End Of Term Presents: What To Buy A Teacher (And What Not To Buy!)

I'm coming up to eleven years as a primary school teacher and in that time I've had a fair few presents, both at the end of year and at Christmas. I have always been grateful for every single present, the fact that a child in my class (or their parent) valued the contribution that I had played to their education and wellbeing during the previous year means so much to me, and I would imagine to any teacher.

I'll state right now for the record that it is about the fact that I've been given a present, not what the present is, that counts. And I can say that with my hand on my heart because I am now in a position in my school where I don't receive any thank you presents any more. As I work part-time, I am one of those few members of staff known as PPA teachers: I cover the class while their own teacher is released once a week for planning, preparation and assessment time. As I am not there all the time, or am not the one to sort out arguments, listen to news, wipe tears or get the chance to build relationships, I'm not in the forefront of the children's (or parents') minds. Yes it hurts, it certainly did last year. I'd be lying if I said otherwise, but it's not deliberate and I know that.

I asked earlier on twitter if people were interested in knowing some present suggestions, but this time from a teacher, and I was swamped with a plethora of affirmations. As I've said, any present is welcome (especially for the lowly PPA teachers *sob*) but if you don't want to waste your hard-earned cash then here's some tips of what not to buy, and what is always appreciated.


  • Toiletries: This is top of my list because of all the toiletries that I've been given, I have never used a single one. Smellies are an incredibly personal thing to buy; you don't know if the teacher has an allergy or sensitivity, if they won't use anything that's been tested on animals, etc. I only use fragrance-free toiletries and they don't tend to make nice gifts. Toiletries are also quite an expensive present if you want to get something looking halfway decent. Don't waste your money on them.
  • Candles: You're probably wondering why this is a no-no? I've got a three year old, I can't light a candle with him around, can I? Most candles have fragrances attached, and let's face it that here you're getting into the territory that goes with toiletries. I'm not adverse to a cinnamon-scented candle, or vanilla, but my taste it different to someone else's. I have a box of 30+ candles (all presents) under the stairs which get used in case of a powercut and that is the only time.
  • 'Best Teacher' mugs: or calendars, teddies, notepads, mousemats, pencils, etc. It's fantastic that the child thinks that you are, of course it is, but there's only so many of those mugs I can use. Most end up in the staffroom cupboard stained with tea (because the staffroom sink is a disgusting thing that no normal human would touch if it was in someone's house) or as plant pots. I've only ever kept one of these, and that was one given five years ago by a girl who had painted it herself. They are cute for a 7 year old to give, but not for a grown adult to use.
  • Cash: Yes, seriously. I was once given £30 cash in a card. The card was beautiful, explaining how the girl's parents appreciated everything I'd done and how much support I'd given her, but it felt wrong. It felt like a 'tip' on the bedstead. Don't ask me why, I just wasn't comfortable with it. Added to the fact that it came from a woman who was actually one of my sister's longest friends, I just felt incredibly uneasy.

Always Welcome!

  • Chocolates: I know that they are a cliché but you'd be hard pressed to screw up with a box of chocolates. While I like mint chocolates, they aren't always a good thing to get: Heroes, Quality Street, Roses, etc. are a safe option. If your child wants to do a 'Best Teacher' message, this is a good place to do it. It's endearing and tasty, Thorntons do them on chocolate slabs.
  • Wine: I considered putting this in the 'no-nos' category too, because again it's quite a personal thing. Red, white, rosé, fizzy? It's an appreciated present, especially if it's a decent bottle, but it might be one that you want to do some reconnaisance on first. The best one I had was a bottle of pink champagne!
  • Flowers or plants: You can't really go wrong with a nice bunch of flowers, but not the ones that have been shoved in food colouring and come from a garage. Please? MummyMummyMum asked me earlier on twitter if a home-grown chilli plant would be ok, and I would say 'YES!' because it's different! A lavender plant, strawberry plant, something different and inventive like that is excellent!
  • Vouchers: I once had a voucher for a head massage, that was lovely! The other one I had was for an afternoon tea for two and I took my mum which she loved. Something purposeful like that is great.
  • Cake or home-made food: Some teachers would argue with me on this one because you can never guarantee the hygiene standard, but generally a home-made culinary present would go down a treat. I've seen some of the cakes that bloggers make and parcel up in those cardboard boxes from Asda, and they look fantastic and very thoughtful. I think my best present was a chocolate cake made my one of my favourite parents in my first school. She knew I loved the cake and cooked a huge slab for me, attaching an envelope with the recipe in it.
  • Coffee: I saw a wonderful idea from Domestic Goddesque who was responsible for collecting money in for a whole class present to teachers. She bought a resuable plastic coffee cup from Starbucks and a £10 gift card. On the sleeve around the cup she wrote 'Thanks' and placed the cup, the voucher and a packet of Oreo cookies into a cellophane gift bag for the teacher. (Obviously check the teacher is a coffee drinker first!)


I'd like to point out two more factors when it comes to buying a present:

  1. Find out something about the teacher, and base the present on that. Buying chocolates for a teacher who is dieting is not a good move, likewise buying wine for a pregnant teacher is a bit daft. Something personal and relevant to them is always best. Has she got pierced ears? Earrings probably aren't a good choice then.
  2. Know the staff! Your child is rarely taught by just one person; I bet there's a learning support assistant and a PPA teachers who works with them? I work with 350 of the 450+ children in my school, how many parents realise that? Does your child have extra support for English or Maths, or maybe they see someone to challenge them if they are More Able and Talented? There's a lot more staff who help your child than just the class teacher.

The best present is a card (possibly home-made) expressing how much appreciation you have for the work that the recipient has put into helping your child in that year. If I could have just one thing it would be a card that said, "Thank you for teaching me how to ….", I'd probably cry to be honest. A card which actually has more than 'To Miss/Mr/Mrs X/Y/Z (insert printed message here) from Johnny/Edna/Tabitha" that actually shows some thought has gone into it, is way better than the most expensive present.

Thanks to Domestic Goddesque for the use of the photograph.

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  1. says

    What a great post. I really hope it helps someone, it's certainly given me ideas for when the time comes.
    When I read that you work with 300 of the pupils I immediately imagined you surrounded by 300 'worlds best teacher' mugs. X

  2. says

    A really good summary I think, and you are right about the card as at the end of the day, all you want is a thank you as you are actually paid to do the job. Home made presents are nice too, my lot decorated porcelain frames from Baker Ross last year and he teachers liked them. Also as you said, it is often a number of staff who are involved throughout the year so how about some cakes/ biscuits/ chocolates for the staff room ( but maybe give them a couple of weeks before the end of term)

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      We are quite lucky in that some parents do give foodie items for the staffroom, biscuits don't last long in our staffroom with 45 members of staff!

  3. Jennypaulin says

    I just read the post from last year which you mentioned at the meal at Briitmumslive weekend. Can understand why you would have felt upset.
    This is a very useful post for parents with school aged children, good on yor for writing about it.
    I am with you on the and made card or drawing. I think this is much nicer and I would value it more too x

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Especially if it says more than just 'to' and 'from'. Thanks for understanding, I'm gearing myself up for this year.

  4. says

    I think my favourite would be cake or biscuits, all home made stuff! I'm a fan of cheesy mugs so I wouldn't mind one with "Best Teacher" on it :). Hope you get loads more than last year. I remember reading the post x

  5. says

    Oh yes – dodgy presents. I worked in a very wealthy are where I got numerous presents including a large rug, and a fifty pound voucher (yes I fel a bit uncomfortable too) to an inner city area where there was a theme of ornaments of funny animals from the pound shop. The worst I heard was my friend was given a thong set. Apparently she opened it in front of her gran and was really embarrassed.

    Im not personally a fan of boxes of chocolates because you always get far too many and I do try not to have any treats in the house as I can't resist them but thats probably just me. I tend to buy stationary for my daughters teachers as you can never have too many pens, and we do hyacinths at Christmas and a small Lindt chocolate egg at Easter. I never spend much but take ages writing a personal letter and I get Molly to make a card. I guess when you've been on the other side you know how hard a job it really is.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Just remembered, once had a really nice fountain pen too. A rug?! Just how random is that? And a tong set, why would you? Someone was talking on twitter the other day about how she was given an intimate massager, but the packaging was open and the batteries flat.

  6. says

    It sounds odd but one of my best teacher presents I received was a big tin of top notch Olive Oil! And a £30 boots gift card that the class parents all chipped into…only a quid each but soooo useful, I bought myself a nice bottle of perfume! I'm doing a days PPA from Sept so will be the 'invisible' teacher 🙁

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I didn't know that you were a teacher too. I'd love the olive oil, how cool would that be. Oh yes, I had a Green & Black's cook book as well. I think the £1 a child is a really good idea. If you struggle with the role of PPA, you know where I am. I've done it for two years now and it can be quite a lonely role, you're not in a year group or age phase team and there is an element of isolation.

  7. says

    I was given a bottle of Lambrini once, I wasn't quite sure what to think… One really nice one was a necklace from the most delightful 4 yr old you could ever come across, and he'd chosen it himself – he was so pleased about it when he gave it to me, it was just lovely!

    At my sister-in-law's school all the parents in the class club together to get vouchers for the teacher – she often gets a big stash of Monsoon vouchers which she loves!

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I thought I would as well until I had nothing for the first time ever in ten years. Quite upsetting to not have anything, and in that I do include a thank you and a hug.

  8. says

    Great post chick, thank you. I shall definitely be bearing this in mind with lil man's teachers, although I probably should do something for the pre-school staff at the end of term, hey? Homemade cupcakes it is then! :0)

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Homemade cupcakes would be perfect, always do a few more than you think you need because you'll have forgotten someone or other.

  9. says

    Fab post! and very helpful! Thank you. xx

    I always wondered about chocolates as I never know if the teacher might have an allergy to them, and the same with wine…what if she doesn't drink?

    I'm going to get Z to write a lovely card to his teacher, as she has been AMAZING!

    At Christmas i sent in a gift to Z's main teacher and the 4 assistants, but I probably missed someone.

  10. says

    Tough one. I've heard many parents agonise of this one. I must admit, I some times wonder do we really have to get pressies? What if you're not happy with a particular teacher. In my day we didn't do that and if you did it was because the teacher worked really well with your child during the time.

    Any one else feel like that? My son is still very young. I'm not sure which way I'll go when the time comes.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Of course you don't have to give presents at all, as I mention in the beginning of the post this is a 'if you want to and don't want to waste your money' helpful guide. I'm not sure if you're speaking from experience as a teacher or from when you were a child in school, but teachers nowadays give 110% 100% of the time. I'd always want to thank them for their work.

  11. says

    Totally agree with a lot of this. Definitely not to forget the support staff – I even have something small for the security guard who's stood outside the building rain or bloody hot for two year to protect my child for intruders.

    I actually like toiletries as I'm not fussy – I buy whatever's cheap in the supermarket so it all gets used. Flowers, on the other hand die after a few days and just create mess. I wouldn't want home cooked food for the reasons you mentioned but I'd get over the cash thing pretty quickly. And how many candles can a girl use in one lifetime?

    I once got a the most stupid present from a class – they bought a big fancy plain-paper hard-cover notebook (very nice and not cheap) and then each of the 20 children scribbled an emormous thankyou note on one of the pages, thereby wasting half the book and limiting the use of the rest of it. That was the most irritating present ever. I still think the girl who organised the whole thing knew exactly what she was doing as she had tried a number of extremely manipulative stunts during the year.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Why would they scribble all over it? How annoyingly wasteful! Working as support staff really opens your eyes up to it doesn't it? I will make note of all of them for The Boy in the future.

  12. says

    Having worked in schools I do tend to go for wine but find out what they like. The pregnant teacher (with her first) I opted for a pram toy. Great list thanks for sharing.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      A pram toy is an excellent idea. I think it can't be that hard to find an appropriate gift, surely?

  13. says

    We tend to do chocs for the staff room, and something special for M's class teacher (who is constantly dieting). I think this year we will do a plant with a hand painted pot. My in-laws are teachers and they say, if you're not sure, just send wine or chocs. In a large school, the teachers can do swapsies to get a decent haul of things they want. Last year, we got M's teacher a WHSmith gift card – it was only a £5 – but she was made up – said she would go and buy that trashy novel she'd been waiting for the holidays to get round to reading. Everyone else bought her chocs, so we were deffo the favourites! Great post with some lovely ideas.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I think a book voucher is a good idea, any vouchers are. I like the idea of your plant in a hand-painted pot.

  14. says

    Phew, reading your post is a relief. My daughter had her last day of preschool today and I bought each of the 4 teachers a hydrangea. Good to know plants are a good present. No such worries when she goes to primary, the school organises a collection and the teachers always get John Lewis vouchers on behalf of the entire class. So the kids just have to make cards for the personal touch

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I would be very happy with a hydrangea, it's a lovely present. I have mixed feelings about the class vouchers I've decided, they seem a little impersonal?

  15. says

    It's difficult to know what to buy isn't it as everyone is a bit different. I don't think I'd be that keen on getting lots of chocs for instance. Some food for thought here and having read this post I will be getting H to make some homemade cards. He'll enjoy doing that, it will save some cash & as you say it will be so much more personal.

  16. Jane says

    wow! How kind of you! Receiving something from your class or from the parents is a big thing and that means that you did something right in the lives of others.

  17. Lauren says

    Just thought you might like to know that I've revisited this post for inspiration for preschool assistant gifts. My original idea is on the 'always welcome' list so I'm happy.

  18. says

    I have mini Christmas cakes made this year and have made Damson Vodka too! There is also some sweet chilli jam I made and probably going to make some savoury biscuits to go with that.

    That should do, shouldn't it?

  19. says

    I remember skim reading this a while ago… and yet the time is nigh.
    S has benefited from an amazing teacher and teaching assistants at nursery…. and is now making visits across the playground to 'big school'.
    She has valued each of them so much, and they are so wonderful with her… I needed this post!!!

  20. says

    Ooh I was going to search for this post today! I have no idea if people give teachers presents here, school offically finished last wednesday and I didn't see any. (still open till end of june though, very confusing!) I wasn't going to bother at first but I am so thankful for Leo's teacher – she has been amazing considering the language barrier too. I thought Leo and I could make a card and then I'll attempt to write a thank you note in Greek.

  21. says

    Lol, I think about this every year. Having a 14 yr old as well as a 6 yr old, you can imagine I've bought a few teacher pressies and cards.

    I was having a laugh with the lady in our 'always full to the brim' card shop about cupboards full of teacher mugs, bursting at the hinges. What must they do with them all – set up in business when they retire, selling them all back to the public, I guess!

    I don't remember it being such a big issue when I was at school (very many years ago), but then again, it's become like most things over-commercialised.

    I buy chocolates, wine and for a lovely teacher who runs the gardening club and I know is interested in her own garden, I buy things that well, go in her garden. She is about to retire and so I'm sure she'll appreciate something a bit special along those lines this year.

    I once bought a nice hard-backed and bound note book for my eldest Daughter's Form Teacher when she moved on to another school. I like books! And, I'm guessing teachers make lots of notes.

    I agree, it would be nice to engage in conversation with your children's teachers to find out their interests out of school. Perhaps less time and worry could be spent on getting the right thank you gift then and a lot less money wasted on getting something that is unappreciated.

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