Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 738,152         Comments: 2,655

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

2655 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Rob on 2nd May 2010  

What was British Bulldog?

Comments by JWB on 1st May 2010  

In 1959 the school had just moved to new premises.
I was there 1960-67. The gymnasium was not a favourite place. I won't speak ill of the dead but games teachers, like maths teachers, never seemed to have much understanding of the less able. However, I do remember dazing Ron when I sat on his head in a violent game of British Bulldog.

Comments by Will on 20th April 2010  

I had a very similar experience to James when my PE teacher made me do laps of the playing field by myself as a punishment at the end of a lesson. The usual outdoor kit was white vest, white shorts (and socks) and trainers, but before I started the teacher shouted at me to take my vest off. Obviously I wasn’t keen to run bare-chested on a chilly afternoon but I had no option, and it probably made me run quicker, both to try and get warm and to get the whole thing over with. When I finally finished my laps I wasn’t allowed to put my vest back on and go indoors, first I had to do 20 press ups by the side of the field.
After that I didn’t mess about or not try in PE as I didn’t fancy repeating the experience, so in that sense it was an effective punishment. But it’s not a good idea to make boys strip to the waist outside as a general rule, then you remove that punishment option.

Comments by Mark S. on 16th April 2010  

When I was at secondary school in the late 1960s and early 1970s, boys' PE was done bare to the waist in very short black gym shorts and black plimsolls.No socks were allowed and it was forbidden to wear anything under your shorts.
Cross country running was done in the same kit. As it was a built up area,we had to run along residential streets, round a local park and back to the school past houses and small shops,exposed to public view throughout.

Comments by James on 20th March 2010  jamrob@hotmail.com 

The official kit was trainers, black shorts and white vest, but it seemed they forgot to tell our PE teacher. After changing we were taken outside, lined up and told to strip to the waist. Wasn't interested in your ability so long as you gave 100% and you were barechested.

I remember not giving 100% and found out the hard way one lunchtime when it was pouring with rain I was outside and having to do 15 laps round the rather large school field stripped to the waist. Lesson learned, I didn't make the same mistake again.

There's to much feminism in the school system today. Teach boys to become men and stripping to the waist indoors and outside for PE would help to do just that and maybe take away some of the edge youngsters have these days.

Comments by Thumper23 on 7th March 2010  

We were always shirtless and the school provided shorts. No UW was allowed, and if inside, barefoot, but shoes outside. One day one of my classmates arrived at PE without his outfit, and the instructor told him street clothes were not allowed, and to strip to his underwear for class. He was freeballing, so did the class naked. Remember back in the late 50's, it was all male classes. Everyone gave him a bad time, and he NEVER forgot it again. We also did our swimming at the YMCA, and that was nude also, so nobody had a problem with that

Comments by Tony Marsh on 24th February 2010  tonymarsh1946@aol.com 

Thanks for posting the photo of the Gym at Burnley Grammar School , it has brought back many memories . I was a pupil at the school from 1957 until 1962 and had many hard work outs in the gym under the supervision of Ron Parry , an excellent P E teacher. Basket ball was a relatively new sport in Burnley and I represented the school in local matches.An all boys school,in which the P E kit formed part of the school " uniform ". The stripes on the side of the shorts indicating which house you belonged to . Brun ( my house ) dark blue , Pendle red , Calder green , Ribble light blue . Happy days.

Comments by andrew on 6th February 2010  

What amazes me is this photo was from 1959 but 25 or so years later my uniform was much the same still. Tshirts and socks were listed on our uniform but for gym were still rarely worn- even 25 years on that was still the way.

20 years on again, brings us upto date and the simple shorts and plimsolls only uniform really does look like its from another era, but does capture the simple uncomplicated essence of all a gym uniform needs to be.

Comments by Mark on 9th January 2010  

Apparently the outfit is not uncommon in Continental Europe.
Here is a video of some boys training at a Belgian sports school in 2009:

Comments by Rob on 6th January 2010  

Yes, Neil - my son also went to an all boys school: barefeet was always an option for indoor PE lessons but apart from that the kit was white shorts and white t-shirt. Only a few weeks after he started the mum of one kid in his class packed his football shirt by mistake but he received no punishment - the teacher wasn't angry - he just said "If you haven't got the right shirt for the lesson, then you don't wear any shirt". After that more and more boys seemed to "forget" their shirts, soon joined by my son, and they never wore tops for PE again. He loved it because it meant that all he had to take were his shorts, which he used to roll up and stuff in blazer pocket!

Comments by Neil on 5th January 2010  

It’s noticeable that every boy in the picture is wearing exactly the same kit – white shorts, white plimsolls, no shirt.

At my school (early 80’s, boys only grammar), there was an official kit for PE and cross country (which we did one PE lesson all year around), this comprised white shorts, house vest, white socks and plimsolls.

To start with everyone wore all of the kit every lesson (with the exception that a few boys not wearing socks), but gradually items were skipped. By the time we reached the 2nd year, only a very few boys wore all of the kit, with around 50% wearing just shorts indoors, and others not wearing a shirt or being barefoot for indoor PE.

With cross country, a few boys ran stripped to the waist all year around, and nearly everyone did the same other than for the winter. One lad always ran in just shorts, always barefoot and always stripped down to the waist, so even on a freezing cold day with a biting wind he would just wear the same minimum kit, never any shoes or top.

Were other schools the same in that some boys wore less that the kit allowed, or were they the same as the featured school in that everyone wore the maximum kit allowed for each activity?

Comments by mick on 3rd January 2010  

my pe shorts were short.white nylon,a bit see through,my jockstrap was visible underneath,also the waistband,wore umbro nylon shorts,white for football,very smooth,and soft next to my skin.looked good in them,plus a jock.

Comments by Rob on 3rd January 2010  

Mark is right - shorts had got much shorter by the 60's and 70's. By the time we were aged about 13 or 14 I remember some boys had 3 or 4 inches of bare skin between their belly button and the top of their shorts - not good when we forced to do boxing or wrestling and the rule was "no hitting below the belt"! Anyone else experience that? I still agree it's exactly what today's kids need, though!

Comments by Tim on 29th December 2009  

This photo brings back many memories! Our official kit was a white vest, black shorts, socks and trainers. We were always made to remove our vests and go bare chested for all PE activities (from cross country, footie, rugby to basketball, fitness and athletics)regardless of the time of year or weather. This lasted until we left school after 6th form and A levels.

Comments by Mark on 12th December 2009  

The shorts in the picture seem quite large compared to those I can remember. I think we all had a couple of inches of bare skin below our belly buttons...

Comments by mark on 2nd December 2009  

My school switched from being an all boys school to being a mixed 6th Form College while I was there. A novelty was the arrival of the school's first female pe teacher, who helped out with the boys classes as well as 6th Form sports. It was team teaching, but I couldn't help wondering how she felt having to deal with 30 fourth or fifth formers in barefeet and no tops. That was in the 70s.

Comments by pogue on 25th November 2009  poguemahone@ukonline.co.uk 

I attended the school (Burnley Grammar)1975 -1980 Ron Parry was still the head of sports- he died I believe earlier this year.Nice bloke who cared for the school and the boys.you were only known by your surname as a pupil then.His school nickname was gay paris - never proven - but I never hung around in the showers. he once made me run twice round the grass track in the snow in bare feet and shirtless because my strip wasn't school regulation- he'd not get away with it nowadays.Other nicknames of the time were- bertie yoghurt- nobbie stokes- posy cowell- don juan (donald wain)- hitler and himmler the dinner ladies. takes me back.

Comments by Peter on 11th November 2009  

This shows you how important uniform is for school discipline. I am sure that boys play up much less when having to do PE like this, shirtless and barefoot, it puts them in their place and sends out a message about who is in control, the PE master!

Comments by Toby on 21st October 2009  wettoby@hotmail.com 

I was at a boys' school in the late 1970s/early 1980s and the PE kit was all white: T-shirt, shorts, socks & plimsolls. PE was never done shirtless or barefoot. The same kit was worn all year round no matter what the weather, including for outdoor athletics.

There was a "no pants" rule, which was strictly enforced at first, but after a few years was not, and boys started wearing pants and even swimming trunks under their PE shorts, which were very transparent.

Any boy who forgot his swimming trunks and towel would be made to swim in his PE shorts and use his T-shirt to dry himself.

Comments by Crow on 4th October 2009  

I remember a curious inversion of what most here said. I was at Northgate High School in Ipswich in the late 70's, a huge sprawl of brick and portacabins strangely absent from Google Maps, hell knows where THAT got hidden. :) While we played shirts and skins games in the unheated gym even when it was freezing out, and cold air coming in the wire mesh covered gap between the gym and the portacabin we changed in, we were supposed to wear more outside. One time I forgot my kit, as did one other boy. The teacher was a right taskmaster, and all the other boys were outside so as not to irk him or keep him waiting when he turned up. This time he was actually late. Two of us, still inside, wondering what to do, and I decided that I didn't want to be the butt of some kind of teacherly retribution so I said sod it, I'm going out there without the shirt I haven't got, better that than lurking in here. He agreed and joined me and we stood there fending off a few funny remarks from the rest, and the other guy had his hands together drawn up under his chin, like fending off the cold, while I was discovering how much I actually liked it. There was a biting sub-zero wind off the North Sea and ice all over the asphalt but I liked it. I rarely ever felt more alive up to that point, and having made the choice to do it was maybe part of it, having deliberately opted not to make myself a victim of circumstance. Anyway, the teacher came along, demanded why we were shirtless, etc, and found us shirts. The one I got stank, really, it was like vomit. It came off before I'd got halfway through the cross country run. One other guy also went shirtless, not the other guy who first chose to do it. He clearly also got it. It IS invigorating, it really does something good to feel the weather and know it isn't going to hurt or kill us, we just need to use our energy to balance it, not fight it. Very liberating. Towards the end of the run, coming back through the streets, a different teacher (there were two, and we rarely saw anything of them for most of a couple of hours) bellowed at us to put our shirts back on. Such a strange inversion, no? I always run shirtless now, even if it gets to -10¬?C with wind and freezing fog doing entertaining things to the hairs on my head and forearms. People look at me with varying looks, but the over-riding pattern is one of being unusual. It should NOT be such a big deal, but to many it now is. The 'reasons' against it border on the pathological, too, and I can only guess that the increased portrayal of people as sex objects to sell things and offer gratification in other ways has made people afraid of their own reactions to this, so they don't like being caught out feeling or thinking that way when they see someone shirtless in public. It's stopped builders being allowed to do it, far more than any risk of skin cancer would. It has nothing to do with safety, or health, and everything to do with a warped sense of morality. Fortunately you can see that it hasn't gotten to everyone, so it's just one of those stupid things peculiar to our age. Right now, for a few years so far, it's actually been fashionable for men to wear shorts all year round, it's big in the UK, and the US. Can't be doing with it myself, I'd rather be shirtless, it looks better, feels better, and I suspect that this fashion is a bizarre displacement of the same desires, changed into something different to find a socially acceptable form when older forms have somehow been denied to all but those of us who don't mind what people think enough to stop us. Things HAVE changed from what most here have said, maybe too much.

Comments by Richard on 25th September 2009  

I left school in the 90s and we didn’t have PE classes where everyone went shirtless as in the picture, but we did still have teams of shirts and skins. I was 13 the first time I ever heard the PE teacher use that phrase and didn’t even know what it meant when he announced my team was ‘skins’. Then one of my friends ran to the side of the gym, took off his vest and dropped it there and ran back bare chested. Suddenly the penny dropped and I realised I had to take my top off as well. From then on indoor football, basketball and sometimes other sports were always done as shirts and skins, with the teacher picking the teams, and that continued until I was 16.
I remember on one occasion we had to share the gym with another class whose outdoor lesson (either football or rugby) had been cancelled because of bad weather and that meant the teacher had to split more boys into more teams. Because the outdoor kit included black shorts, while my class wore all white in the gym, we ended up playing basketball as ‘skins and skins’, with every boy on the court bare chested but wearing different coloured shorts! That was a strange experience and, not surprisingly, fairly confusing when you tried to pass the ball.

Comments by James on 22nd September 2009  

My most abiding memory of this was after I moved to a new school at the age of 11.

My first PE session (a double!) took place on a cold Thursday morning in November. There'd been a sharp frost overnight, and so after assembly we changed into our kit (white vest and black shorts)and were told by the PE teacher the session would be outside.

Once we outside and in a line on the field the teacher looked along the line and told me to go in front of the class. Moments later I was told to strip and drop my vest on the ground. A couple of minutes passed then my new classmates were also made to strip down. There were no moans or groans, just a line of vests.

The teacher alternated the sessions so either the whole class were bare chested or half would wear their vests. I do remember being one of four or five lads who he very rarely picked to wear a vest and as a result almost permanently bare chested, irrespective of the temperature or if we were indoors or out.

Inter class competitions were done this way too, but differed for basketball and football. If you wore a vest for the first half, you stripped for the second and vice versa, allowing the girls to see both classes representatives bare chested during the match.

Comments by john on 28th August 2009  

at my junior schools we had to wear white nylon shorts solo,no vest, and plymsols.at the senior schools i ad to wear a jockstrap ,plus a crcket box for cricket,and nylon pe shorts.nylon umbro shorts for football,and a jock.we all showerd off after sports/pe nude.we had a medical once a year,wearing our shorts only,but had to take them off for the doctor.

Comments by Stuart on 27th August 2009  stu151@hotmail.com 

I went to a all boys grammar school in the mid 1970’s, all we were allowed to wear for indoor PE was white shorts, nothing else. Although our official kit included a vest and plimsolls, at the first lesson the teacher made it very clear that he expected everyone to have bare feet and strip to the waist. We just accepted this, having no choice in the matter anyway.

We had one two PE lessons each week, plus a sports afternoon. One PE lesson was always indoors, with the other involving a 5 mile run, so we did cross country every week, irrespective of the season or weather.

The supplied kit list specified white PE shorts, running vest or rugby shirt plus plimsolls & socks as appropriate kit, and we all duly turned up at the first lesson, and changed into this kit. A couple of boys didn’t wear socks, and more importantly didn’t wear a shirt or vest. We soon found out why, they had older brothers at the school, and knew what was going to happen. ! Lined up outside we were all made to take our socks off (which I didn’t mind), and then told to strip to the waist (which I did, it was freezing). One boy complained it was cold, and rapidly earned a cold shower for his efforts, never had 30 boys pulled their shirts off so quickly. From then on we always ran shirtless, with a couple of boys always running in bare feet as well, yes it was cold, but everyone had to strip, so you just did it.

Comments by Paul on 27th August 2009  

At grammar school in the 1970s we did pe in white shorts - no tops, no pumps or socks. It could be quite cold in winter. I remember a couple of times the teacher telling us to wear our school jerseys into the gym to warm up (I remember the prickliness), but then we were told to hang them on the wallbars and carry on the lesson barechested. If you forgot your kit (which thankfully I never did) you had to do pe in you underpants! If you forgot your towel you had to try and share someone else's or "drip dry" as the teacher put it. Not being so keen on semi-naked piggy backs and wheelbarrows, climbing ropes and wallbars, vaults and trampettes (though they were quite good), or "circuit training", I was glad when I went into the 6th form and no longer had to do it.

Comments by Stuart on 22nd August 2009  

I went to comprehensive in the early 1970's. Our kit was blue shorts and trainers for gym. No shirts, socks or underwear. For outside sport and cross country rugby shirts and socks were worn but no underwear. We also had a sports hall called a games barn. It was very cold in winter but we had to play five a side football shirts vs skins. The PE teacher always picked which team would be skins. The class was divided into four teams. Two would play while the other two watched and between each round the skins team would quickly put their shirts back on in the hope that in the next game they would be shirts. We had coloured bibs but these were only used by the girls. Every PE class was followed by a shower.

Comments by Joseph on 21st August 2009  

When I was at primary school, I remember being impressed by the lads from the nearby secondary school who had to run cross country stripped to the waist in all wheathers. I thought they looked tough and was looking forward to doing the same kind of exercise. This was in Kingston upon Hull in a built up area. Too bad for me that I went to another secondary school.

Comments by Ned on 20th August 2009  

Were compulsory shirtless cross country runs common?Did boys have to run through streets either only in shorts?I think they did because there are schools which are far from the countryside.

Comments by Mark on 18th August 2009  

Funny when you come to think of it. I clearly remember a winter cross country run in Hertfordshire with a teacher all dressed up and twenty-so shirtless boys shivering their ass off.

Comments by Craig on 13th August 2009  plankton53@yahoo.co.uk 

This brings back happy memories. I was at school in Scotland in the 70s and our gym kit was shorts and gym shoes only. We were not allowed tops or socks indoors. For anyone who forgot (or didn't have) gymshoes it was barefeet. And some boys chose to do gym barefoot.
Outdoors we wore rugby top, shorts, trainers and rugby socks. Occasionally, depending on the teacher's mood, we would go outdoors without tops, and sometimes wearing shorts and shoes only. I remember once wearing shorts and school shoes (black leather) for field activities as I had forgotton my trainers. I was lucky not to get the belt as some boys did for forgetting kit. I don't recall anyone being barefoot outside but it might have happened.
If we had been outside for part of the lesson and were finishing off inside (sometimes we had a double period) we all had to go in barefeet - shorts only - as the rule was no outdoor shoes in the gym.
I remember feeling awkward initially about wearing so little in the gym, even embarrassed, but we were all the same and soon didn't even think about it. It was the norm for everyone, and I even came to enjoy it
I was quite shy about my body and I think my PE experience helped me to come out of my shell.
I think we've gone too namby pamby these days. Boys don't know what they are missing.

Comments by HOWARD on 16th July 2009  

I went to a comprehensive in Cheshire in the 1980s where a lot of kids were from poor backgrounds. P.E. had to be done barefoot and all ball games were played shirts v skins. Like most of the lads I preferred to be in skins. You would be in trouble if you forgot your whole kit but if you just bothered to take your 'kecks' it was ok.

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.