Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 646,709         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 Pete C on 21st June 2009  

This is similar to my experience at a boys school in Lancashire - though we were barefoot. I recall doing pe outside too, only in shorts, playing football on the school playing field. In theory you were allowed to wear plimsolls, but boys often didn't bring them since you weren't allowed to wear them in the gym.

Comments by Ned on 6th June 2009  

According to the links shirtless PE is still a practice in some schools:




Comments by Michael on 6th June 2009  

When I was at secondary school in the 1960s boys had to do P.E. in just black gym shorts and plimsolls with no top. Boys were not allowed to wear anything under their shorts. I believe that this minimal P.E. kit was common practice in British schools from about the 1940s until the 1980s. I don't know if such requirements have existed at any schools in more recent times.

Comments by willy on 27th May 2009  

This is so like my own school in NE England at the same time: I left in 1960. Gym kit was white shorts, only. No tops, socks, shoes. No underwear was allowed until in the games master's judgement puberty had advanced sufficiently to need support, when briefs or a jockstrap were permitted, provided they were specially for gym/games and not one's ordinary underclothes. Infringement of this rule led to attention with the "slipper" - a large black gymshoe which stung badly. (As we always had a shower together after the PE session, it was easy enough for the master to check our physical development.)

Comments by Wayne on 21st May 2009  

Interesting to read Howie’s comment that their teacher was shirtless as well as the boys. Personally I always regarded being shirtless in PE as a discipline thing, because if you had a PE detention at my school you had to get changed into your usual kit but with no top. Basically the dynamic was this: the teacher was the one who wore a shirt and gave the orders, we lads had to shiver in our shorts and do as we were told.
In the same way, Shirts and Skins – which continued to be common practice until we were 16 - was something I associated with a punishment. We'd be split into four teams - two in different coloured bibs, a third team in white PE vests and the fourth taking their vests off. So if you were picked as a Skin, there’d be only four or five other boys with bare chests while most of the class kept their tops on and you felt you were being made to stand out from the crowd. Of course, the teams were picked completely at random, yet every time I stood in line in the gym, saw the teacher point in my direction and say the word ‘Skin’, it seemed to me as if I was being punished for no reason.
On the other hand, swimming lessons never seemed like that because, of course, every single boy in the class was shirtless. So I don’t think it’s a bad idea for boys to do PE shirtless, just as long as it’s the same for everyone and no-one feels singled out.

Comments by Ben on 14th May 2009  


Is this still a practice there?What is the name of the school?

Comments by Howie on 14th May 2009  

This photo brings memories of grammar school I attended in the United States. Our PE uniform was blue shorts, no shirt
and no shoes. The teacher was also shirtless,maybe as an example.The idea being that shirtless was part of a boy's life.

Comments by Peter on 29th April 2009  

Yes, an excellent picture.I also grew up with gym simlar to the picture.We all wore white shorts for what was then known as P.T and we were not permitted to wear any underpants under our shorts.P.T. was followed by a shower or nude swim in the schools pool.I think that as kids we were much healthier with the no underwear rule which was followed for all sports both at school and at home.Incidentally I grew in Cape Town.

Comments by Ben on 26th April 2009  

Hi Aidan!Is it still a practice there?

There is a video on youtube of a Pe lesson.It is a teacher training video.It seems not too old.
Boys wear white shorts only and girls wear leotards.
It seems it is still a practice in some schools:


Comments by aidan on 24th April 2009  aidansmith@fsmail.net 

I went to St Cuthberts, an all boys school back in the 1980s, shirts were a strict nono in the gym and it was compulsory for lads to go topless, only a pair of white shorts was allowed. basketball was normally played shirts vv skins. think back it was quite liberating and enabled you to become body conscious , not a bad thing though think it must have been quite difficult for the fat guys

Comments by Gabriel on 12th April 2009  

Which grammar school was it?Name?

Comments by d. bromley on 7th April 2009  

I went to a Comphrensive school in the early 1990s and we were reguired to be shirtless for indoor pe. I loved it -it gave a realy sense of freedom.I think its a shame schools dont seemed to have continued with the practice.

Comments by Jon on 7th March 2009  

Hi Nick! Which school was it? Thanks for your answering!

Comments by Nick on 19th February 2009  

I went to an all-boys school in southern England during the 1980s where the official PE kit was white vests, white shorts, socks and trainers. I remember getting changed for the first lesson in the gym, only to discover that whatever the uniform list might have said, our PE teacher’s view was rather different and we were ordered to take our vests off. From then on it was ‘skins’ and no exceptions, in the gym at least.
We still had to bring our vests for outdoor lessons like cross country, but even then we sometimes had to run in teams, which meant half the class in vests and the other half bare-chested, even in the rain. There wasn’t any point in complaining and most of us wouldn’t have dared to in any case. A lot of teenage boys can be quite cocky, but I think having to go shirtless so often possibly helped to make us better disciplined that we might have been otherwise.

Comments by K on 30th December 2008  

I've heard there are still some schools in the U.K. which require shirtlessness for PE.Which are these?

Comments by Alan on 20th December 2008  

I attended a northern grammar school in the 1970s and our pe kit consisted of shorts and plimsolls only.

Comments by John on 27th November 2008  

Yes, takes me back. At my school we did all indoor PE shirtless and in bare feet. Only a pair of black shorts was allowed to be worn. Outdoors in winter was in rubgy kit; in summer and for cross-country we were allowed to wear a white vest (singlet) and plimsolls, but nothing more. For summer athletics and track-and-field on the grass we we encouraged to go with a shirt and be in bare feet.

Comments by Ben on 26th November 2008  

Same for me, I went to a strict comprehensive school in Yorkshire. Indoor PE kit was just a pair of white shorts, no top, no shoes, no underwear.
Outdoor games was a pair of black shorts and trainers but no top and outdoor PE and cross country was white short and plimsoles. We had outdoor PE throughout the year and can even remember being sent outside once with snow on the ground only wearing a pair of shorts.
I wasn't too keen on the cross country runs as we had to run through our neighbourhood to reach a field. You always had quite a few people looking at you, and yes the girls liked that.
Shame they stopped all that, it sure would toughen some of our teenagers up and instill a kind of gentle discipline.

Comments by Harry on 30th September 2008  

Same for us in our school. We always had to be topless for PE and the girls enjoyed watching.

Comments by Greg on 4th August 2008  

i attended a Grammar School in Hertfordshire in the 60s and it was the same for us. our games kit consisted of a pair of white shorts and a pair of white plimsolls. All PE, both indoors and outdoors, was performed shirtless. We were also barefooted indoors and outdoors on the playing field. We wore plimsolls for out door PE on the playground, and cross country runs were performed in the same way. This was the case all year rouns and in all weathers. I have to chuckle when I hear of modern schools either having no games/PE at all or reserving it for good weather.

Comments by Stephen on 10th June 2008  

Nice picture, taking me back to my PE lessons, which for us boys were always shirtless and probably much more demanding than today. We even did cross country runs in winter without tops being allowed.