Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 621,954         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 Andrea on 29th March 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Amy, do you girls go to an all girls school, or mixed boys and girls?

Also, do you know whether the topless PE carries on into Year 6? I would imagine some of the girls would have started to 'develop' by then.

If I remember correctly from my sons final sports day at Primary School, about half the girls wear wearing some sort of bralette or crop top under their PE tops.

Comments by Amy on 28th March 2018  

Pete, you asked if there are any schools left who make both boys and girls do PE in just underpants? Well I don't think there are many, but my girls' school does just this. My twin girls are in year 5 (penultimate year) and they have t remove their outer clothes and vests for PE. I'm quite happy with this to be honest, as it makes my life simpler and also means the children maximise their time actually doing PE rather than changing into complicated and un-necessary PE kit. It was also what I did at primary and early senior school.

Comments by Oliver on 25th March 2018  

To answer Toby's question - yes, some boys were definitely singled out to do PE shirtless more often than others. There was one friend of mine who almost always seemed to be picked for skins, I have no idea why. But at some stage every boy had to strip down and I think we mostly just accepted that.

Comments by Andrea on 25th March 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

In reply to Pete, there was some discussion about this on Mumsnet a few years ago. One mum was concerned that when her daughter started school (at 4.5 years old), both boys and girls were expected to do PE in vest and pants. Views were mixed as to whether this was appropriate or not even at that age.

When I was at Primary School we wore T shirts and shorts or skirts for PE, but boys and girls all had to change in the same classroom. By the time my son went to Primary School, the girls and boys went to different areas to change from the age of about 8 onwards.

Comments by Claire on 25th March 2018  

Hi Alf, The boys at school were aged from 9 to 18 but PE lessons were always single sex. The gym had large windows to let the light in so we could see everything. The classrooms overlooked the yard and field so we could easily see them strip. We had those horrible aetex tops and black pe knickers.

Comments by Alf on 25th March 2018  

Claire, what ages are you talking about and was it mixed PE for both boys and girls?
What did the girls wear for PE?

I went to a boys only secondary and no one was made to take off their vests except for showers afterwards which were voluntary. Did you or the boys have compulsary showers after PE?

Comments by Claire on 24th March 2018  

I enjoyed seeing boys being made to remove their vests at the start and it was common to see them coming out of the gym glistening with sweat. I know I had my favourites who I'd love to see bare top and more often than not they were. Interesting thread.

Comments by Toby on 24th March 2018  

Oliver, did you find some were picked to strip more often than others did. I was nearly always picked to to remove my vest. I wonder if others found this to be the norm?

Comments by Pete on 24th March 2018  

Are there any schools left who make both boys and girls do PE in just underpants?
Although not at my school this seems to have been common in many primary schools up to age 11 or so.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 24th March 2018  

It was of interest to hear of the the local authorities enforcing shirtless P.E.lessons.I attended an independent school and it was more late sixties to mid seventies,so safety issue weren't at the top of the agenda then, we didn't even have goggles for chemistry experiments!Exe

Comments by John on 24th March 2018  

Many Local Educatiom Authorities in the UK had shirtless for boys PE policies in the 1970s and 80s, these were adopted to keep boys safe; in response to serious accidents that had been attributed to boys tops falling over their heads whilst using wall bars, vaults etc.

Comments by TimH on 23rd March 2018  

The changing of the clocks this weekend reminds me that one Outdoor Centre in the N of England apparently insisted on shorts for all outdoor activities (fell walking, camping etc.) during the period of BST.

Other points - there was an accident at one school some years back caused by loose clothing getting caught in equipment - the school immediately went to shirtless for boys.

Swimming in the nude - I think this was simply a hangover from olden times - no more - no less.

Andrea - I was told recently of a mixed swimming class in a Jnior school where some of the boys introduced frogs into the pool & girls changing areas.

Happy Days!

Comments by Frank Chroston on 21st March 2018  

John raised an important point about safety in the gym environment.Particularly with ropes and the wooden equipment.

Comments by Michael on 19th March 2018  

My school gym was almost always freezing cold and I hated going in there wearing only white PE shorts and vest. But, the PE teacher made us work so hard that soon we were actually thankful that the temperature was so low.

Due to his relentless demands for ever more effort, I used to get so hot that whenever I had the opportunity, I positioned myself under the chilly down draughts from the huge glass windows.

Although we all entered the gym wearing vests, these were soon voluntarily discarded. By the end of the lesson the wall bars were draped with them.

Comments by Oliver on 18th March 2018  

Maybe I should be grateful I didn't go to your school Toby! One cold muddy barechested jog around the field was enough for me...

Comments by Toby on 18th March 2018  

Oliver, that's something I'd never thought of. I wasn't mischievous but for some reason was always picked to strip down all the time. Laps of the field were always done without a top regardless of the weather. I got to know the field pretty well over the years.

Comments by Oliver on 18th March 2018  

Toby, that does sound illogical but I imagine it was partly a means of emphasising discipline. It was similar at my school where you'd put your vest on, along with the rest of your PE kit, knowing there was a fair chance you'd have to remove it within minutes. More often than not the class would be divided into skins vs vests in the gym. But the PE teachers often used shirtlessness as a punitive measure too - I experienced that once when I had to take my top off and run laps of the playing field. No reason for it, other than to make a boy feel small and emphasise who was in charge.

Comments by Toby on 17th March 2018  

JP1, Our gym was deliberately kept cold so we'd have to work hard. When we stripped down you really felt the cold on your bare top. It was no worse than when we did gym/games lessons outdoors though. The part I didn't get was why we went in the gym in vests just to strip off when the lesson started, it was the same outdoors.

Comments by Peter B on 17th March 2018  

JP1 when having to do pe in your underpants was it the era when lads wore briefs. At least there would be more support then if wearing the modern boxers

Comments by JP1 on 17th March 2018  

Oh I don't think there was anything wrong with it, most of the boys probably preferred it or didn't care if their shirts were off, just that I was quite self conscious to have my top half bare as I was very skinny and shy. And cold! The gym was very chilly. So I didn't especially enjoy having to be stripped the waist, especially if only half of the class had to.

Comments by John on 16th March 2018  

What was wrong with boys being stripped to the waist anyway?, it was much safer when using wall bars and vaults etc. Our school gym was heated in winter and we always got hot and sweaty, so it was better not having to wear a top.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 16th March 2018  

Your description of P.E. lessons is very vivid and atmospheric JP1! I tried a backward roll and ended up in A & E when I was thirteen!Ouch!

Comments by JP1 on 16th March 2018  

Thanks for the answers. There was a lot of variation between schools.
Our lessons similarly started with a warmup workout: star jumps, knees ups, sit ups, stretches. I hated the cold gym floor on my bare back if I had been picked to do the class with my shirt off, literal shivers on my spine. Normally only half the boys had to strip to their waists, for teams as shirts and skins, and this was chosen at the roll call at the start, before warm ups. But when the lesson had to be vaults, ropes, bars and the like, then every boy had to be topless.
I didn't so much enjoy my barechestedness, it felt too naked and cold, but we got to be OK like that. I cannot say I preferred it though, being shy. I was happier the times I did not have to pull my T shirt off and go half naked.
The thing I never mastered was somersaults. Hated them more than anything. I was convinced I would break my neck. I would rather have done PE starknaked than do a somersault! No one ever did do PE naked of course. Sometimes in pants due to forgotten kit, this was not fun. I only did this once. Not nice taking off my uniform ,stripping down to just my underpants in the changing room and then having to enter the gym to spend a whole period in that way. But a good deterrent and lesson learned.

Comments by Max on 16th March 2018  

When I started middle school in the 1980s we had to purchase a PE top in school colours (mainly white but with blue bands across the chest). This could be either a vest (singlet) or a T-shirt, which obviously covered the shoulders and had a higher neck. Some boys opted for the vest, others for the T-shirt - I'm really not sure why it wasn't one or the other! Shorts were white and could be made from any material.

Comments by William on 15th March 2018  

JP1, Our gym vests were white and what would now be called tee shirts. We never wore them indoors, only for athletics and cross-country.

Our gym master used to start every lesson with 20 star jumps as a warm up exercise. It was very obvious that the fronts of our shorts were bouncing up and down, but because it was the same for all of us I didn't find it embarrassing.

I was not athletic and had to do things I hated but in a regime of no choice, no complaints, no fuss, I got through it. It was good that for some exercises (forward rolls, handstands etc) we could help each other.

Comments by Andrea on 15th March 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Undershirts of the style you refer to were commonly known as vests (or at least they were in my neighbourhood).

I think that in some schools (mainly primary schools) PE was done in 'vest and pants' ie. the children's usual
underwear. As I understand it, singlets were very similar in style, but quite often with a coloured band (presumably to identify teams or Houses etc?).
One of the runners in the photo on the following thread is wearing a PE vest or singlet.


Comments by JP1 on 13th March 2018  

Some contributors refer to wearing 'vests' for PE. Is a vest in this case similar to an undershirt, with no sleeves and a low cut neck? Is a singlet the same?
At my UK school our PE top was a normal plain white T shirt, albeit it was not always worn.

Comments by Andrea on 10th March 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

With regard to Bob's comment regarding running on the spot and star jumps, I can recall our PE teacher suggesting to some of my classmates that they should start to wear a bra after seeing them doing exercises like that!

Comments by Alf on 9th March 2018  

I can understand the tradition of boys swimming nude especially in prep and boarding schools. What I find a bit hard to believe is what some said way back on this forum that they were also nude for swimming galas in front of parents, siblings and guests including females.
Some even claim that they had female instructors in junior nude swimming classes up to about age 12 or so.
Does anyone know anytrhing about this or had this experience?

Comments by Peter B on 9th March 2018  

I concur with a lot of what Paul has written. Not all families had washing machines and furthermore there was not a lot of money available for us to have as many clothes as we have today. At least my family only had to buy pe shorts which were also used for Football and cricket in the summer. I think they had to last me most of my school life(bought a bit large for room to grow). We only wore a top outside in winter and that was any T shirt we had, so it was not too expensive. And yes ours was an all boys school with all but one male teachers ex forces served in the war and our PE teacher was ex military PTI a strict disciplinarian and a frequent user of the Plimsoll on the backside.

With regards to " dancing behind a towel" When I lived in London the swimming pool I used had single sex changing facilities with a large communal area and a few cubicles, and life was simple. You just stripped off and changed. Now, where I go, the municipal swimming pool has a "Changing Village" which means that it is open to both sexes and all cubicles. Often you have to wait to get changed because there are insufficient cubicles and when I do get one if I need the loo urgently, I have to get changed quickly into my trunks on before leaving the cubicle. Whereas in the single sex changing rooms as Paul says you could be naked and not worry.

Comments by Stuart on 9th March 2018  cmnmuk@yahoo.co.uk 

RE Gvain's reply to Alf about visitors to swimming pool

I went to all boys private prep/senior school in Surrey which had its own indoor heated pool. We all swam nude until 13, after that regulation black speedo type trunks. We had saturday morning school which was common back then.

One school year, i think when I was 11 or 12, we had swimming as our last lesson of the saturday classes. Quite often the Head would be showing parents & offspring around, which meant that Mothers and sometimes daughters would come into the pool.
I specifically remember one occasion where I was standing on the side for some reason when a boy and girl came in with their parents who were talking with the Head. The kids wandered further in and stood by me, the girl aged about 13 pointed at me and said with a big smile to her younger brother that will be you next term swimming naked and then laughed. He blushed profusely.

I didnt really think anything wrong about adults coming in but then I hadnt hit puberty so did not have much to hide.

Comments by Paul on 8th March 2018  

I think in days when mothers did not have automatic washing machines or indeed in some cases any washing machine at all it was quite normal that clothes were not changed every day and sometimes not for several days. I was only allowed two grey school shirts a week and three pairs of white underpants. I was no different to other lads in that regard.

In those circumstances I don't think it was unusual that for sport where we would sweat or if outside potentially get soaked that we were required to take off our underpants when getting changed in fact it was totally sensible.

Equally in those days all PE teachers (well the men at least) had done national service. The military paid no attention to any concept of privacy when I joined the Navy in the early 1970s so I don't suppose it was any better in the post war era. We slept in open dormitories, showered in communal showers, used toilets that had no partitions and so on and we certainly didn't wear underpants with our sports gear which given the hard navy canvas like gym shorts we had which used to feel like rough sandpaper and they never softened was something you were always aware of.

These days I still use the gym regularly and I'm glad when I see younger lads dancing behind their towels and waiting for the one private shower cubicle as opposed to the fifteen communal showers that I'm comfortable naked in front of other men and don't care that others see me in a place where being naked is actually quite normal. All these years later, I wouldn't think of wearing underpants with my gym gear.

Comments by fchroston@gmail.com on 8th March 2018  

This weekend why not check out the Hesketh Fletcher web site there is a gym photo similar date to above and comments by many of the contributers on this Burnley site. Go to Old Photos and it is positioned on page two.Similar topics are discussed ! F. C.

Comments by Alf on 5th March 2018  

We never had any problems with athletic supporters, which were never mentioned at my school, or having to take off our underpants for PE.
We kept our underpants on under our PE shorts which served as supporters in themselves. I am surprised at how many schools required boys to take off their underpants for PE.
But then our PE lessons were usually light affairs with light exercises and which only lasted about an hour or so.
The only exception was that if a boy forgot his PE kit he was made to do it in his underpants, as someone else mentioned.

Comments by Bob on 4th March 2018  

I had forgotten about the press ups...all that bumping up and down onto the cold wooden floor.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 4th March 2018  fchroston@gmail.com 

Sorry to hear of your P.E days at school and the fact that you remain quite bitter about them.I always thought of them as a welcome break from the text books and taking numerous notes!I had forgotten about the star jumps they were certainly physically exerting.It was the press ups that got me quite hard on. I started with puberty in the summer term in First form.As for the no underpants rule it was just one of the many you had to accept or face the consequences.It was a gentle irony that if you forgot your P.E. shorts for the lesson you had to do it in your underpants a humiliating sanction for any youngster as I experienced once.

Comments by TimH on 4th March 2018  

My experience was pretty much like William's although we did gym into the sixth form. Like a number of others I preferred at first to wear a T-shirt but as I became more 'comfortable' with my body I was happy to just wear shorts. Like William we tended to turn the waistbands over, but in the 6th form I bought a pair of the short cotton football shorts then coming into fashion.

Cross-country kit was football shirt & shorts & plimsolls - no flash trainers in the early 60s. The course was a misture of footpath & country lane - I've measured it be a little under four miles in length.

Although I've no problems with boys doing gym 'topless' indoors or outdoors in summer I would have to raise my eyebrows if I saw boys shirtless in the cold weather we've just experienced.

Comments by Rob on 4th March 2018  

It was the same for all of us,Bob. Like William we never saw athletic supports and I even did gym in the 6th form wearing the same gym shorts I'd worn since the first form with nothing on underneath for all sports,and we never wore a vest or anything on top, even for cross country running.I don't think any of us thought anything about of it; we just got used to it and enjoyed the feeling of freedom.

Comments by Bob on 3rd March 2018  

I resented having to do PE with nothing on underneath those thin white shorts we wore. We always seemed to have to do a lot of running on the spot and star jumps in the gym, which inevitably caused what I later realised was a partial erection.. Although not very athletic, I was well developed in that embarrasing area. Having the PE teacher kneeling down in front of me watching me closely while encouraging me to get my knees higher when jogging on the spot(he often picked on me, it seemed) only added to my discomfort.

Comments by William on 2nd March 2018  

Catching up with the athletic support discussion, I never saw them at school in the '60s, but I didn't do gym after the fifth form and it is possible that the 1st XV had them. I never wore anything under shorts for gym, athletics, rugby or hockey.

We used to try to keep our gym shorts from the first form to the fifth. As the elastic slackened we turned over the waistbands to keep them up. This made the shorts shorter and tighter across the front, which did provide some support.

We never wore vests for gym and so the daring boys whose waistbands were low on their hips were not wearing much by the time they reached the fifth, but I don't think boys or masters thought anything of it.

Comments by Gavin A on 21st February 2018  

Hi Alf
Yes a few resented it because they might not have been so well developed as some of their peers, and they didn't like younger boys seeing that obviously.
We use to swim either as a class (obviously same age - average class size say 20), or as a house which meant that a 10 year old boy could be in the same pool as a 13 year old.

Comments by Alf on 21st February 2018  


Were there any boys who resented being naked during swim classes?

Considewring that there was quite a big age difference at the school, were the classes separate by age groups or all together? How many boys would there be in each swim class?

Comments by Andrea on 21st February 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Olderscot,

Like you my Ex said they weren't allowed to wear athletic supports until the start of their 3rd year at secondary school. He said that some of his classmates could really have done with getting one sooner!

No such age restrictions applied to the type of support required by us girls. A few of my classmates started to wear bras during our last year at primary school, whereas others didn't need them until the 2nd year at secondary.

Comments by Gavin A on 20th February 2018  

The kind of visitors were mainly potential school boys and their parents. On rare occasions that boy might have a sister probably tagging along because they had to! But apart from them I don't remember anyone ekse. I certainly don't think any other member of staff apart from the swimming master or house master/tutor would have had the slightest interest in watching us boys otherwise.

Comments by Gavin A on 20th February 2018  

Peter B

No, I said that when it came to inter school contests we wore trunks

Comments by Alf on 19th February 2018  

To Gavin,

You said " Yes, some of the boys who had turned 13 did start to resent visitors being present when they were naked."

What kind of visitors did you have during your nude swimming classes, were they school staff or others who were visiting to watch?
Did female teachers or other females also came to watch?

Comments by Peter B on 19th February 2018  

So Gavin A are you saying swimming galas for your school with parents or the public present were swum naked?

What would the date have been year wise. It does seem a strange situation, but I suppose some years ago people were not so worried. I do not know if I woolud have been happy swimming naked in front of strangers let alone my own family

Comments by Olderscot on 18th February 2018  

Hi, I note some comments regarding jock straps or Athletic supports to give their proper name. Like many others we only wore white cotton gym shorts and were subject to the " no underwear " rule which was common at the time. When we entered 3rd year around ages 14/15 we were allowed to buy a Litesome support from the school PE dept. Most boys did this. Looking back it was interesting that the rule was based on what year you were in rather than an individual boy's age or requirement for support. Some boys should have been allowed to wear a support much earlier as those shorts offered no support.

Happy to answer any queries .


Comments by Andrea on 18th February 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Alf,
Our parents had to buy the swimsuits as part of our uniform.

I went to an all girls secondary school.

Comments by Gavin A on 17th February 2018  


We all wanted to wear a jockstrap at 13 or 14, just as the older boys were wearing them already. Litesome was the only brand in those days. Most boys possessed two jockstraps, one with and without a pouch (for a box .. i.e. cricket). Very much a coming of age aspect, and although they aren't common today I am still glad to say that I, my sons and grandchildren still wear them for sport.