Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 564,546         Comments: 1,978

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

1978 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Matt on 4th January 2018  

I attended a co-educational secondary school and was initially embarrassed being barechested in front of girls whilst doing mixed sex PE lessons. It would seem from quite a few posts that lads in early teens have not wanted to have to strip to the waist in the presence of girls. I wish that I had been to a single sex school where I would not have been bothered being stripped to the waist amongst other boys. There is much to be said for single sex education until the age of 16, boys can concentrate on their education without the distraction of girls.

Comments by Paul on 4th January 2018  

Peter B,

Of course these days the cane is banned so it just couldn't happen but back in the 1960s a headmaster, particularly of a private school had pretty free reign where anything was concerned.

Corporal punishment was overseen by the governors but in reality that meant it was left to the headmaster's discretion unless a parent complained and as you say, a parent then would almost certainly side with the school - mine always did and had I not already had the strap at home, I would have been given it just for getting a caning at school. The governors were all retired ex-military types anyway who no doubt thought the more severe a caning the better - never done them any harm and so on.

The headmaster maintained a list of boys who he saw as rebellious and after the skinhead cut I was on it alongside a few more. It guaranteed you a bare bottom caning if you were sent to him and up to twelve strokes - which I never got though I did get eight a couple of times - surprisingly much worse than six.

I doubt any parent today would use a strap like my father had either - it was about eighteen inches long and two wide and half an inch thick, it really packed a punch and a dozen of it on my bare bottom was the norm. I suspect any father today even giving a couple with it would be arrested.

Is the situation today better? I'm not sure, I look at lads heading for school and the state of them and sometimes think that the threat of a rarely used cane might smarten them up no end.

Comments by Sterling on 4th January 2018  

As many have stated the Bare Chest policy was quite popular amongst many female onlookers. I attended an all boys school. The ladies who worked in the canteen certainly enjoyed extended cigarette breaks while watching the shirtless shenanigans on the pitch!

Comments by Jason on 3rd January 2018  

There are other ways to distinguish teams but none as effective or practical than stripping off. Boys realise that there's no hiding place when you're stripped to the waist. Everyone can see you sweat!

Comments by Roger on 3rd January 2018  

Certainly I noticed especially during the Summer Terms at my mixed Grammar School when we did athletics outdoors many of the girls would gravitate to the boys who were stripped to the waist - nearly all of us - like bees around a honeypot.

Comments by Simon on 3rd January 2018  

Matt, thanks for clarifying that. I think the same split would apply if boys were given the choice, even if only for outdoor PE. But I agree it's fairer for every boy to be treated the same and more logical if indoor PE kit is restricted to shorts (and perhaps footwear) only.

Comments by Alex on 3rd January 2018  

Spot on Matt. Stripping to the waist to exercise also gave the confidence when it came to girls. One girl who later became my wife remembers watching me in the gym and doing numerous laps of the field stripped down. Worked wonders!

Comments by Peter B on 3rd January 2018  


Your comments show how times have changed (whether for the better that is debatable) But to think that these days a headmaster would take a boy into his off ice and make him drop his trousers and cane him in his pants would nowadays be unthinkable. And then on a subsequent occasion to cane a bare backside there would now be a court case.

Was the punishment right? I do know that parents usually upheld the schools authority and if parents found out there was further punishment at home.

When I see and read how pupils behave at school nowadays with no respect for the staff perhaps we should return to single sex schools and bring back corporal punsihment

Comments by Marc on 3rd January 2018  

Thank you, James, for your input. I would suspect that your teachers who stripped to the waist, didn't wear underpants and showered with sixth-formers would be pretty unusual but let's see if there were any more schools like yours.

Comments by Matt on 2nd January 2018  

Simon,when I said that boys should be offered a choice of wearing a shirt or not I meant for outdoor PE. For indoor PE boys should be stripped to the waist and it is much fairer for all boys to be treated the same. Doing PE shirtless helps to develop more confidence regarding body image.

Comments by James on 2nd January 2018  

Marc, yes, our PE teachers were always bare chested regardless of where we were, indoors or out. There were three men who taught PE and I never saw them any other way but they obviously did put a shirt on at break time. It was also obvious that they didn't wear underpants either when you might be running behind them or seeing them bend and stretch while demonstrating exercises.

It wasn't either unusual that they joined us in the showers more particularly when we were in the sixth form. We never thought anything of it and nothing untoward ever happened and I don't think I even imagined that it could.

Comments by Paul on 2nd January 2018  

The comments about haircuts are interesting. I remember in the late 60s when skinheads first appeared. Initially masters praised the smart look in comparison to the long hair that was fashionable at the time. I really wanted a skinhead but continued to have a short back and sides, always going to the barber's with my father.

The mood then began to turn as skinheads began to be associated with rebellion and suddenly they were not encouraged. I wasn't rebellious but I still wanted one.

I was off school for a few days unwell and on the last day went to the barber's alone as my father was at work where I asked for and was given a skinhead after the barber was sure I had my father's permission, of course I lied and said I did. Little did I know that while I was off school the headmaster banned skinhead cuts and warned that any boy coming to school from then on would pay a heavy price.

That evening at home my father was more than annoyed and as always my bottom was soundly strapped. Returning to school the next morning, bottom still very sore I met the headmaster on the way in and I thought he was going to have a fit he was so red in the face as he ordered me to his study. My absence from school was not an excuse and my attempt to use that as an excuse was dismissed as insolence in an obviously rebellious boy for who there was only one remedy which of course was six of the very best across my underpants with a warning that any future caning for any reason would be on my bare bottom. The marks lasted for over a week. (Six months later after I truanted one day to watch a rugby game he did keep his promise and it was a whole lot worse bare.)

At least we had PE later during the morning so I certainly had some trophies to be seen changing and in the showers afterwards!

Comments by Marc on 2nd January 2018  

Frank refers to "Mr. Anderson". His classes were stripped to the waist at all times and he observed the policy himself. Did anyone on here have such a teacher?

Comments by AndyK1 on 2nd January 2018  

Indoors we were stripped to the waist for all PE/Games lessons. Outside we were more bare chests than vests. Masters ensured each boy was visibly sweating at the end or laps of the field would come your way, barechested of course.

Comments by Simon on 1st January 2018  

Matt, I disagree that boys should be given the choice of wearing a shirt for PE. Surely what would then happen is that all the confident boys would choose to do it in skins and the the boys with a hang-up about being shirtless would stay as they were. Which would do nothing to increase their confidence in tne long run. From my own experience I think it's much more effective if boys are just told that they all have to take their shirts off, at least for a set period. As you mentioned earlier it's possible to use different methods of telling teams apart, other than shirts and skins which can seem unfair to some boys.

Comments by Sam on 1st January 2018  

Obviously doing vigorous PE would make one sweat and that is why indoor PE should be done stripped to the waist.
For outdoors it perhaps it should not be mandatory although it should be encouraged leading to more lads taking vests off and going stripped to the waist.

Comments by Matt on 1st January 2018  

Jason, I agree with you entirely. Being stripped to the waist for PE is healthy and wearing vests/shirts can be dangerous when using gymn equipment. Boys should at least be able to choose whether they want to wear a shirt or not, many would choose not to wear a shirt if they had the chance to do PE shirtless.

Comments by Jason on 1st January 2018  

Alex, that's why all boys should strip down. The girls loved to see you stripped to the waist, indoors or out, hairy chests or not we were stripped and on show. I feel today's lads would benefit from being stripped to the waist for all PE. Strangely it's the feminists who want to stop boys becoming men.

Comments by TimH on 31st December 2017  

Just responding to Andy's post of 22nd(?)December - if you trawl back through the thread you should find that not only did girls not object to seeing boys doing gym topless, some actually relished it, and others would have happily decided which boys would lose their shirts!

Some people have commented that some gym teachers were almost sadistic in their attitudes; others have said that they think some could have been suffering from PTSD as a result of wartime experiences. I don't know and I'm not compretant to judge but to my dying day I'll thank the a certain Geography and substitute Gym teacher who gave 'little me' a love for the High & Wild places of the Earth that has survived over fify years.

Has this thread really been going for ten years? Looks back to see when I made my first posting.

Comments by Alex on 31st December 2017  

Matt, It was strange that some lads were picked to strip down a lot more than others. You were expected to sweat during PE. All indoors PE should be done stripped to the waist throughout school,outdoors should be a choice, skins, vests or t shirt.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 31st December 2017  

I will have to give you that one Ben thanks for that comment.2018 marks the tenth anniversary of this interesting and diverse website Mr Anderson's article on Physical education came straight from a bona fide master of the subject!Cursed down to April this year '17 To read it.He started teaching the subject in 1968 when I was eight!His experience is written in great detail,thank you for posting it. Sir!I note that the form you fill in to comment is not secure with my security software Kaspersky!But on my tablet McAffee says it's fine.Just one caveat.yes I spotted the typo above cursed and I meant curser but Im keeping it in as a double entendre.Keep contributing Happy New Year to all. F.C.

Comments by Ben on 30th December 2017  

I find it some what ironic that schools want boys to have short haircuts but complain when they go to extremes with clipper cuts and No 1 cuts.
Having a No 1 is to my mind better than having shoulder length hair and even longer.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 30th December 2017  fchroston@email.co 

Michael a similar situation with me.The barber and my father were totally engrossed in conversation about fishing!It went well over my head whilst I was being scalped.You could strike one of those red topped matches on the back.The Beatles and Stones were very influential on the sixties youth also the footballers,turning convention upside down.

Comments by Michael on 29th December 2017  

The comments about hair length reminded me of a memorable episode in the mid 1960s - when the Beatles' style of long hair was very much in vogue.

Naturally this fashion was frowned on by my school, with its dated regulations insisting on short hair for all boys. My mother was of the same opinion, and following many reminders for me to get my hair cut, finally lost patience and personally conducted me to the gents' hairdressers.

As my hair was being cut she maintained a conversation with the barber, who periodically paused to enquire (of her, not me) whether enough had been cut off. Time and again she insisted on more being cut, and the barber resumed his snipping and his ongoing conversation with my mother.

Eventually there was nothing left of my hair but bristles. The barber could cut no more off, and at last I was released from the chair. My mother was satisfied and paid the small charge.

On our way home my mother insisted that my hair had not been cut off as a punishment, but because she wanted to continue her interesting conversation with the barber! I was sceptical, but there was nothing I could do. I suffered terribly from taunting at school, being called "Bristle Sprout" for what seemed an eternity until my hair had grown back to a reasonable length.

Someone once said that "talk's cheap" but I paid very dearly for that conversation. Ever afterwards, I went to the barber's at the first mention from my mother, so as not to risk a repeat of that occasion.

Comments by Matt on 29th December 2017  

Alex, I like you was always chosen to strip to the waist when playing shirts vs skins football or basketball. I did not like it at first but soon got used to it and it was a lot more comfortable than running around with a shirt on sweating. On one occasion we had a supply PE teacher who insisted on all lads being shirtless, when we played indoor soccer he gave us different coloured armbands to wear to differentiate the teams. I think that for indoor PE a shirtless rule should have applied and shirts allowed for outdoor PE.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 28th December 2017  

Full fourteen James.

Comments by ROY on 28th December 2017  

As is said fashions change and it is now quite common for youths to have very short hair - clipper cuts and No.1s.

Comments by James on 27th December 2017  

Frank,thank you for your reply,I agree fashions have changed considerably and as we know short style haircuts,like wearing short trousers were not in fashion in the seventies.
Although as you see in the photo some boys had quite longish hair,but I had to undertake regular visits to the barbers to have my hair clipped to stubble.
Like wearing my brief,grey shorts this certainly made me stand out from the crowd.
How old were you when you went into long trousers?

Comments by Frank Chroston on 27th December 2017  

Thanks James for sharing your experience in more detail.I find it rather ironic that modern kids go for the very short styles of hair including clipper cuts and short back and sides!How fashions change over a generation.I suppose that we should hand the debate back to the original 1959 Burnley Grammar photo as a lot of people have a vested interest!

Comments by Michael on 27th December 2017  

I note from the picture that there are some rubber mats strategically placed on the gym floor, but in my experience they offered little cushioning if fallen on from any height.

One heartless teacher said we were better off without mats altogether, as we would then try harder not to fall in the first place!

Comments by James on 26th December 2017  

Frank,It is comforting to share the same adolescent experiences,as I also had the same haircut style that you described.
As you say'it was unusual,even in the early seventies to wear shorts in school'and that's probably why the lads in the barbers were sniggering.
My parents considered that a particularly short hairstyle complimented my looks and with my ultra short trousers gave that 'young boy look'which is what they achieved.
Although we had a very strict school uniform,there was no restriction on when we were allowed to wear short trousers,so after my mother checked with my form teacher,it was decreed that I should remain wearing short trousers till I left school.
At that time at age thirteen it meant I would have to spend another three years wearing short trousers!
Even for boys of my age at that time,shorts were readily available,either off the peg at Marks or any school outfitter would supply them,even allowing to try them on in the shop,so a perfect fit could be achieved.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 25th December 2017  

Sorry it ran out of space, the woolly grey socks didn't suffice. Thanks for sharing my adolescent experience.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 25th December 2017  

One of my worst experiences was when my father took me to the barbers in town after school.It was November I wasn't allowed the trendy new hair styles of the time,parents kept it very short which added to my ridicule.There were a couple of lads in the barbers waiting for a haircut,they started sniggering when they saw I had shorts on!You know the type of laughter they were trying to stifle but couldn't suppress.This made me feel very uncomfortable.Yes I do remember the cold aspect of wearing shorts in winter and the grey woolly socks didn't cover enough of the legs.I think my mother got the shorts mail order from a men's catalogue as I was quite big around the waist.

Comments by James on 25th December 2017  

Hi Frank,I'm sorry you had to suffer the indignation and humiliation that I did.The effect was mortifying to be the only boy in my class still wearing short trousers and I had to endure the same cruel verbal abuse simply for the amusement of my contemporaries.Of course,shorts were considerably shorter in the seventies,which of course appealed to my mother as she considered boys looked much smarter when wearing that particular style.
No concern was ever shown for wearing my shorts in the cold winter months and as you will probably recall your bare legs could leave you exposed to the elements,although I was allowed to wear long knee stockings to keep my legs warm.
As your mother kept you in short trousers because of some out dated tradition,no reason was ever given to me why I had to wear short trousers at that age.
What did you find the worst experience of wearing short trousers at that age?

Comments by Andy on 25th December 2017  

Peter, there wasn't any encouraging going on from what I can remember, it was just noticing others not taking them off coupled with the teachers taking no action that I suppose made me think I could get away with it as well.

When the teacher reminded us we shouldn't have any pants on and he was going to do a check I guess I felt worried. The way they checked was we had to pull the top up at one side and pull the waist band out while the teacher walked down the line checking.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 24th December 2017  

HiJames,Thank you for contributing to this site.Seems we both had dominant mother's!It was unusual even in the early seventies to wear shorts in school!So late, I was the only child and my mum chose all my clothes and put them out in sets after washing and ironing.She had been a Matron in the 1950s. I suppose she was used to the way boys were clothed then and wanted me to be the same.I too had to shake off verbal abuse and hurtful remarks.It was however it seemed extra special when I went back to school in the Autumn wearing long trousers!

Comments by Alex on 24th December 2017  

Matt, We did vests vs skins for For some reason I was always picked to strip regardless so only wore a vest literally just a handful of times,indoors and out. Was weird seeing a line of vests on the touchline but the girls never objected to watching us do PE/"Games stripped to the waist.

Comments by Peter B on 24th December 2017  

Andy, was there any sense of apprehension when wearing underwear and did you encourage each other as a group or was it individual choice to flout the rules. It seems you got away with it for some time. How did you feel the day the teacher decided to check and how did he detect the forbidden underwear?

Comments by James on 24th December 2017  

Like Frank Chroston,I wore short trousers into my fourth year at secondary school,but not through my own choice,but my mother's insistence.
Short trousers that I wore were similar in length to sports shorts only in charcoal grey.
They were usually purchased 'off the peg'and they fitted so that they were neat and trim not knee length.
Of course there was a considerable amount of mockery and teasing from my contemporaries,but I got used to it and couldn't wait for my first pair of long trouseres.

Comments by Andy on 23rd December 2017  

Peter, I don't know if it was the best deterrent, our teachers never used the slipper so our punishment was pain free. It worked in the main for PE as a T-shirt only just went past the waist band and detection was almost guaranteed.

For games we wore a rugby top and for most of us the top was so large (I wore the same one when I left school) that the bottom protruded out below the shorts. This made the task of detection more difficult .The teachers used to remind us of the rules but in the second year they hadn't said anything for a term or so or made any checks, as a result we got brave and thought we could get away with not taking them off - particularly as you couldn't tell. After several weeks probably a dozen of us one lesson paid the price, the teachers made a check on the playing field and all those wearing pants had to remove them.

I for one learnt my lesson and even though I resented wearing no pants I made sure I took them off whenever getting changed at school.

Comments by Peter B on 23rd December 2017  

Andy it seems like your teacher had the best deterrent.

Comments by Matt on 23rd December 2017  

Wearing only shorts for PE was ok indoors but not if the PE teacher picked you for the skins team for outdoor shirts vs skins football in the winter!

Comments by Andy on 22nd December 2017  

Our PE kit was white shorts and T-shirt so the teachers had an easy task in seeing if anything was being worn underneath ( although it didn't stop some trying). If caught you had to take them off in front of the rest of the class - the opportunity to remove them in the changing room had passed.

Although PE lessons where single sex the girls did have PE lessons at the same time, the prospect of having to remove them with girls potentially around certainly made you think twice about leaving your underpants on when getting changed.

Comments by Peter B on 20th December 2017  

Paul I remember the checking for boys wearing pants under shorts. My school did not stipulate what colour shorts were to be worn. Most wore white and as you say it was easy to check to see if pants were being worn. However some wore blue or black so pants were not easily detected. Teacher was not put off he had a system whereby he would call out one of the lads wearing dark shorts to stand out in front of the class and the teacher would ping back the elastic at the back just enough to get a glance of any pants. Woe betide anyone caught contravening the regulations. He made them go and remove the underwear and when the lad returned he got 6 of the best with his one of own plimsolls.
I think the walk to the changing room to dress correctly and then the walk back to receive the punishment was an deterrent in itself knowing what was waiting for you when you returned and was effective because it was only very rare for anyone to try and break the rules.

Comments by Paul on 19th December 2017  

Vests and skins were normal for us too - 1960s grammar school, boys only.

After getting used to taking off underpants and communal showers vests and skins were something of the reverse to what most describe. A team would be told to put vests on as bare chest was the norm for anything regardless of indoors or out or whether it was sunny or snowing.

Running in shorts and plimsolls in the snow was fine and of course the colder it was the more likely there was to be a check for any boy wearing underpants. The norm for that was to face the wall and all bend over and of course through thin white shorts underpants could be seen clearly. Needless to say any boy caught had his bottom brought up to inferno temperature very quickly.

Showers were only ever cold and icy in winter but we just got on with it, it was the norm and plimsoll or worse still cane on icy cold and wet bottom was definitely to be avoided.

Comments by Alex on 18th December 2017  

Hi Andrea, What's your views on schoolboys being stripped to the waist for PE. Do you think it's a good thing?

Comments by Joe on 17th December 2017  

Reading JasonDL's post, I wondered whether boys at your school always had to take their tops off for PE, or just sometimes? I also attended an all boys school in the 80s and always wore a PE vest for my first two years. Then when I was 14 it all changed, we were put into sets instead of classes for PE, which meant larger groups of boys and vests against skins teams. I remember feeling so awkward and uncomfortable the first time I was told to take my vest off, like you I wasn't used to that. I was conscious of feeling very exposed and I think some of the other barechested boys felt the same.
What I didn't realise at first was that we had to remain in the same teams for the next few PE lessons as well... so I had to get used to being a skin! I suppose it was a kind of tough love, but it seemed unfair to me at the time, with other lads wearing their vests and me doing PE in just my shorts every time.

Comments by Alex on 16th December 2017  

I think it was due to not being on the uniform list which stipulated a white PE vest. Despite bringing an ordinary vest for the next lesson the lad was kept in the skins team for the whole term. We always skins team vs vests. I only had a vest on literally a handful of times during all my years at school.

Comments by JasonDL on 16th December 2017  

I was at an all boys school in the 80s and I remember one boy in my class getting really upset in the gym when he was told to take off his top. Turned out he had a birthmark on his chest that he was embarrassed about. Doubt anyone would have noticed if he hadn't drawn attention to himself, but after that everyone pointed to it each time he had to be shirtless!

I got to quite like having to be just in shorts for PE, it was more comfortable and free, even though I wasn't at all well built. Though at first it did feel a bit uncomfortable, because going barechested was not something I ever had done really (Swimming seemed different). Actually I noticed it more at the start of each PE lesson. For about the first 10 minutes I'd feel very conscious of how I was standing there completely stripped to the waist and wished I could put my shirt back on. But after a while you really didn't notice you had your shirt off.

I think it made us more self confident. Even birthmark boy got used to it in the end (I think)

Comments by ROY F on 16th December 2017  

I used to wear my normal vest for PE and not the special one with the school crest on on it.
When the teacher saw it like the guy Alex mentioned I was told to take it off and go stripped to the waist.
I got so used to it that I did PE stripped to the waist all the time thereafter both indoors and outside.