The Perils of Christmas Gift Giving in Schools

Should Christmas in schools be banned?

I don’t mean getting rid of Christmas but I have been thinking about presents and I was wondering if there should be a policy about gift giving in schools.

Now, this may sound like policy writing gone mad, like in the good old days that if it moved you wrote a policy about it. I don’t mean that and actually, the term policy is probably the wrong one. I mean more about having an understanding. Schools are communities and in communities, we like to show our appreciation often with a card or a gift. At this time of year, more so than at the end of the school year, there is a great deal of present buying going on and I just wonder if it is all appropriate.

Pupil to teacher

This is where most gift giving occurs. In a recent chat over on Facebook, teachers were explaining their delight at getting a gift whilst some were concerned that parents were not really able to afford a gift, especially if they had 3 & 4 children at the school. In affluent areas it can almost be a competition between parents to see who can buy the best teacher gift. I have known of teachers pre-empting the Christmas thank you by dropping hints of what their favourite wine or chocolate is whilst others visit the local charity school soon after school finishes to hand over many of the tokens they have received.

Teacher to pupil

Again, from the Facebook chat, it would appear that some schools provide a budget for class teachers to buy a small something for each child. In one special school that budget was £10 per child but of course, there would not be many in each class.

One teacher pointed out, however, how difficult self-funding from the teacher was. If you have say 25 in your class and only spent a £1 each that is £25 to you but what can you buy for £1 as a gift that doesn’t look ‘naff’?

Staff to staff

In many schools, it is a tradition for teachers to say thank you to their teaching assistants or admin staff and of course, gifts will be exchanged between friends on the staff.

But what about senior leaders thanking staff? Some heads buy chocolates and a card. I used to make sure hubby and I went on a day trip to France so that I could buy plenty of bottles of wine. They looked nice in pigeon holes with a bow for all staff and hadn’t cost me a fortune. Sadness was when some didn’t say thank you in return.

Where do governors fit in? After all, they are volunteers and don’t even get a salary for their efforts. Who says thank you to them?

It can get very complicated and expensive.

Possible alternatives

Gift giving in schools can be a really difficult tussle for people with wanting to say thank you, wanting to not appear a Scrooge but not being a millionaire. So what are the alternatives?

There are several alternatives that provide the opportunity for children to give to others:

Via Oxfam, you can buy someone a flock of chickens or a camel, or textbooks or dinners for a third world school.

The environmentally conscious can adopt an animal from an endangered species via WWF or a whale or dolphin via WDCS

You can dedicate an area of woodland or a tree through the Woodland Trust. All these send certificates to mark the gift.

Does gift giving in schools need a policy?

As you can see, Christmas thank yous can be a minefield of concerns. So, maybe a policy is the way to go. How would your parents and staff feel if they were discouraged from buying presents but encouraged to give to one of the many alternatives in the school’s name?

What is your approach to saying thank you?

This blog post originally appeared on Julia Skinner's blog, The Head's Office, as Should Christmas in schools be banned

Have a great time at your work party do but be sure to read The Ultimate Work Dos and Don'ts Christmas Party Guide before you set off.

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