The teacher who doesn't want Christmas presents

By Claire Diamond
BBC Scotland News

image source, Inverclyde Council

Primary school teacher Kate McLaughlan says Christmas is her favourite time of year.

But there will be fewer presents under her tree on 25 December.

This year, she has asked her pupils' parents not to buy her a gift, and instead to help teach the class an important lesson.

In a letter to parents earlier this week, she asked if parents could make a donation towards supplies for the local food bank.

Mrs McLaughlan, of Newark Primary School in Port Glasgow, said she wanted to teach the children about social responsibility: "Instead of a teacher gift, I would like us to support the Inverclyde Foodbank...

"This is about teaching the children the spirit of giving and kindness... If you would still like to give me something, then a handmade Christmas card would be perfect!"

The letter has received attention on social media, with parents applauding the idea.

image source, Inverclyde Council
image captionPrimary 4/3 with Mrs McLaughlan

In it, Mrs McLaughlan suggests that by forgoing gifts from her primary 4/3 class she can alleviate some of the pressure on parents.

She wrote that last year she was "totally overwhelmed by the kind and thoughtful gifts" from her pupils, but feels gifts are unnecessary, writing that she really enjoys her job and feels "lucky" to work with her pupils every day.

Mrs McLaughlan plans to send a blank envelope home with each pupil. Parents can make an anonymous donation, if they want to, in lieu of a Christmas gift.

Once the donations are counted up, the pupils will make a shopping list and order food from the supermarket to be delivered to the food bank.

image source, Linsey Milloy

'Social pressure'

Mrs McLaughlan told BBC Scotland News: "Everybody seems to be really pleased with the idea. I'm hoping it will catch on now.

"Last year I was totally overwhelmed and felt quite emotional. I don't need gifts - it's not why I do the job."

"People struggle at Christmas time. Where does it stop? It puts a lot of stress of parents that they don't need. And that's not in the spirit of Christmas.

"I think it puts a lot of pressure on parents. The children put pressure on parents too. There's some parents that don't have two pennies to rub together and they're feeling pressure to buy presents for teachers."

image source, Inverclyde Council

Gifts from her pupils last year included jewellery, chocolates, bath and body products and personalised keep-sakes.

"I sat down and chatted to the pupils about it and explained that Christmas is a time for giving and said it would be nice to do something for somebody else."

For her own two children, she had six gifts to buy for school staff.

"I don't think they expect it but you do feel social pressure", she added.

Catching on

Linsey Milloy's daughter is in Mrs McLaughlan's class and loves the idea.

"When we got the letter home I thought it was really kind. The food bank here have been saying they are struggling"

"Mrs McLaughlin is a lovely teacher and my daughter is delighted at the idea of being able to do this. She's setting a great example to children from a young age."

Ms Milloy thinks it is a good way to take some of the stress away from Christmas gift-giving too.

For some parents, especially those with more than one child, it can be a lot to buy, she said.

But it is not all about financial pressure: "The teacher can end up with 30 things the same, so you want to do something a bit different.

"Everyone's hoping this idea catches on. I think it will."

image source, Inverclyde Foodbank
image captionInverclyde Foodbank said some families would not be able to celebrate Christmas without the support of a food bank

Fraser Donaldson, who runs the Inverclyde Foodbank, said: "People from all walks of life utilise the service. Christmas is made possible for some families.

"Many of them say there wouldn't be able to celebrate Christmas without the help of the food bank.

"Sitting down for a meal together on Christmas day is something a lot of families take for granted that some of our service users can't and the parcels from the food bank make that possible."

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