Jayne h


Are teachers' presents a waste of money?

Do you buy gifts as a show of gratitude for a job well done?

Are teachers' presents a waste of money?

Walk into any gift shop now and you are faced with a wall of special gifts for teacher.

A bookmark for the “best teacher in the world”; a teddy; a mouse mat; keyring.

Do you like buying a gift at the end of the year for your child’s teacher? Or do you feel you are under pressure to buy that box of chocolates or bottle of wine because you see other parents doing the same?

A change of opinion

I admit I was one of those who slavishly bought an end-of-year gift when I saw parents striding onto the playground, armed with bouquets and lavishly wrapped gifts, despite not agreeing with it.

But my attitude changed a few years ago when I spotted, as I helped the PTA to wrap tombola prizes, that a small gift that I’d bought for one teacher had been “regifted”.  There were also discarded gifts to staff that still had the gift label on them.

I know teachers aren’t being ungrateful, but it proved what a waste of money it is.

Last year, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers even urged parents not to feel obliged to buy gifts, citing over-the-top Tiffany bracelets and a Mulberry handbag among teachers’ hauls.

Michelle, a primary school teacher, agreed that gift buying at the end of the school year was unnecessary.

It's the thought that counts

As nice as it is to receive gifts, I always feel really bad for those children who haven't had the opportunity to provide a gift even though you can see that they really wanted to,” she says.

Another teacher, who asked not to be named, also admitted that he often donates gifts to the charity shop.

"A bottle of wine was always nice, but the bunnies with ‘best teacher ever’ are meant well but they just feel like a waste of money,” he says. “The occasional gift from certain children is valued if you can sense the thought that has gone into it. It’s not the same for the tenth packet of Tesco Value Walnut Whips.”

Lucy’s mother has been a teacher for 40 years and while she loves receiving handmade cards, often gives away the soap, wine, chocolates and mugs.

One parent said she complained to her school when it was suggested that each donated £15 per child for gifts so that gifts for all staff could be purchased.

Another parent, Ali, said parents should not feel obliged to buy. "If you feel like they have done a great job and so do your children, great get them a present but if they haven't hit the mark or your child can't stand them then really I don't think you should feel you have to buy them anything,” she adds.

And Melanie says: "I find that a lot of parents go over the top. It is better if it is a joint gift from all parents.”

What do you think?


  • Small_blank

    21 July, 2011

    My thoughts as a retired Head teacher :A home-made card is so much nicer in many ways because it has taken time to thank you for your time. Flowers are always nice but perhaps the occasional bunch during the year when it is appreciated rather than being part of the annual 'contest'

  • Linda


    Linda Jones, Editor

    21 July, 2011

    I like this post, makes me feel so much better about all the times I've wanted to buy a present but not been organised enough to make it happen. :)

  • Ellen


    Ellen Arnison

    21 July, 2011

    I must confess I've never bought a teacher a present. I think it's much less of a thing in Scotland (unless I just haven't noticed).
    I have written personal notes to members of school staff that I wanted to thank, but that's it. My kids never asked to take gifts, so I never bothered.
    That said a friend of mine was telling me the other day that her son insisted on giving his teacher a box of chocolates and offered to pay out of his own money if mum wouldn't cough up. I think my friend has a boy to be proud of.

  • Parklover


    Kath Horwill

    21 July, 2011

    Ellen, I can tell you I'd miles rather get a personal note, or just someone saying thankyou, than a box of chocs any day.
    I'm a high school teacher so it's rather different and pressies are a rarity due to the number of teachers children have. It's nice when you get something, but it's the cards that are special.
    It's brilliant to get a card thanking you for your help and support, I've kept all of mine along with cards given to me by pupils when I've left the school.

  • Joanne


    Joanne Mallon

    21 July, 2011

    I often feel the teachers should be giving me a present for the allowing them the privilege of time with my marvellous children. At the very least I expect a card.

  • Picture?type=square
    Celia Wangler

    21 July, 2011

    Don't wish to sound cyical, but I'm always suprised that teachers are permitted to accept gifts from pupils - many other public sector workers are not. Surely a handmade card from the child is the real heartfelt gift - otherwise it just feels like trying to curry favour with the teacher.

  • Maggie


    Maggie Christie

    21 July, 2011

    I don't give end of year presents (although they do get something home made at Christmas). Instead my children make cards and write messages inside about what they really enjoyed about the school year.

    I agree with Celia that it suggests trying to curry favour with the teachers. It highlights those who can afford and those who can't and it's added stress for the busy.

    I once heard of a teacher with a cupboard dedicated to boxes of chocolates from her pupils. She'd hand them out to anyone who would take them. Since then I've steered clear of 'tokenism' and gone for the personal touch instead.

  • Small_blank


    Ready for Ten admin

    21 July, 2011

    My daughter is just coming to the end of year 1 and has had the same teacher in both years. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to her teacher for supporting her through what has been 2 very challenging years. She goes over and above what is required to make sure my little girl feels secure, happy and all her needs are met in class and in the playground, and for this we buy her a gift to say thank you. I have friends who are teachers who I know get overwhelmed with candles, wine, chocs and smellies, so I always try to find a gift I would consider useful. I may have different views at the end of next year :-)

    Ready for Ten Team

  • Jayne h



    21 July, 2011

    Thanks all for your comments so far (I hope I'm doing this the right way! I'm an RFT newbie as a contributor!). It has been really interesting to read your thoughts on this subject (particularly as I saw children struggling under the weight of the presents to give to their teachers today).

    It is particularly good to read from teachers that they like the handwritten cards and notes/homemade items - something that feels very personal. I hope others bear that in mind, especially if they feel they "should be" buying something, rather than they want to show their gratitude.

    Thank you all for reading and commenting.

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