wearing quite thick padded shorts & showing underneath were what appeared to be a further pair and football socks looking like tights. The only part of his body showing was his knees,just. Perhaps he was a goalie & nowadays they seem to be proteced from head to toe. How many times were we hit with a real leather football which stung when the weather was cold & frosty. When will the youth of today start to toughen up again?

Having read the previous 2 contributors comments we certainly in my day have nor worries about changing in one room. Most os us went to Scout camp & there you had to dress & undress & all sleep together in a tent with no room for privacy.

Comments by George on 20th February 2013  

What an amazing picture and a collection of comments. If I may, I will add my own perspective which is that of a PE teacher and I don't think I've seen another similar contribution.

I qualified in 1966 so a little after this picture was taken but things hadn't really changed. The picture may have been of my own schooldays just as easily and it is a good example of how PE was taught for may years afterwards.

I joined the staff of a boys grammar school on qualifying and taught there for many years. There were about 800 boys on the roll and I was the junior PE master though my colleague was only a few years older than me. Other masters coached various teams according to their skills and interests. The school had only been open about five years.

We had an excellent gym which was beautifully equipped with all the kit you see in the picture and far more besides. It was carefully looked after and the gym was so big you could divide it in to two so that we could have held two separate classes had we wished. In practice that rarely happened as we generally planned outdoor and indoor lessons to avoid teaching two classes in the gym together but on the occasions we did when the weather was very bad (I'm not talking about a bit of snow or rain here) we generally took both classes in the gym for circuit training.

Team games played were rugby, cricket, basket ball and volley ball and we competed at all levels in these along with swimming. The school had its own pool which was a real luxury though it was used by other schools too so we didn't have unlimited access to it. The other thing we didn't have either compared to the better schools today was any highly specialist skill in individual sports. I knew more about rugby than most and was therefore the expert, I had played at county level in the first XV but no more. As such, in many things we were relative amateurs compared to today.

Training had covered many things about all sports, a lot about football which was great if you taught in a school that played football! We also covered a lot about muscles, anatomy and building strength.There was quite a bit of emphasis too on safety and discipline.

Safety was of paramount importance. We had never heard of risk assessments but of course we did go through the process without having to do all the paperwork we do now. No one expected a fat boy (yes, we called them that then) to shin up a rope and hold position in the same way as a muscular boy without an ounce of fat. We tried to design exercises that challenged the whole class and I think in the main we did it.

Learning to play as a team was important too from all points of view and we sorted out quickly who were the good team players and who were not. Competition was also important, we played sport to win and I think that was healthy and good. I really dislike the current culture of everyone wins a prize, it devalues achievement.

So, what of discipline as it's touched on so often. Yes, I had a very large plimsoll and a cane, in fact in the office I and my colleague shared, we had several of each. PE can be a dangerous subject, any boy endangering himself or others by mischief, misuse of equipment or horseplay could expect a very sore bottom for his trouble. The first time it would be the slipper and if he repeated his stupidity it was the cane. Almost always they were given in the office but very occasionally when an example needed to be made, in the changing room. Whether it was in the office or the changing room, it was always on the bare bottom which was permitted in the rules for use by any master but of course few actually did. Yes boys cried and hated it, they weren't meant to like it and standards certainly slipped when it was withdrawn. There were usually quite a few sore bottoms in any class at the start of the year but after the first half term when the boundaries were established, it was rare to cane a boy though there were probably still two or three slipperings a week. Of course we also saw very clearly when a boy had been caned as week by week they took off their underpants and I would say we whacked less than many masters.

PE kit was in keeping with the times. For rugby there was a shirt, shorts, socks and boots, for cricket usual whites and for anything else there was a pair of white shorts and plimsolls or later trainers. Bare chests were the norm. For swimming there were no trunks unless it was a competition in which case, we had a box full for the boys to use. This certainly wasn't only our school, when boys from other schools used the pool, they didn't have trunks either. All this was quite normal until the early eighties.

Underpants were certainly not worn either. Any boy caught wearing them was in line for the slipper. The reasoning behind this was about hygiene. It had applied when I was at school, in training hygiene was emphasised alongside two other things the first of which was I suppose a crude attempt to educate boys about their bodies growing and changing and if they saw other boys developing hair, having their testicles drop and their penis grow then they wouldn't be alarmed if it happened to them and the second was that there really was an expectation that there would be a third world war and again, all men would be called to arms. In that case there would be no room for shyness so it was better that boys got over that now. This was also the thinking behind communal showers which did no one any harm.

We also used to be encouraged to shower with the boys and it was said it was a way of keeping order. As teachers, we had no private shower facilities so we did use the showers with the boys at times though it was more normal to shower with the older boys than the eleven year olds. Male staff who coached did the same thing and no member of staff wore trunks in the pool either.

Boys might have been uncomfortable at the start having to take off their underpants and shower in a communal shower and swim naked but I don't remember any boy being uncomfortable after after the first three or four weeks.

I stopped teaching PE in the late 80s - it's a younger man's subject and moved into school management as it became known. I missed it, I love watching the boys achieve more than they ever thought they could, it was great to see the smile and sense of achievment on a boy's face when he won, beat a record or just did something better than he ever imagined he could.

Comments by Ambrose on 19th February 2013  

When I was a pupil I thought the dress code for PE was at the whim of the teacher. We were never allowed underwear and were often without shirts; communal showers were compulsory.
When I went to teacher training college in the swinging sixties we were given instruction which included showering with pupils as the best way of supervision. I was required to help out with PE in my secondary modern training practice schools, even though this was not my specialist subject. In all four schools the younger boys wore only shorts for gym, older boys sometimes wore pumps; and swimming trunks under their shorts, never pants. Outdoors it was usual to wear a shirt as well, but in all cases showers were compulsory and taken naked. At the end of the morning or afternoon it was not unusual for the teachers to join the boys naked in the showers.
When I started my first job I taught a few periods of PE and some games after school. I was told that the county advisor had instructed that all normal clothes be removed before PE kit was worn, and boys should shower whenever possible: so we were under orders. It was common for the 5 or 6 men teaching sport at various times to shower naked with the boys; and this practice continued throughout most of the 70's. It was not seen as inappropriate, and nobody was unhappy with the situation at the time.
It would be interesting to know who discouraged the practice and why,since thousands of teachers must have been trained to supervise classes this way. Parents are now neurotic about others seeing their child naked and demand privacy when changing. Pupils even wear swimming trunks in the showers! Staff now feel wary about being in the same room when pupils are undressing, although this is the best way of preventing bullying or horseplay which parents have complained about.
What was so wrong with the old ways?

Comments by John Lavender on 17th February 2013  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

The 'Sticking Vests' syndrome is arguably THE most potent reason for doing gym / running without a top. Several people I know , as well as myself, have done half-marathons and shorter road-races as such, it is even more of an option if you are someone who sweats quite readily.
Doing Gym stripped to the waist is healthier than being wrapped in 2 or more layers, does not infringe any so-called 'Human Rights' and if truth be known, and pupils were asked, would probably be Preferred by Boys in Senior School. Does any school actually ask them what they Prefer, seeing as we are supposed to be in a Democratic Society?

Comments by Eastender on 12th February 2013  

I have contributed in the past & agree with many writers that I do not think many of us had inhibitions about the minimal clothing for PE. I was at Secondary school 1961 to 66 & some of our teachers had been in the war or National Service & they continued with the discipline & machoism they had experienced & that every expected in those days. Admittedly we never were running around with no clothes & trunks were worn for swimming but usally brief & showed your bump but we did have communal showers after PE where you would stand around chatting to each other whilst in the buff with out a thought until the teacher came in and hurried you up.
Without wishing to digress too much I think that having to have community showers & seeing each other naked prepared people for the time when they left school.I went to work in an office but some of my friends who I met up with had jobs in factories. I know of one lad who told me that from day one all the men changed into overalls in a communal room & he had no problems with that. However, a few weeks into his appretinceship,came the "Initiation" when at the end of the day he was taken by the older men and he ended up being stripped & losing some hair(not from his head) As he said at the time at least our schoolday experiences of changing rooms helped him through that event.

Can you imagine anything like that happening at work today?