Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 621,953         Comments: 2,237

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

2237 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Simon S on 20th May 2018  

Hi Frank, you appear disappointed you weren't made to strip to the waist more often. What did you wear in the gym, if not a skin.

Comments by Andrea on 19th May 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Did the whole school change to wearing shorts and vests then, or just the older boys and girls?

Also,once you started wearing shorts and vests, did the boys and girls still get changed to together in the same classroom? That was how it was at my primary school in the mid to late 1960s. The only exception, in our final year, were a few girls who had 'developed' enough to start wearing bras rather than vests - they were allowed to change in the toilets.

Comments by Frank on 19th May 2018  

Simon S The converse applied to my school experience because the number of times I was told to be a skin and have to strip to my waist was frequently less than other lads in my year.The occasions I was instructed to be a skin was both pleasurable and satisfying adding to the gymnastic event!

Comments by Harry on 19th May 2018  

I was in primary in the early 60s and we did mixed PE lessons in just underpants, both boys and girls, till year 4 about age 10. After that we wore white PE shorts and vests, identical for both boys and girls.
But I don't think this would happen today.

Comments by Andrea on 16th May 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Like Simon I can't imagine there are many schools left which make girls (or boys for that matter) do PE in just their knickers or underpants.
As I recall, when my son was at Primary school, the girls and boys didn't even get changed in the same classroom after about year 4.

With regard to the comment from Claire about girls not wearing vests nowadays, I would say that at least half the girls were wearing some form of crop top or bra-lette by year 6 and few were wearing vests.

Joan- what decade was it when you had to do PE topless, and up to what age?

Comments by Simon S on 14th May 2018  

Hi Claire, Couldn't imagine too many schools would make girls strip off. Despite our PE kit listing a vest, our teachers had us boys stripped to the waist from the age of 9 through to 18, for all gym work (including fitness sessions) xcountry runs and athletics in summer. Basketball was played vests vs skins. I never knew why but the teachers always singled me out to strip down for that too.

Comments by Claire on 14th May 2018  

Re:Comments by Amy on 28th March 2018

Amy, you say your girls remove outer clothes and vests for PE. I didn't think any kids, girls especially, wore vests these days, and none of mine would have been seen dead in a vest by the time they reached year 5.

Comments by Joan Graham on 10th May 2018  graham6qh@btinternet.com 


I had similar experiences when at school but I am surprised it still goes on. Just out of curiosity, in what part of the country is your daughters' school?

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 10th May 2018  

Hi Chris, I am the youngest of three. To be honest, I was never bothered about being topless around my sisters. They saw lads doing PE topless at school so it wasn't new and they'd watch me box stripped down too. Classes were never mixed, just boys and girls separately. The girls wore either gym skirt or knickers and a pale yellow top.

Comments by Chris on 9th May 2018  

Pearson, were you older or younger than your sisters? Were you shy being shirtless around your sisters and other girls? Did you ever feel uncomfortable? Were all PE classes mixed? What did the girls wear?

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 5th May 2018  

Toby, I've re read your post. I recall one of my fights when I was 13. My opponent, also 13, wore a vest for his debut fight and was soaked after a couple of rounds. After the fight he'd wanted to strip down but his mum stopped him. We went on to be the best of friends to this day.

Comments by James on 5th May 2018  

Hi Andrew,I agree it was chilly taking part in gymnastics and sport,sometimes shirtless,I often thought this was done to toughen us up.
Certainly it was a statutory requirement for me to wear short trousers throughout the winter months,so I became accustomed to bare legs,albeit you could freeze in shorts in the winter.
I'm sure girls did approve of us wearing minimal clothing,but they wore more suitable clothing for the cold weather and often shared the gym when it was too cold for them to go outside.

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 4th May 2018  

Hi Toby, Yes! Apologies for confusion. In answer to your question our school had a full barechested/skins policy for boys/lads PE/Games. It was freezing in the gym in winter anyway so being outside made little difference. I do remember the girls commenting they fully approved of all boys being stripped whether we were indoors or not.

Comments by Toby on 3rd May 2018  

I'm guessing the 2 Mr Pearsons are the same. You mentioned about wearing a vest. Were you singled out to strip off by the teachers for PE/Games and how did you feel about it?

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 1st May 2018  

Hi Frank, We all lived with our gran. My sisters weren't keen seeing me in a ring but it helped bring some extra money for essentials. Somebody bricked up the hatch at the back of the coalhouse so being the only male I got the job to shovel it in. Doing it topless saved my school shirt. The vest was for bed. When I turned 11 it became too small but was never replaced.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 30th April 2018  

Thanks for your response re vests.What with the Boxing class and the coal delivery I bet you were toughened up! I remember our coal was put straight into the coal shed some nutty slack had to be brushed up after the delivery.

Comments by A Pearson on 29th April 2018  

Hi Frank, I was made to start boxing classes out of school and every lad was stripped off regardless of age. When we had a coal delivery it was dumped in the yard for me to shovel into the coalhouse after school a nice 2 hour job. One of my sisters suggested I wore a vest but changed her mind when she saw it sticking to my top.

Comments by John on 22nd April 2018  

I find it hard to believe your comments at all

Comments by MikeL on 22nd April 2018  

Our PE staff were brutal. We were told all boys would strip off both indoors and outside and to make a point picked one lad to put his vest back on before ripping it halfway down and made him remove the remains. The frequent use of "rat's tail" a vest submerged in water, rung out and applied across your bare back or chest didn't half sting.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 21st April 2018  

I came across a you tube video of Kettering Schools Summer Sports Day dated 1959 sounds familiar!All the field events are shown long jump high jump etc.and the students have white tops on none are without vests.Filmed in June of that year.Strange how school policy dictates whether skin or vests rule!

Comments by John on 11th April 2018  

Sterling, I agree that it was better to be a skin rather than wearing bibs or sashes. Bernardís school probably had the best idea with lads taking both a black and a white pair of shorts to PE class. The PE teacher could divide the lads up in the changing room and tell them to either get changed into black or white shorts. All lads could then remain stripped to the waist for all PE, which most lads preferred anyway.

Comments by Sterling on 11th April 2018  

As many have mentioned, we actually had Bibs Vs Skins rather than shirts. They allowed from some airflow but the ones we had were horrendous. Worse than a sweat saturated vest and could leave a nasty nipple rash. Hence being a skin was preferable!
We didn't have footwear nevermind breathable sportswear available today!
Barefoot being preferred to those plymsoles.

Comments by John on 10th April 2018  

Frank & Bernard, I wore sashes once over the shoulder and they were irritating because they kept slipping off. The next PE session our PE teacher gave out the bibs again, the bibs were better because they stayed in place. The bibs were only relatively small so we were still able to have that great feeling of bare chest and back. Iím so thankful that my school had stripped to the waist rule for boys PE Iíd have hated to have to wear a top and get hot and sweaty with it stuck to your back. PE kit rules made much more sense back then. There is no need to wear a top for PE.

Comments by Frank on 10th April 2018  

I remember the coloured sashes being issued out for the P.E.session red and blue ones!They were used for the field events outside in the summer term.The advantage of these is you got that bare chest and back feeling.

Comments by Bernard on 10th April 2018  

Simon - in the gym we were only allowed to wear white shorts and teams were distinguished by the wearing of coloured bands over one shoulder. This was not very satisfactory as they tended to slip off your shoulder if they were too big.
Outside we were supposed to have our white shorts for cross country and summer games whilst we had black shorts for winter games. In practice, as we started off taking both pairs in on days we had outdoor games, we would wear black or white shorts when we needed to distinguish teams.
Both systems were good in that we were all treated the same - no boy ever had to wear a shirt and most of us were happy enough with that.

Comments by Simon on 9th April 2018  

Thanks everyone for the answers to my question about teams in PE, those all sound like sensible systems and preferable to shirts and skins. I think the key is it should be the same for every boy, otherwise some can feel they're being singled out.
JonAt1, like you I was one of the boys who was made to be a skin on a regular basis and I didn't like at first. Partly because I was naturally shy, partly because it just seemed unfair that I had to strip to the waist every time when other lads didn't... but with hindsight it may have been a tough love approach from my PE teacher. Ultimately I got used to playing without a shirt and I grew in confidence, so I guess it worked!

Comments by John on 9th April 2018  

Simon, at my school the PE teacher handed out coloured Ďbibsí which were similar to the ones with numbers on that are issued to runners taking part in marathons and other races. The bibs covered the upper part of the chest. One team could have yellow bibs and the other team red bibs. It was a good way to distinguish teams. Therefore all lads were stripped to the waist and everyone was always a skin and it was completely fair.

Comments by JonAt1 on 9th April 2018  

Hi Simon, I happened to be one of three lads in my PE group made to strip every lesson regardless of weather or indoors or out. I really didn't mind. What with also doing boxing stripped off too it certainly toughened me up. Did you enjoy being a skin?

Comments by Jono on 9th April 2018  

Hi Simon, our mixed school operated an all skins policy. However classes with an odd number wore white shorts, even numbered classes wore black. No need for any boy to wear a vest or top.

Comments by william on 9th April 2018  

Simon, We never wore vests for gym. Teams were distinguished by inch wide sashes of different colours worn over the shoulder.

Comments by Simon on 9th April 2018  

To Rob, John and Bernard - what method was used to distinguish teams for PE and Games when you were at school? Clearly if every boy was stripped to the waist then you couldn't have played shirts against skins, which was what we did at my school in the 1980s. Although that was an effective system for team sports, it wasn't all that fair in that some boys had to do PE as 'skins' far more often than others.

Comments by Bernard on 8th April 2018  

Rob and John - I found your comments most interesting. I started at Grammar School in 1964 and only ever wore just a pair of shorts for p.e. and games. Things were much simpler in those days and I'm sure we were very happy not being made to wear more.
Most of us were a bit apprehensive about showering naked the first time but we soon got used to it and welcomed the chance to cool down and rinse the sweat off.
I too feel very sorry for today's youngsters, having to wear so much and being denied the luxury of showers afterwards.

Comments by James on 8th April 2018  

Clare.At junior school I wore short trousers and I was looking forward to wearing long trousers at the mixed secondary school.
Uniform was compulsory,but boys were allowed to wear shorts up to any age up to leaving.
After some deliberation by my mother,it was decided I should continue to wear shorts to school,much to my consternation.
I always found the girls were much more attentive and didn't tend to mock or make cruel remarks.

Comments by Rob on 8th April 2018  

John, it's been interesting to have had a conversation with you. Time to give others a an opportunity!

Comments by John on 7th April 2018  

Rob, my Dad told my brother and I that he only wore shorts and plimsolls for PE and did cross country in winter stripped to the waist. Dad was glad that his sons were getting the same PE kit rules that heíd had.

Itís great that youíve encouraged your sons to be shirtless like you, they alre of course confident about their bodies because of this. I enjoyed PE immensely and benefitted by being made to strip to the waist and have communal showers. Your sons were lucky that they went to schools like ours, the trend now is to keep children covered up all the time. I would have hated to have to wear a top for PE and not being made to have a shower and get clean afterwards. I think we were treated much better than kids today.

Comments by Rob on 7th April 2018  

John,I had two younger sisters and there didn't seem to be any pressure on them to get out in the sunshine although they did sit out in the garden whenever I was around in just a pair of shorts. My dad used to join me and take his shirt off when he and I went to the allotment but even though he played football for his firm's team when he was in his twenties before he married, I never saw him wear shorts, although he told me when he was asking me whether I had to strip off for PE,that they had to wear just shorts and plimsolls when he was at school. At one time men rarely wore shorts for leisure and were considered eccentric if they did, but nowadays in the summer it is quite normal for most men and I always wear them whenever possible. It proves that we all get used to anything given the opportunity. Like me, you were initially apprehensive about being naked in the showers, and I too can't understand why some commentators seem to have a problem with their bodies.I am happily married with two sons, who went to a mixed secondary school where they had to strip off for PE and go naked in the showers and because they were accustomed to seeing me stripped off are themselves quite comfortable to follow my example.

Comments by John on 6th April 2018  

Rob, my parents also encouraged my brother and I to take our shirts off when playing outside with our friends, we used to get some hot summers in the 1970s and 1980s. My dad used to be shirtless whilst gardening and liked to sunbathe and he encouraged us to leave our shirts off when the weather was good. My brother and I had to strip to the waist for PE at Primary School but there werenít any showers at Primary School.

I was apprehensive about having to take showers after PE and games lessons at Secondary School, the teachers ensured that all lads were naked when they entered the showers. After doing hard physical exercise we were sweating profusely and it was great to cool off with a shower. The first time showering naked made me slightly anxious. Being made to strip to the waist for PE and have communal showers, made me a more confident person, and I donít understand why some commentators seem to have had a problem with it.

Comments by Rob on 6th April 2018  

John,for a few years before going to the grammar school,I was encouraged by my parents, particularly my mum,to take my shirt off in the summer when I was playing outside in the garden or with other boys in the road. Her mother suffered from rickets when she was child and my mum was keen to ensure that I got out in the sun and soaked up plenty of vitamin D.We didn't have anything that resembled PE in Junior school and never had to undress.However,my mum knew from talking to other mothers in our road that their sons who were at the grammar school had to strip off for PE so I was aware in advance and had no problem when I had my first gym lesson. However, I hadn't been warned about the showers afterwards, although a towel was on the kit list.I had never been seen naked by other boys and felt very reluctant to take my shorts off, but realised that I had no option and went ahead and entered the open communal showers. I soon got used to having to take showers and eventually looked forward to being able to wash the sweat off after each lesson without any embarrassment.The whole experience helped my confidence and it is a pity that boys today don't have to strip off as we did.

Comments by Rob on 3rd April 2018  

Hi Claire, That's kind of you to mention that.Some boys certainly had a lot to endure, but down south we got away with it much easier and I certainly never had to do exercises in the snow. Only once, when the snow prevented us from playing football we were sent on a run around the playing fields- wearing our normal football kit.

Comments by John on 3rd April 2018  

Rob, great to hear the experience of someone who also enjoyed PE and felt totally happy just wearing shorts and plimsolls. When exercising and like you say working up a sweat our PE kit made the most sense. After being in a hot classroom most lads enjoyed being able to strip to the waist and exercise bare chested.

It felt good if we got admired by girls and helped to develop confidence in our bodies.

Comments by Claire on 2nd April 2018  

Hi Rob, The boys had respect for being made to strip off in all weathers. We admired what they were made to endure especially during winter. The sight of barechested lads being made to do sit ups and press ups in the snow earned plenty of that.

Comments by Rob on 2nd April 2018  

MikeL & John,good to read your comments. I went to a boys grammar school in the years when secondary schools were mostly all single sex and along with my classmates spent PE lessons stripped off and wearing just shorts and plimsolls.We were made to work hard but said how enjoyable it was when the sweat was running down our bare chests, and the rest of our bodies, for that! I would have liked to have liked to have had some female spectators. However, when we were sent out on a cross country run we did have to pass the entrance to the girls school and more often than not there was a group of girls standing there and we always stopped and enjoyed having them admire our bare chests- all natural good fun!

Comments by Frank Chroston on 2nd April 2018  

re Washing.In 1973 I was always one to avoid mud and dirt generally.but was asked to swap my Rugby shirt with another boy in my year,this was just to even out teams!The boy was less diligent and returned it in right old mess! I explained what happened and was O.K. about it.Luckily Ariel had been invented by then! I thought my mother would freak out when she saw the muddy shirt.Can see the funny side of it years later.

Comments by Andrea on 1st April 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Claire,
I wouldn't have minded if he had, but the polo shirts they wore were quick to wash and dry. The rugby shirts he had for outdoor games in the winter were more of a challenge though!

Comments by Claire on 1st April 2018  

Hi Andrea, would you prefer your son to strip to the waist for PE if there was a choice. It would save a little on the washing!

Comments by Amy on 1st April 2018  

Hi Andrea and Pete

The girls go to a mixed sex state school. They do PE all through school in just underpants/knickers. My oldest is in year 5 and is used to doing her lessons wearing pants and no top and sheís comfortable with it. Iím perfectly happy with it too; at that age there's little difference between boys and girls and what there is is not significant enough to cause difficulty orncausenmenworey.

Comments by Pete on 31st March 2018  

Hi Amy, is it a girls only school and is it a private or public school?

I also don't see anything wrong in young kids doing PE topless. Maybe by year 5 or 6 would be different if it is mixed.

Comments by John on 30th March 2018  

Mike L, I agree with you totally the girls at my school were more than happy to see boys shirtless. Most boys myself included were quite happy to strip to the waist for indoor PE and some outdoor games. It was completely normal for us.

Comments by MikeL on 30th March 2018  

Claire, I attended a mixed school and never heard a single complaint about us being made to strip down for PE/Games. They enjoyed seeing us topless and the majority of boys preferred exercising like that too. Good to read girls views about something that was such a regular thing.

Comments by Amy on 30th March 2018  

Andrea, my girls go to a mixed primary and pe is done in mixed sex classes. The girls continue to do PE in just their pants into year six (as do the boys) and bralettes and crop tops etc are not allowed to be worn. I know some of the girlsí friends are already developing a little, but I think as long as they donít have full breasts thereís no harm in them having to go topless for PE.