It is one of the most pressing problems as schools prepare to break up for the summer holidays: what to buy your child’s teacher as an end of term present? Should it be a mug, a home-made card... or a brace of pheasants?
Competitive parents who want to give the best present have raised the stakes in classrooms across the country. Teachers have reported being given strange and extravagant gifts including a Tiffany bracelet, £200 of opera house vouchers and a brace of pheasants.
Other extravagant presents included a Mulberry handbag, an Yves St Laurent scarf and gift vouchers worth £1000.
Concern has also been raised about the trend towards class-wide presents where every child is asked to contribute £5 or £10 towards one large gift from the whole class.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned that teachers gift-giving was becoming over commercialised and competitive and said that teachers’ most treasured gifts were cards or pictures made by pupils.
The ATL said the most popular gifts among staff were personalised items such as paintings done by a student of their teacher, or hand-made jewellery and cards.
Alison Sherratt, the ATL president who was a reception teacher at a primary school in Yorkshire for 30 years until last August, said: “I think it depends very much on the school and the area you are in. I have heard of colleagues receiving very expensive gifts like jewellery or perfume but I don’t think that is the norm.
"Parents certainly shouldn’t feel pressure to buy a gift. One of the most precious gifts I ever received was a tiny key ring of an elephant wearing a vest saying “My Best Teacher” from a little boy I taught.”
The most common gift for teachers is chocolates, with 85 per cent of staff having received some, a survey for the union found. Other popular presents were flowers or plants, alcohol, toiletries and mugs. Most presents cost less than £5 and the vast majority less than £10.
Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of ATL, said: “Although most staff like getting presents from their pupils to show their hard work is appreciated, they don’t expect them. Staff certainly don’t want their pupils to feel they have to give presents and feel humiliated if they can’t afford to do so.
“Staff are just as delighted by a handmade gift or card – the thought really does count.”
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