Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools

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Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 550,512         Comments: 1,879

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

1879 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Neil on 8th June 2017  

Hello Andrea
We had to wear a school cap in my school, 10 to 13 year olds at junior school. We had to wear shorts but only up to 12. most boys started switching over to longs.

Comments by Andrea on 6th June 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Alf,
I think some of my classmates probably did roll up the waistbands of their skirts to make them shorter when they were out of sight of school, but sometimes they got caught out if one of the teachers happened to be passing!

One thing I do remember about getting my uniform when I started at secondary school was mum insisting that everything had to have "room for me to grow", so particularly the gymslip dresses and blazer seemed at least one size too large to start with. It worked though, as they lasted for the first two years, although they were a little tight by the end of the second year!

I'm not sure why dresses rather than skirts were required for the first two years, it must have been annoying for some mums if their daughter outgrew a dress with only a few months of the second year left.

When you finally did change from shorts to long trousers, was it at the start of a new school year, or part way through? Also, was all your uniform the same for all year groups?

Once we got used to it, I don't think we minded the uniform too much, but the no tights rule was unpopular, especially in the middle of winter.

Comments by Alf on 4th June 2017  

Andrea, like James describes at his school we didn't wear a school cap at our school, but school uniform was strictly enforced including school tie and blazer.
About miniskirts, our neighbour girls school also had strict skirt length as you describe, but once out of school the girls managed to hike up their skirt to show a bit of leg. They didn't want to look out of fashion, especially since some of us got together to chat each other up before entering our respective schools and afterwards when we finished. Like I said our schools were fairly close together.
About uniform, I understand the frustration and uncomfort for you girls having to wear an un-girlish uniform apart from the skirt. But I think neither us boys or the girls ever complained about it, at least from what I remember. Somehow we were actually proud to wear our school uniform, or just took it for granted, in spite of a little discomfort sometimes.
What I really hated was wearing shorts when some other boys same age were already wearing long trousers. If I remember well most boys wore shorts in the first few years of secondary or maybe 50-50, can't remember exactly. But I don't think it was such a big issue back then and I don't remember anyone teasing someone else for wearing shorts to school.
It was probably the only thing about the uniform that the school didn't make any rules about, as long as both shorts or trousers were the right grey uniform colour.

Comments by James on 4th June 2017  

Hi Andrea,we didn't wear caps to school,but wearing shorts obviously made easily distinguishable from other boys that wore long trousers.
Unlike the restrictions that were imposed at your school regarding the length of the skirts,no such restrictions were imposed on the length of our shorts that we wore.

Comments by Andrea on 3rd June 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi James and Alf,

I may have been the miniskirt era, but not in our school! Our dresses or skirts were supposed to be knee length and on occasions the teachers would have us kneel down to check that our hems touched the floor! In the first two years we had to wear 'gymslip' style dresses with a blouse underneath,but from the third year onwards it was a skirt and blouse. All years had to wear a tie and blazer and worst of all a beret - we all hated those!

I think the boys at one of our local schools used to have to wear caps for the first couple of years - did your school have those?

Comments by James on 3rd June 2017  

Alf & Andrea,boys still wearing shorts at 13 or 14 would also have been typical at my school although some boys continued to wear them till they left school.
As you point out hemlines rose abruptly in the sixties and the same applied to boys'short trousers.
Knee stockings,which we wore would only keep our legs warm,but you could you could 'freeze' wearing short shorts in the winter.
My strict parents took advantage of the uniform policy that allowed boys to wear shorts up to leaving age,so I was only one of a few to wear shorts at 16.

Comments by Alf on 2nd June 2017  

Andrea, you are right, it was common for boys to still be wearing shorts as part of uniform in early secondary school years. I myself wore them till I was 13 or 14.
However girls uniform memory brings a grin to my face. It was the miniskirt era and girls wore school skirts above their knees, even in Winter with woollen tops but still with bare legs for many of them. Some wore woolen long socks like you mention, but not all.
I guess it was nearly the same for us boys, it was shorts up to about knee length even in Winter, and those woollen uniform grey socks even in Summer.
But we, both boys and girls, never actually gave it a second thought because we just accepted it as normal, even if it was uncomfortable at times.
It was the same with neck ties, you just had to wear them as part of secondary school uniform.
Girls in some secondary schools also had to wear neck ties as part of uniform.
Girls also had to wear school uniform jackets with the school logo, like us boys. In fact we wore the same uniform, except for shorts or trousers for boys and skirts for girls.
How things have changed!

Comments by James on 2nd June 2017  

Hi Andrea,I went to a mixed Secondary Modern and there were no restrictions when boys had to wear long trousers.
Therefore,some boys,including myself could be kept in shorts till they left school.

Comments by Andrea on 2nd June 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi James,

I actually went to an all girls school, but from what I remember of seeing the local boys on their way to their secondary school, some of the first years (ages 11 to 12) wore grey shorts, but some were in long trousers.
Was it the same at your school?

Comments by James on 31st May 2017  

Hi Andrea,did boys wear grey shorts at your secondary school that you attended and if so up to what age?

Comments by Andrea on 30th May 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

When I was at Primary School in the 1960s all the boys wore grey shorts. We had to wear a skirt or dress. We were allowed to wear wooly tights to keep our legs warm in the winter.

It was different at Secondary School - tights were not allowed, so it was long socks in winter and ankle socks in summer. This wasn't much fun in the middle of winter, especially as I had to cycle to school!

Comments by Paul on 26th May 2017  

I was at primary school approx 1957 to 1961 and our grey uniform shorts were well above the knee. When we did PE we simply removed our tops keeping on our vest(singlet) and so participated in the uniform shorts. The girls however had to remove their dress or skirt(they did not wear trousers those days) and therefore doing PE in their underwear. The pe was a mixed class and no one thought anything of the arrangement. It was just as it was. Girls in knickers boys in shorts.

Comments by James on 25th May 2017  

Turner,short trousers were longer in the sixties,but became much shorter in the seventies and eighties and of course were worn with knee stockings and as you say they were tightly kept in place with garters.
Unlike the longer shorts,shorter shorts were much colder when worn in the cold weather and I certainly couldn't see any advantage in wearing shorts that that came well above the knee.
The garters would always leave bands in my legs where they kept my stockings firmly in place,which I found uncomfortable.

Comments by Turner on 24th May 2017  

Don't forget that in the sixties school short trousers were actually quite long, almost like those ridiculous shorts that footballers wear nowadays, leaving not much bare leg between trousers and long socks (kept up with garters)..

Comments by Toby on 20th May 2017  

Our PE teachers were both ex Army, our lessons were done either with us all skins, or teams of skins and vests. From joining the scool as a 9yr old through to leaving at 18 we never did a PE lesson with all boys in vests.

Comments by Michael on 20th May 2017  

I vividly remember as a ten-year old, walking through sometimes knee-deep snow to my primary school during the long, exceptionally cold Winter of 1962/63.

The distance was about half a mile and, although I was warmly dressed with duffel coat, gloves, long socks and stout shoes, I still wore my usual grey short trousers.

Looking back, it seems amazing, but neither my mother or I gave the matter any thought at all. It was just expected that I would wear shorts all year round regardless of the weather. I didn't even have a pair of long trousers to wear instead, even if I had complained of cold legs - which I never did.

The few boys who did wear long trousers usually got them saturated from trudging through the deep snow, so wearing shorts did have its advantages.

Comments by Sterling on 19th May 2017  

Toughening Lads for possible Military Service was once the logic. Many PE Teachers having served in the Military also added to the often extreme Discipline.
However it was still Irrational to make this assumption in the Early 80s! Also Boys back then where quite tough given the lack of Central Heating etc
Northern Ireland was blanketed in deep snow in 1963. Hence Shorts were totally impractical.
We Boys had to clear snow from the Pitch, around the School Grounds and also the Girls School Opposite.
Outdoor Games and Shirts Vs Skins continued despite the frozen ground. Those horrible Plimsolls Caused many Chilblains!
But we were tough alright. The problem is the Experience put many people off Sport for life. Particularly later say the 1980's when Corporal Punishment was often replaced by gruelling Exercise Sessions during Detention!

Comments by James on 19th May 2017  

Sterling,I believe the rationale for keeping boys in shorts was to toughen them up and make them hardy and therefore able to withstand cold weather.
I don't recall the winter of 1963,but I do recall other cold winters particularly the one of 1981 when temperatures plummeted to-27 degrees.
Shorts were usually purchased in August in warmer climes and no consideration was ever given to the harsh winters that lay ahead.
Shorts were considerably shorter in the 80's and withstanding the cold weather was an ordeal.

Comments by Roy on 19th May 2017  

I was wearing long trousers by the time of the winter of 1962/63 as were all my class-mates.
However we still had to do PE and cross-country topless.

Comments by Sterling on 17th May 2017  

As James Rightly Remarked Keeping Teenage Boys in Shorts in such a cold Climate is Totally Irrational!
For those of you who remember the Big Freeze in 1963 and spent it in Shorts will concur!
It was so cold the Sea Froze. Yet lads still commuted to School in Shorts!

Comments by Paul on 16th May 2017  

Mr Anderson, your explanation is great and I think we have been molly coddling boys ever since. A form of National service be brought back for male & female at 18 years of age. (not in the armed services) but to give some idea of discipline or give the existing youth organisations such as Scout Guides cadet services etc funding so that they can encourage more to join up.

Comments by James on 16th May 2017  

I would see it as a step forward'to take boys in forms 1-3 out of short trousers'which would have seen boys over 14 years old still wearing shorts.
As you said'this would only be optional'and boys,like myself could still have been enforced to wear shorts till they left school.
I wouldn't have considered it'mollycoddling' to put boys in long trousers at that age only appropriate items of clothing particularly in the cold winter months.

Comments by Mr. Anderson on 15th May 2017  

Hello Dave,

You pose a question about why shirts were introduced for PE and lads didn't see a need to wear them.

In the run up to the start of the new academic year in 1976 there was a general review of the school uniform and a few relatively minor changes were made which included shirts and socks for PE, grey shirts were changed to white ones and boys in forms 1-3 were given the option of long trousers as opposed to shorts. For the first time also swimming trunks were included in the uniform list, black speedo style trunks were prescribed - bearing in mind that they were the only sort of trunks you saw in those days.

The uniform review came about I understand because in September 1975 for the first time ever two women were appointed to the board of govenors and they had many (strident) views about how the school should be run which did not go down well with the chairman (a retired brigadier), the headmaster or indeed the other govenors or senior masters.

The uniform review was brought about to keep the two women occupied and seen as harmless to the running of the school. They had lots of ideas about things that should be changed and how the school could be made more friendly towards the boys to which the chairman of govenors responded that he was not authorising anything that turned out 'molly coddled nancy boys'.

Having conducted the uniform review the two women felt very satisfied that they had made great changes to the school and that they had done their duty after a year and were replaced by two more men who didn't see the need to change anything.

So the uniform list changed and lads in forms 1-3 started to wear long trousers, as lads needed new shirts white ones were bought - probably a lot less popular with mothers than grey ones, swimming trunks started to be worn though many of the older lads didn't bother with them and on the two lunchtimes the pool was reserved to staff I didn't see trunks worn until about 1985 and as I said before very gradually lads started to wear shirts for PE.

Comments by Jake on 7th May 2017  

Dave, I suspect the issue with boys doing PE shirtless in a mixed gender class these days would be that it'd be deemed unfair to the girls rather than the boys. The reasoning would be that girls would not be allowed to do as the boys did - not that boys shouldn't have to to take their tops off.
I was certainly required to do PE with my top off many times and that included occasions when girls were watching, so what? As you say, it shouldn't really be any different to swimming.

Comments by Dave on 6th May 2017  

"As far as I know boys still normally swim without tops when girls are present. I really cannot see why it would be considered inappropriate for boys to do p.e. shirtless in mixed classes."

I think that's the key point. There are girls everywhere at swimming pools..etc and boys swim without shirts.Why is it any difference at PE lessons? It's the same.

Comments by Terry on 5th May 2017  

George
I agree entirely with your comments. I went to an all boys school in the 60's as was called then Secondary Modern. PE was shorts definitely no underwear and plimsolls and no tops. AS you say communal showers afterwards.
In response other comments, for swimming we were taken by coach to the council swimming pool for a session reserved for our school. We did wear swimming trunks and those days all that was available were what are now known as Speedo's( although I think mine came from Woolworth's)

And yes George as you say have lads become to feminised or soft. Nowadays it is considered bad form for males to wear swimming trunks i.e. brief type bikini trunks, yet we see females of all shapes and sizes wearing the minimum of swimwear and that is considered acceptable.

Comments by George on 4th May 2017  

There are some very interesting comments here including some I do not understand at all.
I attended an all boys grammar school in the 60s and we wore nothing but a pair of shorts in the gym and for some outdoor activities including cross country. We showered afterwards, naked, of course.
I think this was all quite common at the time though barefoot cross country may not have been as common as doing it bare-chested. As one person said the plimsolls that were the only available alternative to bare feet were not much use and I was happy not to have to clean a pair after a muddy run.
There was, of course, no question of the way we did p.e. being abusive - it was the way things were and we just got on with it. I think most us were happy with the freedom of our sparse kit - I for one would have hated to have been forced to wear more. In those days boys were boys and girls were girls. Boys were allowed, encouraged even, to be tough and most of us really enjoyed that.
As far as I know boys still normally swim without tops when girls are present. I really cannot see why it would be considered inappropriate for boys to do p.e. shirtless in mixed classes. Has the feminisation of boys really gone this far?

Comments by Bradley on 30th April 2017  

Dave, I reckon the reason for PE being done with shirts today is because most schools are mixed and do mixed gender PE lessons. Obviously it would be inappropriate to not wear shirts during those lessons. Even in single sex schools, the fact that it became a norm in other schools probably led to it becoming the norm in single sex schools as well.

Comments by Dave on 29th April 2017  

Hi Mr. Anderson! I have some question. You've written:

"White T shirts became part of the PE kit at school in about 1976 but it was quite a few years before wearing them became a norm. Lads who had never had a shirt didn't see the need for them and new lads thought it more manly not to wear one so they came in gradually over quite a few years. While teaching I never wore a shirt right up to 1982. "

If lads didn't see the need to wear any shirt for PE and hadn't any problem havint to do PE without shirts why the schhol introduced T-shirts for PE? Wasn'it unnecessary?

Comments by Andrea on 28th April 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Nick,

My Ex was also at secondary school in the 1970s and they had the same rules.
He also said that some of his classmates could really have done with wearing a jockstrap sooner than the third year!

Comments by Pete on 28th April 2017  

To Mr. Anderson

I'm afraid you misjudged me. I have nothing to do with the "abuse industry" nor do I wallow in misery. I just thought your punishments were extreme, even in the context of the time. But let's just agree to differ on that matter.

However, I do admire you. In your school, boys and masters were stripped to the waist in PE classes. Boys were not allowed to wear underpants and you imposed that rule upon yourself to empathise with your boys. Maybe they knew, maybe they didn't but the important thing is that you were the same as them and for that, you deserve credit.

Comments by James on 27th April 2017  

How did that go?
They were not required for us but it was suggested that if we felt uncomfortable, we should get one. They were on sale in the PE dept.
It seemed like a case of 'joining the big boys' for us, and I suppose I was curious as well, so I went ahead and got one, and so did one or two friends.
We were self-conscious at first, especially as they showed through the thin shorts but I found them much more comfortable than nothing. Also a requirement for holding a cricket box, of course. I remember 'forgetting' to take mine off one day for the long journey home.

Comments by Nick on 25th April 2017  

At school in the 1970s we were not allowed to wear underpants for pe or other sports but from the third form onwards we were required to wear a jockstrap.

Comments by Richard McC on 22nd April 2017  

I agree with Willy many Private (Public) Boarding Schools and particularly PE Teachers in all types of Secondary Schools, were infamous for their cruelty!
I remember boys with aching Chilblains after running on frozen ground and through icy puddles in those horrible Rubber Soled Pumps! They gave no support whatsoever and didn't protect the soles while running on gravel. Worn with no socks, which seemed to be a Nationwide Ban, they were sweat boxes in Summer and Freezing when soaking wet in Winter!
Hence many ran barefoot!
As for the limited kit, Early Morning Winter Runs in nothing but thin, white transparent when wet shorts, followed by Cold Showers They Wouldn't do it to Prisoners, even then!
Yet People Paid Handsomely to subject their kids to this?
Different Times alright!

Comments by Ambrose on 22nd April 2017  

I would tend to agree with the views expressed by Willy (21stApril) in his final paragraph.
I started teaching at the same time as Mr Anderson so can empathise with the traditions that were prevalent at the time. However, in my city suburb secondary modern school nobody but the Head or his deputy was allowed to use the cane; and they only used it very rarely for extreme bad behaviour - bullying, vandalism or theft. If pupils were sent to the Head they knew they had done something seriously wrong and parents were likely to be informed which would often mean additional punishment.
We were allowed to slipper pupils, always when they were dressed, and never more than once or twice. This was usual for unacceptable or dangerous behaviour, or forgetting kit. Most pupils scrounged kit from friends in other classes before a lesson to avoid a whack or having to use 'lost property' kit. A quick slap with a slipper showed the rest of the class that they had received a punishment and they could then play a full part in the lesson without missing their education - they mostly preferred this to wasting time in detention or writing lines.
I had learnt very quickly that consistency and fairness were always respected by pupils. 'Letting someone off' for a misdemeanour had to be seen as fair by the rest of the class and not something that could be expected. You didn't gain the respect of pupils by constantly beating, belittling and humiliating them. They worked best for you when you explained why they needed to do something your way, and praising them for their achievements not emphasising their shortcomings.
So far as dress was concerned in PE pupils changed out of all their usual classroom clothes. They wore shirts for gym lessons, cross country and football, but thought nothing of playing 'shirts versus skins' in the gym or being shirtless outdoors on a hot summers day doing athletics or tennis. Every boy saw the variety of body shapes of his peers when they changed and showered, so to play a game without a shirt on meant nothing to them.

Comments by Mr. Anderson on 22nd April 2017  

Andy, thank you for your questions - as a schoolboy I would only ever have addressed you by your surname!

White T shirts became part of the PE kit at school in about 1976 but it was quite a few years before wearing them became a norm. Lads who had never had a shirt didn't see the need for them and new lads thought it more manly not to wear one so they came in gradually over quite a few years. While teaching I never wore a shirt right up to 1982. The staff started wearing them eventually - after I stopped teaching PE but I'm not sure when.

Caning a boy in public is I think humiliating. Having had the cane myself as a boy I knew exactly how much it hurt and it did bring most boys to tears so I would never have given it in public, there is nothing right about humiliating a boy in front of his peers.

I carefully weighed up my choice of punishment instrument. The point of corporal punishment is to cause pain and deter a boy from further wrong doing.

Of the choices I had there was the plimsoll which on application covers a significant area of the buttock, it can easily leave quite a large bruise on each cheek which makes life very uncomfortable for the boy for quite a few days afterwards.

Canes come in various thicknesses. A thick and heavy cane will cause deep pain and burning at the time and for several days afterwards. It risks breaking the skin if one stroke crosses another and again I would never have wanted a boy to suffer in the longer term for his wrong doing.

I used a much lighter cane about 3/8" thick. When the lad felt the stroke it would be extremely painful but the pain would pass quickly in about an hour or so and to me that was quite long enough for a boy to have a sore bottom. He would probably have marks on his bottom for a couple of days and they would then disappear very quickly. A caning from me would be something very unpleasant, a lot worse than the plimsol or a heavier cane but it would be over quickly with no lasting effect.

Lads didn't resent the cane, they knew the penalty for wrong doing and took the consequences of it. I don't ever remember a boy asking to be let off or have the dose reduced - he would not have been able to face his peers had he done and while no punishment was witnessed by another boy the lines on his bottom were always checked in the showers afterwards.

I still see lads around who I taught and I'm amazed how many still like to buy me a beer - far more than I can drink at my age - so they can't have any resentment of me and when we chat we certainly don't refer to those days, we have what I would describe as normal adult conversation.

I'll leave our two other posters who seem to want to sniff abuse out where there wasn't any to wallow in their own misery, they will be happy there. To those people I would say save your mewling and puking, I'm not interested in your perverted views of the norms of another time.

I'm always concerned about people who want to find abuse where there wasn't any by applying different norms and values to a situation they probably didn't experience or understand. They are often people associated with what I've heard referred to as the 'Abuse Industry' made up of social workers, lawyers and other people who lack purpose in their lives and who have to find victims where there aren't any and who depend on chasing down abuse fantasy for their own livelihoods. Those people do one any good except themselves and their own bank balances. The other sort of people who are obsessed with abuse should probably seek counselling for their own disturbed state of mind.

Comments by Willy on 21st April 2017  

We have gone fom one extreme to the other in both PE kit requirements and physical punishments in schools.
What "Mr. Anderson" describes as normal punishment of caning boys on their bare buttocks is certainly harsh and abusive in my opinion.
However using a slipper or a few slaps on the backside , as was normal at my school, should still be reserved in schools. The cane was never used at the schools I went to. I think it was more of a private school custom where tradition dies hard. Same for the nude swimming practice.
I had friends who went to private boarding schools where both the cane and compulsary nude swimming were used.

I also think outdoor and cross country runs in just thin shorts and topless, especially in winter, was harsh and abusive. This is especially so when one considers that the coaches themselves always wore protective winter clothing like woollen tops when running and accampanying the boys on these runs.

So I consider all the above customs were a form of sadism and humiliation of young boys, allowed by the State, which are rightly considered as abuse today.
This does not include nude showering after PE or mild physical punishment which both serve a good purpose. I think the middle way is best, and not the extreme form of modesty and no punishment that we have gone to today.

Comments by Pete on 18th April 2017  

There has been discussion here about abuse. While I would not consider making boys strip to the waist for PE or swim without trunks, I can only consider recent descriptions of punishment as abuse. "Mr. Anderson" speaks coldly about the form his took. He practiced his craft until he found that a thin cane was best to administer "an immediate and excruciating sting generating a volcanic level of burning" while "even sixth form lads would be bouncing up and down on their toes after four strokes". Since it would appear that the punishment for a sixth former was an arbitrary eight strokes, surely - aside from whether it was abuse in the first place - if a boy was in such distress, knowing that four more strokes were to come, I can only regard that as abuse. I wonder if any boy ever begged him to stop. I would like to think that, with hindsight, "Mr. Anderson" feels ashamed of what he did. I don't get the impression that he does.

Comments by Andy on 18th April 2017  

Mr Anderson (Sir, when I was at school!)

Thank you for your interesting and detailed posting, nice to hear a teacher's viewpoint.

A couple of questions :-

I just wondered if the shirtless kit (both inside and outside) stayed the same until you left PE teaching in 1982 (or beyond that at the school, if you know).

While it was allowed, did the caning/slippering regime stay the same. I'm interested to hear you caned lads in private - to me, being caned in the gym in front of classmates (as at my school, shorts on) added significantly to the punishment.

Thanks.

Comments by Mr. Anderson on 17th April 2017  

I started teaching PE at a boy's grammar school in 1968 and I certainly remember having a gym like the one in the picture, the school was only five years old so very modern for the times considering many schools were still in builds that pre-dated the first world war never mind the second.

I had graduated with a degree in history and it was a history post I wanted but at interview I was told that I would also be required to teach PE for part of the week, I wasn't disagreeable with that, I was young and fit and played rugby in season. When I started I was told a change in priorities meant I was doing 90% PE and 10% history.

The PE department had four staff, all but the head on the same basis as me with another subject but all teaching mostly PE and it included sessions at lunchtimes, after school and on Saturdays for matches and competitions.

The lads were aged 11-18 and had all passed the 11+ to gain a place at grammar school so all had at least academic ability and many were pretty good at sports and games too. I stayed teaching PE in part until 1982 when I went full time to teach history.

So to the points people raise here. Kit was in the school a pair of plimsols and a pair of white cotton shorts. If there was a competition or match against another school kit was provided by the school and was then black cotton shorts and a gold and blue jersey, we had them in all sizes and a lad was issued with kit before a match, it had to be returned clean a couple of days after the match. The reason every lad was not required to have one was simply financial, not every lad's parents could afford to buy additional kit that might never be used or rarely so there was a pool of 'common kit' for events.

If we had internal competition then lads would be issued with a coloured band to wear across the chest to identify their team and these were handed back at the end of each class. Bare chest was the norm simply because lads didn't have shirts to wear so a run outside or a game of football or rugby in icy weather was in shorts and plimsols.

At the beginning I wore plimsols too but after a couple of years bought myself trainers - in their infancy then compared to the technical shoes you get today but wearing them all day they were more comfortable than plimsols. As staff we generally wore black cotton shorts and no shirts again whatever the weather so alongside the lads we knew just how cold it was but also on a warmer day just how pleasant it was to be bare chested out on the fields.

The school changing room was a vast space, there was room for four classes to change at once if need be as there were four teachers so room for about 120 lads if need be. There were rows of benches facing each other and between each row was room for fifteen lads on each side so classes were meant to stay together when changing.

There were no partitions and certainly no privacy. Lads were told to take off their underpants when changing. The reason behind this was one of hygiene. In those days mothers did not have automatic washing machines and it was quite common that people only had a couple of changes of clothes. In PE everyone including the staff got hot and sweaty and as no one had spare underpants it was sensible to take them off when changing. The rule was enforced and any lad found to be disobeying had his bottom warmed!

Showers were communal, I never questioned it, it was how showers in changing rooms were and I had never seen anything different in a men's changing room. There was room for 120 lads to shower at one go. I can't remember any lad trying to avoid having a shower, most were glad of it in a world where a weekly bath was the norm and showers at school were a luxury.

The facilities we had as staff offered no privacy from each other either. There was an office we shared and off that a changing room for the four of us with a bench and pegs above it and on the other side of the room four shower heads, no partitioning, just as communal as the ones the lads had. We used them daily - at least once. I do remember wondering whether as a master I was supposed to take off my underpants when changing too on my first day then I noted the clothes of two of my colleagues on their pegs and each was topped with a pair of underpants and why not, the same reasons as applied to the lads applied to us and of course over a couple of days I had showered with them too.

We didn't supervise the lads closely at all when they were changing or showering, only if things got rowdy did we intervene and that was usually just to appear, blow a whistle and warn everyone to calm down and to stand for a minute or so until everyone go the message. What I would say is that in that sort of situation day in and day out you don't really notice how dressed or naked lads are, they are being rowdy or not and the purpose of the intervention is to calm things down.

When the warnings didn't work there was of course a sanction and we had both the trusty plimsol and the cane available. We were allowed to use either and the only rules were that it was to be used on the bottom and not more than twelve strokes. I'd had both as a boy and mended my ways as a result.

We didn't use the slipper or the cane that much, probably between us two or three times each week and more often than not it was for sheer stupidity in the gym rather than anything else. A school gym in those days could be a very dangerous place and huge injuries could occur if lads did not do exactly as they were told. Any smart Alec who thought he knew best would be guaranteed to suffer the consequences.

A couple of my colleagues used to deal with lads in front of the class over the horse. I preferred to see lads one at a time in the office as I didn't like humiliating them in public, it was bad enough for them standing outside the office with everyone knowing what they were waiting for without having it witnessed.

With bit of experience, my preferred method of punishment was the cane on bare bottom. Bare bottom because then I could see exactly the impact of a stroke before giving the next one and the cane because with the plimsol you just whack away probably bruising deeply after three or four whacks.

Canes come in various thicknesses and can achieve very different results. My preference was for a fairly light one which caused an immediate and excrutiating sting and generating a volcanic level of burning but which calmed down in an hour or so and the marks would disappear in two to three days. Even sixth form lads would be bouncing up and down on their toes after four strokes with it. Junior lads generally got four and more senior lads eight, I never gave more than eight.

Comments by David on 15th April 2017  

Well, I've read some of the comments here and felt inclined to add mine. Our PT (physical toughness) lessons were like the photo above. The first lesson I was picked at random to demonstrate skins (vest off boy!) soon after the class were stripped down. Our teacher was very hard but fair, gym work (fitness sessions) were regular as was boxing. As we all found out boxing was a good way of making us all sweat, the ring was hard but was meant to be too. Girls used to come in to get whatever they needed from the store room and return when finished so would see us all stripped to the waist and also if they looked through the large windows too, which they regularly did. Team games, including football, cross country and athletics were always skins vs vests, indoors it was quite normal for vests to stick to their owners tops. Class competitions were done in a similar manner except for boxing where each boy taking part had his top off to fight. When each of the class teams were being picked, the girls always would say who they wanted to see on them especially if we were to have our tops off, but the form teacher always picked the team. Those who weren't picked were expected to cheer their class representative's on so everyone was involved. During the basketball and fitness competitions the teams switched at half time so everyone was a skin at some point and it raised a few wolf whistles if your team was stripping down for the second half as you would sweating.

Comments by Mac on 13th April 2017  

On the communal shower issue after PE it will seem shocking to some today but was normal practise in the secondary schools I attended in the early seventies. My first senior school was down South and was my first experience of communal showering and then we moved North and it was the same here so seemed standard at that time.

I don't look back now and regard it as abusive it was certainly one of life'e experiences. I do realise there may have been some perverted teachers in some schools but ours never stood and watched or anything like that.

Comments by Brendan on 12th April 2017  

To an extent, I do think my generation is a bit of a 'snowflake' generation as others have said. I'm one of few people that plays sports and was on a school team. A lot of guys would rather just study and browse Facebook/snapchat than actually get out and do exercise which builds a team spirit and competitive nature. Plus, you won't believe the number of times people pretend to be sick in order to miss swimming and PE lessons. In the winter, you could expect a quarter of the class to be too 'sick' to come to PE. Whildt I don't agree with the punishments listed below, I think we've become too soft in a sense

Comments by Brendan on 12th April 2017  

Ambrose,
I never said that my classmates felt inhibited about being naked together. We were never naked in any sort of situation. I think you confused me for a different user perhaps?

Comments by Paul on 11th April 2017  

Brendan on 10th April

I revert to my earlier point that it is foolish to judge what is correct at one time by the values of another time.

When I was a boy it was definitely considered wrong to send boys up chimneys to sweep them but years earlier it was a norm.

Remember nearly all the school masters who taught us had either been in the military during WW2 or had done National Service. WW3 was on the horizon at times. Personal privacy was not valued at all among groups of men or boys at that time.

Communal showers were the norm be it in the military or in a boy's school changing room and did no one any harm. They are still not uncommon particularly if as an adult you play team sports like rugby. To repeat, I never minded them and never felt they were in any way inappropriate.

The same with the cane, it was the normal punishment in a boy's school at the time, we knew if we misbehaved or failed to turn in our best work we would be caned. It was the normal sanction of the times. It was not criminal or anything else associated with that, it was normal.

I do know think that things have gone too far towards producing generation snowflake.

Comments by Ambrose on 11th April 2017  

I wonder what Brendan and others of his age would make of the trends that prevailed in my childhood in the 50's and 60's,and early teaching life.
After PE and games lessons we showered naked together in a small communal area often brushing against each other due to the number of boys and lack of space. We were supervised by the staff while we changed in order to maintain good discipline and ensure we changed properly. We expected this to be the case, and took full advantage if the master was out of the room. It was neither improper nor illegal for boys to be seen naked by the staff at that time in state secondary schools.
When I went to teacher training college in the mid to late 60's it was the trend to encourage staff to let pupils address them by their Christian names. In my first school PE followed the traditional clothing rules, backed by guidance from county advisors, but we newly trained teachers had been encouraged at college not only to supervise the pupils changing but also to shower with them where appropriate. This was to break down inhibitions of body image and help them to see how they may develop as they got older. There was never any accusation of inappropriate behaviour towards pupils and the system continued in state secondary schools until the late 70's when the general advice changed.
During the 70's and 80's there was a large influx of foreign pupils to my city from all over the world. They were assimilated into the ethos of their schools in their new country. There was no question then of religious or cultural differences dictating how they changed or dressed for PE - everyone was treated the same.
Schools and staff that followed the official guidelines in past decades were not guilty of abusing pupils, even if trends today dictate a more neurotic approach to nakedness. In a previous post Brendan said his classmates felt inhibited being naked around each other, they should have been developing confidence in their bodies.
Only in more recent years have trends come to the fore where parents and pupils can dictate policy to schools and politicians on what they like and dislike for whatever reason. Whether you find this a good thing or not is a matter of conjecture!

Comments by Brendan on 10th April 2017  

Since this is an informative site, I thought I'd add my experience of doing PE at secondary school (2008-2015):
PE lessons took place once a week from Year 7 to Year 11 and were optional in Year 12 and 13 (sixth form). PE consisted of gymnastics, circuit training, spin cycling, rowing machines and five a side football/ basketball/ hockey. We wore a house t shirt, shorts and trainers, all of which we had to buy from the school.
Games lessons took place once a week and consisted of football matches, cross country in the winter, cricket and rugby throughout the five years. In the sixth form. games lessons were optional. We also had football and rugby practice for those of us on the school team, which was after school. We wore a school jersey for those.
Swimming lessons took place once a fortnight and we were taught all the main strokes. I was also part of the swim team which trained once a week after school. We wore swimwear that we bought from the school. For the swim team, we wore different competitive swimwear.

Feel free to ask more questions! I'll try and answer as soon as possible

Comments by Burnley on 10th April 2017  

Actually it is indeed against the law

Comments by Bradley on 10th April 2017  

Brendan,
Communal showers are not against the law and therefore not abuse. However, forcing a child to be naked for them is a grey area in terms of the law.

Comments by Brendan on 10th April 2017  

Paul, so do you believe that a teacher caning a student's bare bottom, or telling them to be naked for a swimming lesson or having to shower naked in front of others is not abuse? Forcing a student to wear less than they wish to and physically attacking a student is abuse, whether the student thinks it's abuse or not. What I'm essentially saying is how surprised I am by how badly students were abused in the past, as I've read from this site and how surprised I am that it wasn't considered wrong at the time when it so obviously is wrong today.



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