29 March 2010

What happened to an apple for the teacher?

According to the (UK) Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), pupils no longer just give apples to teachers. From media release
From half eaten chocolate bars to a brace of pheasants - present giving is alive and well in UK schools - ATL
26 March 2010

From bizarre ornaments and recycled toiletries, to opera tickets and champagne, giving presents to thank education staff for their efforts, or to celebrate religious festivals, is alive and well. Over 90% of school and college staff have received a gift from a pupil or their parent or guardian, according to a new survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Forty-seven per cent of staff receive gifts twice a year and 66% of presents were given directly by a pupil, rather than by their parent or guardian. 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 of the gifts were under £5 (58%) or between £5 and £10 (37%). Overall the most popular gift for staff were chocolates with 85% having received some. Other popular presents include flowers or plants (53%), alcohol (49%), toiletries (48%) and mugs (38%).

Primary staff are more likely to receive presents more than once a year (82%), than secondary school staff (36%). Meanwhile, state school staff are far less likely to receive alcohol (43%) than their independent counterparts (72%). But they are nearly twice as likely to be given a mug (43%), than staff at an independent school (27%).

Most institutions do not have a policy on the receiving of gifts (59%), and many staff choose to open their presents in class (41%) or take them home (41%).

The most popular gifts among staff were personalised items such as paintings done by a student of their teacher, or hand-made jewellery and cards.

Some staff have received expensive gifts, with one being given a Tiffany bracelet, another tickets to an England cricket Test Match, and another £1,000 of gift vouchers. Other extravagant presents included; a Mulberry handbag, a Yves St Laurent scarf, champagne, a brace of pheasants, and theatre vouchers. One primary teacher in an independent school commented: "One parent bought me £200 of Opera House vouchers".

Some of the strangest gifts reported included a 49p Somerfield half eaten chocolate bar, a ripped book with 10 of the last pages missing, and "a second hand photo album with dog hair all over it".

Chris Clarke a classroom teacher in a primary state school, 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."

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. 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. This is priceless!"

Mr Roberts, an NQT at a state secondary school, commented: "I received a Christmas card from one of my year 8's this year, I stuck it on the wall, and then another child who hadn't got me a card drew a Santa on the back of an envelope with "Happy Christmas from ____ " written on it. I was just as appreciative and it was stuck next to the bought card."

A female teacher in an independent secondary school, said: "I've only just moved back to independent from maintained. Very few presents are now given in secondary compared to when I started teaching 20 years ago, and yet the expectation is that you buy your tutor group treats at end of each term."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, 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."

Further notes:
ATL surveyed over 1,016 primary, secondary, and further education staff working in state and independent schools and colleges in the UK between 15 February and 12 March 2010.

To view the full survey results click here
When I was in primary (elementary) school, the teachers only received cheap toiletries (after shave or perfume and other cheap fancy soaps) and only for Christmas presents. Occasionally an apple. Surely at any other time, a gift to a teacher could be construed as a bribe.

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