I'm leaving my primary headship at the end of this year. Parents refuse to accept that I'd like my parting gift to be a donation to charity. What should I do?

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
Ted says

They are the givers, you are the receiver, so you both have rights.

Sensible give-and-take negotiation usually determines what should happen.

Try to understand the process from their point of view. They want to show their appreciation of you as a person and a professional, who has worked hard for their children, not raise money for a cause, however worthy.

Equally, you are entitled to state that you have done your job willingly and don't seek any favours. Perhaps you have a particular charity with which you have a strong connection and could explain why a donation to it would make you much happier than a personal present.

When people donate money they usually like to feel the satisfaction of giving something that is personal, however. Exactly the same applies to school fundraising. Ask parents or friends of the school to pay into a general anonymous pot and they jib. Invite them to raise money for a specific piece of equipment, or a facility that they can see, and they are much more positive.

They would really like to feel that you will buy a rocking chair, for example, so every time you sit in it, knitting socks for the underprivileged, you will think of the parents and children in your community. Even better if they can actually present you with it and have memento photographs of you, the gift and the event.

I suggest you make your point one more time and then gracefully accept the gift so generously offered. It is a real mark of professional success, and the esteem in which you are held, that they value you so much, and are not simply praying for some old trout to disappear. Accept the begoniaporcelain poodleMercedes with a smile.

You say

Well thought out

Turn a negative into a positive and choose a specific charity and a specific purpose to support. So, for example, you can purchase a "well for water" for India through Water Aid for pound;250. If the parents give you the money you can pay as an individual and it will only cost pound;195, plus tax relief. You might need to top up their contributions but, hey, what do you believe in? Tell them about this way in advance. Point out the benefits of a water well compared to a DVD player for you. Let the pupils in on your secret too and they will become advocates for your plan. More than likely the parents will go with this. Then share the cakes and wine you will still receive with your staff.

Peter Murphy, Basingstoke

Valued assets

A donation to a charity, although noble, can be impersonal as a present to someone who leaves and may, or may not, be in contact again. The parents'

response suggests that you are someone they value; as a result, they want to give you a memento of your service, something special which you can keep for years to come and which will remind you of them and their children. You have made your wish known, now let them decide.

Evi Simigdala-Hardalupas, London

Use some present sense

A gift can help keep the school, or people, alive in the memory of the leaver. Rejecting a gift and what it represents can feel like a rejection of those wanting to give. Accepting a gift might then be part of helping the school community come to terms with losing you.

However, if you are uncomfortable with receiving something, why not suggest an item you have been meaning to buy for yourself but not got round to, then make a donation yourself to charity of the price of the gift.

David Booker, Leicestershire

Coming up: No more hoods

"My school has followed the recent shopping centre ban on hooded tops with one of its own - even for pupils wearing them as outdoor coats. I think it's a waste of time." What do readers think? Email: dear.ted@tes.co.uk. We pay Pounds 40 for each answer used

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