How an apple for teacher became Test tickets

Survey reveals 'increasingly commercialised and competitive' practice of offering gifts to Sir and Miss
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The Independent Online

The days when teachers could expect just a hand-written card or chocolates from their pupils as a present at the end of term are fast disappearing.

Instead, they are being showered with an ever-more bewildering array of expensive presents, including opera and Test match tickets, champagne – and even a brace of pheasants. One teacher was even promised a foreign holiday by a parent if he could get a child onto a music scholarship scheme run by Eton.

The glittering array of presents on offer is revealed in a survey of more than 1,000 teachers published today by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. It has prompted concerns, to be raised at the union's conference next week, that the custom has become "increasingly commercialised and competitive".

Teachers' leaders are worried that upping the stakes on presents for Sir and Miss are part of an attempt by some parents to ensure their child gets more attention in class.

"If you get offered a holiday, by parents are you under pressure to treat that child a bit more favourably?" asked Mary Bousted, the general secretary of ATL.

"Also, we don't want a situation where some parents feel that they must keep up with the Joneses.

"We don't want families on free school meals feeling coerced or stressed because they're feeling they've got to compete with these presents."

The survey revealed nearly half the teachers (47 per cent) received presents at least twice a year – mainly at the end of the academic year or at times of religious festivals.

Primary staff (82 per cent) were more likely to receive presents than secondary school teachers (36 per cent). State school staff were far less likely to receive alcohol (43 per cent) than independent school teachers (72 per cent). However, they were nearly twice as likely to receive a mug (43 per cent compared to 27 per cent). The survey revealed that most of the presents – even the most expensive ones – were still delivered to the teacher by the pupil.

The majority still cost under a fiver although one in 100 teachers reckoned the presents, on average, were worth more than £20. The majority of schools (59.1 per cent) did not have a policy on giving gifts to staff.

Chris Clarke, a classroom teacher in a state primary school, said: "Although I am very grateful that pupils and their parents appreciate what I do for them, I do feel that in our school there is a culture of present-giving that can become almost unhealthy. I make a point of especially praising those pupils who make gifts or cards rather than buy them."

Kathy White, a head of department in a further education college, added: "I think the pressure to give gifts to teachers has been increased by the card shops as at the end of the year there are a wide range of gifts."

In addition to tickets to prestigious events and champagne, other expensive gifts have included a Tiffany bracelet, £1,000 of gift vouchers, a Mulberry handbag and a Yves St Laurent scarf.

Some gifts, though, are still on the more modest side. One teacher reported receiving a 49p Somerfield half-eaten chocolate bar, another a ripped book with 10 pages missing and a third a second-hand photograph album with dog hair all over it.

Whatever happens, though, teachers do not want to bring an end to the present buying culture. "I think most teachers are really appreciative of token presents from parents or from pupils," said Dr Bousted. "They can be handmade which shows their appreciation of the work done. They don't want worryingly large presents."

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