It's that time again. With the end of the school year comes sports days, talent shows and, of course, the expectation of stumping up a gift. It may not technically be a requirement but, nowadays, few self-respecting parents would dare turn up on the last day of term without a little something to show appreciation for the teacher's efforts throughout the year.
The problem is, it isn't just the teacher, but the teaching assistant and, at least at my children's primary school, the small army of support staff. Surely it can't be reasonable to supply a gift for everyone? Yet evidence shows that parents increasingly feel obliged to shell out.
A survey by the parents' forum Netmums found that 27 per cent felt "pressured" to buy end-of-term gifts, while only 13 per cent chose not to adhere to the practice. At some schools, parents have reported a culture which has led to them spending more on gifts than they would have liked and, last year, an article in Tatler exposed a trend for buying such excessively high-value presents as Tiffany bracelets, designer handbags and opera tickets.
The phenomenon has been blamed on independent schools taking more foreign students whose cultures allow for lavish shows of appreciation. It has resulted in some having to place a cap on the value of gifts, with parents' attention being reproachfully drawn to the Bribery Act of 2010.
Behind this extravagance is the notion of trying to buy favour and, as Tatler found, it sometimes works, with children offering the best presents receiving preferential treatment. Teachers' organisations, however, have firmly denied any suggestion that their members can be bought and dismissed the idea that bribery is a real problem.
Most teachers express embarrassment at receiving high-value gifts, saying they prefer something inexpensive or home-made, though a list of "worst presents" includes a half-drunk bottle of wine, a Twix and a bunch of flowers with the reduced sticker still on.
For parents tasked with buying end-of-term gifts, this is generally a chore. Most are happy with the notion of saying thanks, but struggle for an appropriate way of doing this - you don't want to provide insult, but neither are you keen to blow the budget on treating Mrs Smith to tea at The Ritz. Here are a few suggestions of presents which, if not exactly PC, might at least raise a smile:
Why go for the obvious bottle when you can give wine in a cardboard handbag? Perfect for going out straight from school, this should ensure that Miss never goes short of a drink. After dealing with kids all day, she probably needs one.
Crafting with Cat Hair
This inspired book is ideal for the teacher with a love of both art and animals. Learn how to decorate things like badges, hats and portraits using something you thought was just a nuisance.
You can't like all teachers and maybe this could be a subtle hint that they haven't passed muster. Aimed at providing a reality check, these are 13 black cookies, each containing an insulting message.
Mouse Taxidermy Kit
Ideal for any biology teacher who loves to take their work home. Based on traditional Victorian taxidermy, the kit contains everything you need except the mouse - though, helpfully, includes a list of ethical suppliers.
Emergency Nap Kit
We all know teachers use the store cupboard for having 40 winks, so why not make it easier with this purpose-designed kit? Includes an inflatable mattress and a full-length sleep suit.
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