Oh for a goat or a water pump

TES survey reveals most teachers would prefer ethical end-of-term gifts from pupils. Adi Bloom reports

Most teachers would like to receive a goat this week.

Staff say that rather than the usual flowers and alcohol with which pupils and their parents reward them for a year's hard work, they would prefer to be given an ethical gift.

A TESUnicef survey of 90 teachers reveals that more than half would rather receive cows and chickens for families in developing countries, as well as books, shoes and other basic necessities for struggling communities.

Fifty-seven per cent of teachers said they would most like to receive a present that benefits children in the developing world - almost 10 times as many as those who want end-of-year standards such as beauty products or a photo frame.

In particular, teachers said they wanted to have village water-pumps and mosquito nets bought in their name. John Adams, head of religious education at All Saints Catholic comprehensive, in east London, believes ethical giving helps to avoid the awkwardness of well-intentioned but ultimately misguided end-of-term tributes.

"I generally get beer-related presents," he said. "Pupils seem to think that because I'm a large, stout gentleman, that's what I'll appreciate.

It's kind of embarrassing getting gifts from children. You don't like to feel beholden to them. If they buy an ethical gift, it's not really for the teacher. It's just a good deed the teacher will appreciate. It takes the embarrassment out."

Almost a fifth of teachers questioned had less altruistic tendencies, saying they would most like to receive a bottle of wine. Ten per cent said their preferred gift was a box of chocolates.

Margaret Monaghan, head of Year 7 at Archbishop Beck comprehensive, in Liverpool, said that pupils like to feel they are giving something directly to the teacher.

"Many teachers would be happy with a goat, but that idea would have to be planted beforehand," she said. "Pupils want to give something personal, to say thank you. We get wine, chocolates, soap sets. One teacher got a Robbie Williams CD. She's in her early 30s, and that's what the parents thought someone in her 30s would like."

Mick Murphy, head of Corpus Christi primary, in Wolverhampton, agreed. He encourages ethical giving, but does not try to influence pupils' choice of gifts.

"It's spontaneous," he said. "If you start saying what you want, it defeats the point. Children tend to give things that they would want, things that are special to them. So I've been given small toys and racing cars. But it's the old cliche: it's the thought that counts."

But it seems that is only true up to a point: just 2.3 per cent of teachers surveyed said they would like to receive an ornament from a grateful pupil.

Mr Adams' most memorable gift was a porcelain hand. He thinks it was intended to keep rings on.

"It was the grossest thing," he said. "I wouldn't give it to my grandmother. For whatever reason, they'd misinterpreted my desire for knick-knacks. I put my rosary on it in the end. Hey-ho. It's the spirit of giving that matters. We love ethical gifts, but they're not in our pupils'

price range."

The TES survey showed that two-thirds of teachers receive presents worth between pound;1 and pound;5. A quarter receive presents worth pound;6 to pound;10. Ethical gifts tend to start at about pound;12.

Two-thirds of teachers receive between one and 10 presents each year, while almost a quarter receive between 11 and 20 gifts.

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

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Adi Bloom

I am one of the reporters at the TES, specialising in educational research, eating disorders, sex education, gender issues and, worryingly, teachers who appear on reality TV.

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