Put away your purse and pick up a pen if you want to show gratitude to a teacher

If you’ve spent a fortune on presents for teachers this year, you needn’t have bothered – when it comes to end-of-year gifts, it’s the thought that counts.

In a TES survey, teachers revealed that far and away their favourite present to receive at the end of a school year is a handwritten note. More than a quarter of respondents listed it as their top choice, well above the next most popular selection, which was – perhaps unsurprisingly – wine, beer and spirits, which about 10 per cent said they’d prefer. The top five was rounded out by gift certificates (9 per cent), and stationery, as well as chocolate and sweets (8 per cent).

So what is it about handwritten notes that teachers particularly treasure? One respondent to our survey said: “A thank-you card with a message from the child and/or parents has more sentimental value and shows that your hard work has been appreciated.” Others said they felt “awkward” or “uncomfortable” when presented with lavish gifts, with one teacher noting, “A simple thank you is just as appreciated as an expensive present, which most of the time is not something you would use yourself.”

Many teachers also said that they felt that pressure had been put on parents to purchase them presents, which took away from the meaning behind receiving a gift. One teacher told TES that she had been asked to donate towards a group gift for her son’s teachers, but always declined on principle – regardless of how good the teacher had been. “The people that ‘organise’ the collections do it to feel important and not out of any genuine need to give a thoughtful gift to the teacher,” she said.

The best gifts that teachers reported receiving included poetry, a poster of an astronaut (“I’d been claiming he was my secret husband all year,” the teacher involved explained) and a £3,000 bottle of vintage whisky.

As well as more conventional gifts, teachers also shared some of the more unusual presents they had received through the years. Some of the most bizarre included a fully wrapped single fruit Polo, a glittery gold rhinoceros and a belly dancing kit.

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