Page last updated at 08:24 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Teacher presents 'competitive', says union

An apple
The days of apples for presents are gone

Giving presents to teachers is becoming increasingly commercialised and competitive, a teachers' union warns.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) says pupils and parents should not feel pressurised into buying end-of-term gifts for their teachers.

In a survey of 1,000 of its members, the ATL found 93% had received gifts.

The most popular present was chocolate (85% of gifts), but one teacher was given opera tickets, another Test match tickets and another champagne.

The survey revealed some particularly lavish gifts, which included:

• A Tiffany bracelet

• A Mulberry handbag

• A brace of pheasants

But not every teacher was so fortunate. One received a half-eaten chocolate bar, while another was given a ripped book with pages missing.

And one teacher reportedly received "a second-hand photo album with dog hair all over it".

In our school there is a culture of present-giving that can become almost unhealthy
Chris Clarke, teacher

After chocolates, flowers or plants were the most popular gift (53%), followed by alcohol (49%) and toiletries (48%).

The most common time of year to receive a gift was at the end of the academic year (70%), followed by religious festivals such as Christmas, Hanukah or Eid (63%).

Most schools and colleges (59%) did not have a policy on gifts from pupils, the ATL survey found.

On Monday, ATL members will debate a motion at their annual conference in Manchester on whether the practice of giving gifts has become too competitive.

Primary school teacher Chris Clarke said: "Although I am very grateful that pupils and their parents appreciate what I do for them, I do feel that in our school there is a culture of present-giving that can become almost unhealthy.

"I make a point of especially praising those pupils who make gifts or cards rather than buy them."

Pressure from shops

Kathy White, a head of department in a further education college, said: "I think the pressure to give gifts to teachers has been increased by the card shops as at the end of year there are a wide range of gifts.

If the gift is expensive then it obviously came from the parent and in my opinion can be classed as a bribe

"The best 'gift' I have ever received is a card made by a group of learners where each contributed, adding how I had changed their lives and how my belief in them had motivated them."

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "Although most staff like getting presents from their pupils to show their hard work is appreciated, they don't expect them.

"Staff certainly don't want their pupils to feel they have to give presents and feel humiliated if they can't afford to do so.

"Staff are just as delighted by a handmade gift or card - the thought really does count."

The ATL surveyed 1,016 primary, secondary and further education staff in February and March.

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