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For Miss, with love

We reveal the best and worst end-of-term gifts. Coconuts and knickers - how times change

IN AN age when teachers compete with mobile phones and iPods for their pupils' attention, an apple for teacher seems a quaint concept from a bygone age.

The image of a grateful child shyly presenting teacher with a carefully chosen Christmas gift, as a sign of gratitude and affection, has been replaced by truculent youngsters asserting their rights - or has it?

In a straw poll, The TESS has found the tradition of festive gifts for teachers burns brightly in Scottish schools.

Sexy underwear or a coconut may be misguided choices, but it's the thought that counts. Most recipients were keen to stay anonymous when they told us about their best and worst presents - perhaps afraid they might get more.

Our research uncovered that primary teachers tended to receive more presents than secondary teachers, and that affluent, rural areas produced more gifts than deprived inner-city catchments.

However, working at a school in a wealthy area did not prepare one primary teacher for receiving a diamond ring. It turned out to be the pupil's mother's engagement ring.

A teacher in East Renfrewshire faced a different dilemma: "A Primary 7 girl presented me with a gift saying, 'Miss, it's underwear.' It turned out to be rather scanty! I returned it to the shop. It wasn't the sort of thing a middle-aged teacher would wear."

The most common present seemed to be toiletries, although teachers get a little sniffy when presented with cans of deodorant. As one said: "I start to wonder if I have a hygiene problem."

On our website, teachers have been posting their best and worst presents.

One said he received a coconut, inspired, he believes, by his tendency to say: "Give that boy a coconut!" when given a correct answer.

But some presents are more welcome. At one rural west coast school, teachers receive a fruit cake each Christmas from a farmer's wife with children at the school.

Chocolates, wine, whisky and shortbread are all popular choices. But the gifts that touched hearts most were home-made. In particular, poems written by pupils are guaranteed a place on the mantelpiece at home.

One teacher said: "The one I loved the most was an acrostic poem of my name, outlining all the more memorable events of the child's year with me.

It made me cry with laughter - and that's the best gift anyone can give."

Local authorities generally leave it up to individual teachers to judge what it is appropriate to accept from pupils, although Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, points out that most presents will be bought by parents, alcohol in particular.

Mrs Gillespie says: "I think it's nice to give teachers something at the end of the year to say 'thank you' if they've been particularly helpful - rather than simply an apple. Although, given today's healthy eating messages, perhaps the class should club together and buy a fruit basket."

The days of an apple for teacher may be on the way back.

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