WELL, did your teacher friend/relative/neighbour receive a designer handbag as an end-of-term gift this summer?
According to reports, teachers at some UK fee-paying schools are being handed extravagant gifts by pupils, in a trend driven by hugely wealthy foreign parents.
Witnesses have reported seeing “boxes and boxes of Prada and Chanel” outside the headteacher’s office at one west London private school. Indeed, apart from £1,000 handbags, diamond necklaces and free use of the family villa and even private jet, presents at some of these schools have included cases of vintage wine, tablet computers, Savile Row suits and items from luxury brands like Smythson, Hermès and Fortnum and Mason.
One mother admitted that she invested in expensive gifts to ensure her son was “always on the teacher’s radar; I expect him to come home and say he was well looked after.” At schools like her son’s where pupils are the offspring of Russian oligarchs or hedge fund supremos, expensive personal gifts are in addition to the class gift to which each parent is expected to contribute.
So much for gift-giving in some private schools in upmarket parts of the country like London’s Knightsbridge, Holland Park and Notting Hill. All yummy mummy territory. But it’s not restricted just to fee-paying schools. In some state primary schools, teachers and teaching assistants regularly receive end-of-term gifts, many of which go beyond token offerings. Collections among parents have been known to include vouchers running into hundreds of pounds.
Now, in the same way that party bags have become the bane of many a parent’s life, this further instance of the gifting culture is fast becoming a form of competition, of one-upmanship – basically an industry, which wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a market for it.
But surely common sense should prevail here. Alarm bells should have rung way back and a policy spelled out to parents that a simple thank-you note will do. After all, there’s a world of difference between a thank-you note or maybe something home-made and a Cartier watch or a wodge of cash behind closed doors…
Wow, when I was at school, the most a teacher could hope for was the odd box of chocolates or pot plant from one of the girls; the boys never gave anything. Ever.
Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback /eBook (€0.89;£0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca