CHRISTMAS has been cancelled for school pupils after council chiefs banned them from giving gifts to their teachers.

Schools have been advised to tell parents and pupils not to give Christmas presents to teachers and staff.

Employees at Falkirk Council have been subject to the ban for a number of years but it is believed that this is the first year that it has applied to teachers.

The move seems to follow general guidelines laid down by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to ensure staff adhere to the highest standards of public service.

But the ban has been met with anger from parents.

Herald View: Common sense the best approach as Falkirk Council warns against Christmas gifts for teachers

One parent, who did not want to be named, received a pre-Christmas newsletter from her child’s primary school last week.

The newsletter stated: “As we approach Christmas and recognise that children often bring gifts to school for teachers and other staff, we have been asked to share a new policy from Falkirk Council which prevents any employee from receiving gifts.

“We therefore ask that if you or your child wishes to gift anything to staff that this could possibly be in the form of a card. We appreciate your co-operation.”

The mother said: “My son has given his teachers a Christmas present every year he has been at the school.

“I don’t see what the harm is – he just wants to show his teacher how much he appreciates the job she is doing and the help she gives him."

Herald View: Common sense the best approach as Falkirk Council warns against Christmas gifts for teachers

Members, officers and employees of Falkirk Council are required to adhere to its policies and procedures.

Policies such as the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, the Code of Conduct for Members and Officers, and employees’ Conditions of Service contain rules on issues such as gifts and hospitality.

A Falkirk Council spokesman said: “Some parents and pupils choose to offer a gift to a member of the school team at this time of year. While the sentiment is understood, the council has agreed a policy which sets out clearly that no member of staff working for Falkirk Council should accept gifts or hospitality.

“This policy has been in place for non-teaching staff for a number of years.”

Herald View: Common sense the best approach as Falkirk Council warns against Christmas gifts for teachers

David Mackay, head of education at Falkirk Council, later clarified that "small individual token gifts" may be acceptable – but would need to be properly recorded.

"It wouldn't be appropriate however for collective gifts of considerable value to be given or received," he added.

"We also wouldn't encourage or expect the giving of gifts as we recognise that this may be difficult for some families due to their financial circumstances.

"If families so choose, then a simple thank you card or note would be appreciated."

Colin Finlay, Educational Institute of Scotland learning representative, said that the council was beholden to rules set by HMRC.

He said: “This is not Falkirk Council making the rules – they are just complying with the rules laid down by the HMRC.

“When it comes to teachers receiving gifts these rules can be difficult to enforce – parents and pupils want to reward their teachers for being good teachers.

“According to the HMRC, gifts to council employees can be perceived to be a bribe."

A source at Glasgow City Council said they would not impose a blanket ban on presents to teachers. They said they would let headteachers make that “judgement call”.

And a source at Edinburgh City Council said that a decision is at the discretion of each school in the city.