Presents for teacher cause seasonal strain

23rd December 2011 at 00:00
The practice of giving school staff Christmas gifts is putting a financial burden on peer-pressured families

Teachers trudged home yesterday, laden with bunches of flowers, boxes of chocolates and assorted toiletry gifts from pupils.

But while many appreciate their pupils' generosity, concerns are growing that parents are competing with each other to spend increasing amounts on Christmas presents for their children's teachers - in some cases in the hope that it will curry favour.

Research by the Teacher Support Network, published this month, suggests that at a time of economic hardship, some teachers feel uncomfortable with the amount being spent on gifts for them.

The survey revealed that one in 10 teachers feels awkward when receiving presents from their pupils, and 9 per cent feel embarrassed.

The study cited research by Debenhams last year, which claimed that the average amount spent by families on end-of-term gifts was pound;50, with some spending from pound;100 to pound;300. Supermarkets such as Tesco and card shops such as Clinton's are also cashing in on the trend with special ranges of Christmas gifts and cards for teachers.

Louise Gough, Midlothian representative on the National Parent Forum for Scotland, told TESS the pressure to give teachers presents had increased in recent years, despite some schools discouraging the practice.

With five children of her own, as well as foster children, she would spend "at least pound;100" on teachers at Christmas.

"I always valued the work the teachers did and wanted to show my appreciation, but it has spiralled out of control. It had a big financial implication for us," she said.

Three of her children are still at primary school, so she buys presents for three teachers, three teaching assistants, three school secretaries, as well as the headteacher and the lollipop man.

There was agreement among other parents, she said, that there exists "a playground pressure" among parents about what they are getting the teacher.

"One parent said she pictures teachers getting 30 bottles of bubble bath. I don't think anybody gets bubble bath any more - it's much more than that," said Mrs Gough.

Two or three years ago, her children's primary tried to discourage parents from buying presents for teachers. But this had not had a lasting effect because of parental peer pressure. Some parents had also told her they hoped "the better a present they were getting the teacher, the better their child would be liked".

"Parents are relieved when their children go to high school, because they no longer feel the pressure to give," Mrs Gough added.

She wants to see the issue raised in the National Parent Forum for Scotland.

Pam Nesbitt, headteacher of Barnhill Primary in Dundee and president of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said: "Especially in an area of deprivation, I can understand some teachers maybe feeling awkward. But you have to appreciate it's a personal choice, not an expectation. In my experience, it is usually a token gesture."

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said her organisation recommended keeping any gifts "small and personal".

"Excessive spending is unnecessary and potentially embarrassing for the recipient. We suggest that a hand-made card or small item would express appreciation," she said.

What teachers said they got

- a Cath Kidston designer bed - "for my dog"

- special teacher mugs

- ties

- chocolates

- Dr Martens boots

- body lotion

- lipstick

- home-made food

- a Cross pen worth pound;100

What children said they gave

- a turkey - killed by the pupil herself

- crocheted Christmas tree decorations

- a Raspberry Pi computer worth pound;15.

Origional headline: Presents for teacher pile on seasonal strain for parents

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