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Hello Kitty, your present is pants

Survey uncovers some startling gift experiences. Michael Shaw reports

The weirdest present Rebecca Heath has received so far from a pupil was a pair of bright red "Hello Kitty" pants.

Ms Heath, who teaches secondary maths in Hornby in Lancaster, said she was less offended by the choice of underwear than the fact they were a size 12 when she is a size eight.

"The pupils know I'm a fan of Hello Kitty. But the pants made me think, does my arse really look that big?" she said.

Ms Heath, aged 25, said she received many presents from her pupils and enjoyed showing them off in a pile in the staffroom.

The TES poll of 1,000 teachers in England and Wales suggests she is lucky.

While nine out of 10 primary teachers said they had received presents costing more than pound;1, only just over half of secondary teachers said the same.

But secondary school teachers got the most expensive gifts. The average cost rises from pound;8.58 for early-years teachers to pound;14.65 for those with post-16 students.

The most popular secondary teachers appear to be in English, 71 per cent of whom got presents, followed by those taking humanities, science, maths then ICT. The least popular were modern foreign language teachers, 56 per cent of whom got nothing at all last year.

According to teachers in the TES online staffroom, memorable gifts include: a grey lump of home-made soap; a teddy bear holding a card saying "from one horny devil to another"; an eerie porcelain doll inside a wicker cage; a brooch made from gold-spray-painted pasta; flavoured condoms; a pillow case with Johnny Depp's face printed on it; and a bottle of Scotch with security tag still attached.

The poll indicates that teachers in the north-east appear to be the most likely to receive presents, but those in London get the most expensive ones. Men prefer alcohol (21 per cent) to pupil cards, notes or drawings (19 per cent), with chocolates way down the list at 6 per cent.

Of the women, 27 per cent prefer home-made cards, followed by wine or champagne (15 per cent) and sweet things (14 per cent).

THE BEST AND THE REST

* Jim Goodall, a secondary science teacher from Torfaen: "I tell the pupils I don't drink, but they still give me bottles of wine."

* David Tyler, head of St Thomas's primary school, Swansea: "Maxine Horton, seven, always buys me a present.I don't know what she's got me this year but last year she bought me something very useful for defrosting the car windows in the morning."

* Neil Foden, head of Ysgol Friars, Bangor: "My dream present would be a BMW X5 but I'm not likely to get that. Cards are always nice and I get lots of them. At least they show the kids are thinking about you. Not everyone is in a position to give a present."

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