A pair of big redpants for teacher

An Incredible Hulk tie? A brooch made of pasta? Probably not what you've always wanted. Michael Shaw on bizarre Christmas gifts from pupils.

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 that 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 students and enjoyed putting all her gifts in a pile in the staffroom.

The TES poll of 1,000 teachers in England and Wales conducted by MORI (page 1) suggests she is lucky to get so many.

While nine out of 10 primary teachers said they had received presents costing more than pound;1, just six in 10 secondary teachers could say the same.

But the average cost of the most expensive present rises from pound;8.58 for early-years teachers to pound;14.65 for those with post-16 students.

The most popular secondary staff appear to be English teachers, 71 per cent of whom got presents, followed by those taking humanities, science and maths, then ICT. Least popular were language teachers.

The poll indicates that teachers in the North-east are most likely to receive presents, but teachers in London get the most expensive ones. It also reveals some differences in taste between male and female staff (see box, above right).

The gifts typically cost less than pound;1 per student, with some schools providing teachers with pound;20 per class from their budgets.

Private schools were not included in the poll, but the response from those contacted separately suggested that some parents and pupils were especially generous: the receptionist at Bedford school got a day at Champney's health spa.

Prudence Lynch, head of Kensington prep in London, said it was common for her teachers to receive wine or luxury toiletries, but that fee-paying parents also gave home-made gifts such as embroidered handkerchiefs.

Teachers on the TES online staffroom have recalled many creative, not to say bizarre, presents.

Memorable gifts included: a small, 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 the security tag still attached.

TES online discussions also indicate that teachers are increasingly likely to buy small, cheap presents for pupils in their tutor group or from class such as chocolates, cards, class photos and stationery.

Teachers are also increasingly likely to buy gifts for their classroom assistants, as they play a bigger role in schools. But some assistants said they were frustrated when parents neglected them.

Classroom assistant "pipsqueak" asked the online staffroom: "Don't you feel a bit cheesed off when parents give teacher a really nice present, but the classroom assistant a mini-box of Celebrations?

"It might sound a bit churlish, but it's usually the parents of children who I have worked with more than the teacher has."

Christine McAnea, Unison's national secretary for education staff, said teachers should share presents with assistants. "It would be a nice gesture," she said. "Though obviously it will be difficult to share some presents, like a bottle of perfume"

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

LEADER 14,Give us a break 15 www.tes.co.ukstaffroom


Most wanted

Female teachers

Card, note or drawing by pupil: 27 per cent

Bottle of wine, Champagne or spirits: 15 per cent

Chocolates or sweets: 14 per cent

Flowers or a plant:4 per cent

Male teachers

Bottle of wine, Champagne or spirits: 21 per cent

Card, note or drawing by pupil: 19 per cent

Chocolates or sweets: 6 per cent

Books: 5 per cent

Most disliked

Female teachers

Ornaments (vases, photo frames, candles): 19 per cent

Chocolates or sweets: 15 per cent

Perfume, aftershave, bubblebath or soap:8 per cent

Male teachers

Chocolates or sweets: 9 per cent

Ornaments (see above): 7 per cent

Clothing (socks, tie, gloves, scarf):6 per cent


Mick Brookes, National Association of Head Teachers' general secretary:

"I've got a bear with My Best Teacher on it in my office. And I received a brace of pheasants from some generous parents when I taught in Hampshire, complete with the lead shot.

"The only one I ever refused was from a pupil who had a tendency for mischief. He gave me a coconut macaroon and when I told him I'd eat it later he said 'Oh no - you have to eat it now'. I have no idea what was in it."

Richard Walmsley, head of Newnham middle school in Bedford: "The worst was a stuffed mongoose fighting a snake, which I was given when I was teaching in the United Arab Emirates. It was from an Indian pupil and must have been smuggled in.

"The best present was also in the UAE. A pupil gave me a note for a free car service at his father's garage. His father hadn't been told about it, but he honoured it anyway. The work must have cost more than pound;200."

Mary Bousted, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary:

"When I taught English, I once told my pupils that I hadn't marked their homework because the lights had gone in my study.

"At the end of term an 11-year-old boy gave me a pair of lightbulbs which he had wrapped in Christmas paper- and offered to come round my house to put them in."

Carl Lewis, science teacher at Turves Green girls school in Birmingham: "I was given my first tie by a pupil about seven years ago and I've been getting them ever since - there are more than 100 now in my collection.

"The louder the better. I've had Christmassy ties, Halloween ties, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Incredible Hulk. The Austin Powers tie is a favourite because it was from a group of girls I never thought would give me a present."

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