Should Christmas in schools be banned?

gift giving in schools
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 top 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 Scrouge 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. For these and many other life-changing or life-saving gifts, see
  • The environmentally conscious can adopt an animal from an endangered species via or a whale or dolphin via
  • You can protect an acre of the rainforest at, or
  • Closer to home, you can sponsor a tree through All these send certificates to mark the gift.
  • There are also some shoe box appeals, although some have had some bad press due to the evangelical approach they take.

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?


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  • I’m not keen on gift giving at all. I think (like so many other ‘seasonal’ events through the year, it’s become assumed that every event is about giving presents. We didn’t do it when we were at school, and there was probably more respect between pupils to their teachers than there is now. Last year I felt pressured to get N’s teacher something because N had settled in well, but then there was the teaching assistant, and now this year he’s straddling 2 classes so that’s 4 people in theory to buy for. 4 people I don’t know, and don’t want to spend £5 on vs spending that money on creating memories over the Christmas holidays. I also find it hard when the teachers don’t say thank you – I’m not sure what they said directly to N, but when you’re trying to teach kids an appropriate method of thanks and writing thank you letters, not seeing thanks from others is hard to explain.
    I just remember a primary teacher friend of mine who had 2 kitchen cupboards full of chocolates, picture frames, mugs, plants, wine, toiletries etc that she was never going to use. This year I’m not planning to buy anything, but hopefully N will make them cards or draw pictures for them.
    (I do a weekly #schooldays linky, which opens on Sundays for a week, so do come and link up if you fancy it)

    • 5sc1

      Great to meet you Emma!
      I find it very hard when there are no thanks given. I had it when I was a HT & as a school governor when as chair I sent a card to every teacher.
      It can become very much a competition & our children get caught up in it. Perhaps the answer is for school to outline what it thinks is appropriate.
      I’ll check out the linky!

  • I love your alternative ideas. Much better than the current. I have no experience of teacher to pupil giving and it’s not something I’d support. Yes, there are communities and families in which children get little at Christmas but I don’t agree that school should give children presents. Christmas should be about something broader than ‘gifts’. School is a great place to reinforce that. There are children who don’t celebrate Christmas, a Christmas gift can be awkward for them to receive.
    Call me grinch, but I’m not keen on teacher gifts at Christmas, a ‘thank you’ at the end of term, seems enough. Like you say, some people have 3 or 4 children at the school.

    • 5sc1

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts Gemma. I had no idea of the alternative other than a shoe box which has had some very bad press

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