Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 638,267         Comments: 2,313

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

2313 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John on 15th June 2018  

Hi Andrew,

You were really lucky that you had the opportunity to box whilst at secondary school. I would love to have had the chance to try boxing, I think that itís good for ladís confidence and should have been on the PE curriculum.

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 14th June 2018  

Hi GSB, The fights were held privately and on the QT in remote spots and lads were from age 10 upwards. For your debut you could wear a vest, though most didn't, after that you stripped off. U13s fought a max of 3x 70 second rounds,13+ fought 5x 2 min rounds,16+ fought 6x 2mins 30. The pot was split 3 ways to the lads who'd put up the best fight. Hope this helps.

Comments by GSB on 13th June 2018  

Hi Everyone. My name is Rob but since there already seem to be a number of Robs here, Iíve called myself GSB (Grammar School Boy)!

I look in on this site from time to time and at first could not believe its popularity in terms of both the number of views and posts, but thinking about it, perhaps I should not be surprised. When one gets to a certain age, I think most of us start looking back at our school days either with great fondness or regret - or a mixture of the two. And PE lessons always seem to create strong emotions Ė usually either love or hate, and because they were different to the majority of lessons (ie, not desk-bound and classroom-based) form strong memories Ė even after half a century, I can still remember quite a few specific incidents that happened in PE - the same cannot be said for Maths, French, Chemistry, Geography or any other lesson!

Just for the record, and at risk of boring everyone, my kit was similar to so many others here. Indoor PE was done in white ankle socks, white plimsolls and short white shorts. Outdoors, athletics, cross-country and tennis were the same but with a white t-shirt which, unofficially, was optional. Actually, thinking about it, from probably sometime in the second year upwards, the socks and plimsolls became unofficially optional in the gym, so if you had no homework books to carry, on days you had PE, you could just roll up your shorts and stuff them in your blazer pocket (much to Mumís annoyance who carefully washed and ironed them every week!) How different to the huge bags full of kit one sees poor kids struggling with today. Sometimes minimalist and simplest is best!

Andrew Pearson - I have just read your post (1st May) Ė ďMy sisters werenít keen on seeing me in a ring but it helped bring in some extra money for essentialsĒ - have I understood it correctly that you were paid to take part in boxing matches whilst still at school? Please tell us more Ė I am intrigued.

And to all those who have mentioned boxing at school, please tell us more details of how it was organised and how it all worked, along with any particular memories you have. The one thing I was hugely looking forward to doing at secondary school was the boxing Ė only to find when I got there (this was the mid 1960's), that it had been stopped the year before. My frustration and anger continue to this day, and I remain fascinated by the whole idea, and would love to hear all about it in much more detail from those lucky (or some might say unlucky?) enough to have done boxing as part of PE.

Comments by Ben on 13th June 2018  

TimH, good to know there are so many lads voluntarily opting to play football with their tops off. As you say, they should definitely be encouraged - but I think John is right to suggest a shirtless rule for PE. The reason is that if it's optional then only the more confident boys will take their tops off, others - who may be shy - won't and their self esteem could suffer further as they grow up. I was in the latter group as a young teen and I'm thankful now that I wasn't given the option in PE. I was often required to do it shirtless throughout my school years and I feel that really helped me in the long run.

Comments by Frank C on 13th June 2018  

Addendum to Ambrose's comments We stood at the football ground.We didn't count the calories and we didn't have to worry about whether we had five a day or not!Happy Days!

Comments by John on 13th June 2018  

Tim H,
I didnít wish to imply that lads should have to play football or other games outside in winter shirtless, that would be ridiculous. Doing indoor gym classes and playing indoor team games shirtless was fine, I never felt that I was being abused and my teachers were totally normal and treated us appropriately always.

The point I was trying to make is that given the choice many lads are happy to play sports shirtless.

Comments by Frank C on 12th June 2018  

Ambrose well scripted although I was sixties and seventies I can relate to all those topics you itemised!How true.

Comments by TimH on 12th June 2018  

John - I'm not so sure I'd want to make it a rule but I think that encouraging lads to do some sports shirtless is OK - it is more natural - certainly indoor gym & summer sports outside, but thinking of the cold winter we've had I wouldn't want to make boys do outdoor sports topless in that.

From past experience I suspect the lads I saw will probably stay topless for much of the summer - certainly well into September and that that they'll discover that they prefer shorter shorts rather than the long baggy sort some people seem to prefer. So much of this is down to useage - when you get used to something it becomes natural.

I'm lucky to live in a leafy semi-rural area where lots of the children still walk to the local Middle school. Just casual observations make me think that a good proportion of the boys prefer shorts - certainly in summer - and that, like posties, wearing shorts in bad weather is seen as a 'mark of honour' - I did see one lad walking to school in shorts last December.

(Of course, there is the story of a lady [not local] who saw two boys going to school in shorts in October and reported the parents to Social Services for mistreating them)

Comments by Tony H on 12th June 2018  

I completely concur with your comments. Those were the days of freedom not like it is now. With regards to education, at least we could converse without having to use the word "like" which the youngsters seem to do nearly every other word like!!

Yes we knew about "stranger danger" but then usually we were out to with at least one or two friends and there was safety in numbers.
How things have changed. If I am out on my own without my wife or son and smile at a young child, I do worry about what the response of the adult with that child will be.

Comments by John on 11th June 2018  

Tim H,

Your recent observations would seem to be proof that most lads enjoy playing sports shirtless. Therefore there was nothing wrong with a stripped to the waist rule for boys Physical Education.

Comments by TimH on 11th June 2018  

Just a comment a boys being topless (Or not): in the recent hot weather I've several times seen boys (young teens?) playing football on open ground near me - all in shorts, all topless - and not an adult about to 'enforce' a 'skins' rule.

Comments by Ambrose on 8th June 2018  

How times have changed! Congratulations to all who survived being born in the 40's and 50's to mothers who smoked/drank, ate blue cheese and raw egg products, and processed meat, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. After that trauma our baby cots were covered with lead based paint, and medicine bottles had no child proof lids.
We rode in cars with no seat belts, and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets. We drank water from taps not bottles, and take away food was limited to fish and chips; no pizza, KFC, McDonalds etc. We didn't starve to death even though shops closed at 6:00pm and all day Sunday. We shared one fizzy drink bottle with four friends and no one actually died from this!

We ate white bread with real butter, had full fat milk and soft drinks with sugar in, but we weren't overweight because we were always playing outside. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, with no one able to reach us, and we were OK. We would spend hours building go-carts with no brakes, tree houses and dens, and go paddling in streams. We fell out of trees, got cuts, broke bones and teeth, and there were no law suits from these accidents. We had no Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes, video games, mobile phones, personal computers or internet chat rooms, - we had friends!

Not everyone made the school teams. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes, or throw blackboard rubbers at us if we weren't concentrating; but we could string a sentence together and spell, and have proper conversations because of a good solid three R's education.
Even though we ran around wearing the minimum of clothing on a hot summers day every person we passed was not seen as a child molester; we knew what we should and shouldn't do with strangers.

We grew up in an age where we had freedom, failure, success, responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. An age before the lawyers and government regulated our lives for our own good - and through it all we survived!

Comments by John on 25th May 2018  

Jonathan C, I couldnít agree with you more. Being made to strip to the waist for PE and games makes lads more confident. I enjoyed gym and sports far more than I would have done if Iíd had to endure a hot sweaty shirt stuck to my back. Presumably the poor school boys of 2018 that get too hot whilst doing PE will never be allowed to take their shirts off to cool down.

I think we were very lucky to have been educated when we were, it seems that there was more consideration given to what was best for lads then.
Nowadays the primary concern is to keep boys covered up in case the
sight of barechested lads exercising might offend someone; this restricts lads normal development as males I think.

Comments by Jonathan C on 24th May 2018  

John, He admitted later he should've just stripped off and got on with it. He proved he could handle being stripped and joined me on the school's xcountry team later in the year. There's no real reason for lads not to strip off for sport/exercise. It's part of the feminist culture that stops lads being treated as lads.

Comments by John on 24th May 2018  

Jonathan C, I do have some sympathy for the lad who was new to your school. The ladís parents would have received a uniform list that stated that he needed a vest for PE, so it clearly came as a shock to him being told to strip to the waist. At his previous school he must have been used to always wearing tops and he must not have played shirts vs skins either. The lad was very brave by defying the PE teacher.

I think that it was good that he received some punishment but I think that they went too far. The lad should have done as he was told by the teacher.

Some lads at my Senior School protested when the PE teacher told them that PE would be done stripped to the waist but none of them dared to defy the teacher and just did as they were told.

Comments by Rob on 23rd May 2018  

Chris, No, I never had a problem with my sisters seeing me without a shirt and in just a pair of shorts.They enjoyed it when I used to exercise in the garden, especially when I was swinging my arms about and doing other exercises as we did stripped off in PE at school.

Comments by Simon S on 23rd May 2018  

Hi John, It was only basketball we did as vests vs skins so it was normal to see vests sticking to backs when we played. Vests vs skins was a quick and simple way to create teams.

Comments by Jonathan C on 23rd May 2018  

John, When we were 14 one lad in our class who'd recently moved to the school refused to strip off for a lesson in the gym and was made to spend his lunchtimes stripped off on the field doing a mix of press ups, and sit ups for a week. Some of girls found it funny but on the whole the PE teachers were respected. You knew how you were on and what you needed to do.

Comments by John on 22nd May 2018  

Jonathan C, I canít understand why your school made you wear vests for PE and then got you all to take them off as soon as you got into the gym. Did any lads refuse to put their vest on in the changing room? and what happened if a lad didnít have his vest on when he entered the gym.

It would surely have been better to have had a shorts only rule for PE and parents could have saved money by not having to buy vests. Sounds like the teachers liked to make lads strip off in the gym. I would have felt like refusing to put a vest on in the changing room. I preferred doing gym without a top anyway.

Comments by Andrea on 22nd May 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

We wore shorts and a T shirt for PE throughout primary school. As you suggest, we girls got quite adept at pulling on our shorts before we took off our skirts! The T shirts were put on over our vests.
If someone forgot their PE kit, they had to do it in their vest and pants.

By the end of our final year at primary, about 3 of my classmates had started to wear bras. One girl in particular was always taller than the rest of us and had filled out enough to start wearing a bra just after Christmas and another couple followed suit over the following months. The rest of us remained in vests.
Of course back then there were no crop-tops or similar to ease the transition from vests to bras.

I was still totally flat-chested when I left primary school and didn't start to wear a bra regularly until the start my second year at secondary.

Were the vests you wore for PE, just your normal ones you wore under your school shirts, or were they specific PE vests?

Comments by Chris on 22nd May 2018  

Rob, did you ever feel shy or uncomfortable going without a shirt around your younger sisters? How would they react?

Comments by Jonathan C on 22nd May 2018  

John, Stripping off for competitions gave an added edge for both teams and its easy to see the effort going in. For our PE/Games lessons, we knew going into the gym we'd be made to strip off, dropping vests along the wall, before exercising. Our teachers had the knack, even in a cold gym to make whole classes sweat visibly long before the end of the lesson.

Comments by John on 21st May 2018  

Jonathan C,

I guess like me you were used to being stripped to the waist for PE and cross country. I got to prefer exercising without having to wear a shirt. The teachers helped us by toughening us up.

Comments by Jonathan C on 21st May 2018  

John, I represented my school in inter school competitions for fitness, basketball and xcountry competitions. Normally both schools teams would strip off as the colour of our shorts didn't clash. For xcountry during the winter, schools were given a choice of wearing a vest/t-shirt or to strip off. Our teachers always chose the latter so before the start we always entertained the small crowd by stripping to the waist, and each time we were greeted by an audible "oooh" from the females.

Comments by Harry on 20th May 2018  

Andrea, I think it was school policy for the older boys and girls to wear shorts and vests.
Yes, we still changed together in class, but it was no problem for girls since all wore skirts at the time and they just put their shorts on under their skirt before taking it off.
As for boys I don't think it bothered any of us to take our school shorts off and put on our PE shorts.
However the rule still remained that if you forgot your PE kit you just did it in underpants, both boys and girls.

Like you mention there were a few girls who started to develop breasts in the final year, but I don't think they would have been prominent or big enough to require a bra, the vest would have been enough to hold them in place. :)

Did you always wear shorts and vests throughout primary for PE? What if someone forgot their PE kit?

Comments by John on 20th May 2018  

Simon S,

Would you have preferred it if there had been a shorts only rule for gym, cross country and basketball at your school. Lads could have worn different coloured bibs or sashes to differentiate teams and you would not have felt singled out by being picked to be on the skins team. I think it was much better not having to wear shirts for sports, hot sweaty shirts sticking to your back are not pleasant.

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.