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Teachers must be the only professionals who make donations to their employer, says Maria Corby

Teachers never smell quite as they want to. Mind you, they never have to buy their own soap. Their bathroom cupboards are stuffed with Christmas pudding-shaped bottles of bath oil, sickly-smelling novelties and unopened aromatherapy sets.

Other perks? There's not much in the stationery cupboard and what is in there is carefully rationed. Teachers know the value of notebooks and pencils and have fallen out over the last lump of Blu-Tack. As for nicking pens, it's easier to get a computer than your own pen in some schools and, anyway, teachers like that new stationery September feeling; you can see them in WHSmith in August fingering the furry pencil cases and picking up a multi-coloured pen that will do for the register and for colour-coded diary entries. This is the year they'll get organised.

According to a recent survey by the stationery company, Staples, pound;1.2 billion is pilfered from companies every year. Teachers (and teaching assistants) must be the only professionals who donate to their work. A sheet of wrapping paper here that will do for a display, a book found in a shop while on holiday, and a receipt lost - oh well. Cooking ingredients? Well, I can't charge the school for a bar of chocolate and Shredded Wheat for the Easter nests.

Then there's the fundraising. Each year at the summer fair, staff bake, stir and create to fill the cake and produce stall; they man the stall and, having brought their children along, give them a fiver to spend. At the end of the day, they're pound;20 worse off and have a jar of out-of-date piccalilli, a book that's already coloured in and their own jam sponge.

One year a parent was helping me on the cake stall; she had her three children with her who kept asking for money. She repeatedly took it from our takings for them to spend elsewhere. "It all goes the same way," she explained confusingly. Er, no. Or when Mrs Abbott did the tombola and made every straw a winner. She'd sold out in 10 minutes and cost the school pound;30.

Well, here's to fete committees everywhere; happy face painting, rat bashing, bunny naming and celebrity hunting to you all.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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