Parents are being warned not to be too generous with their children's teachers this year, amid fears a simple thank you gift card could amount to bribery of public officials.

While the state's public school principals have reinforced the strict gift giving rules, parent groups say they just want to express their gratitude to hardworking teachers after a horror year.

An update to the gift policy last week states cash is now explicitly forbidden along with certain gift cards and vouchers such as prepaid cash and EFTPOS cards.

The policy states gifts over $50 "should be declined".

Parents are being warned away from gifts of cash and gift vouchers.
Parents are being warned away from gifts of cash and gift vouchers.

Seaforth Public School principal Trudy Bates told parents the new rules meant gift vouchers and cash were banned, while gifts were strictly capped at $50.

"You may need to think a little differently this year so that staff are not put in a position where they are breaching the (Department of Education) Code of Conduct," she told parents.

"Recently I was at a principal's briefing on the current NSW Education Code of Conduct … the answer is very black and white and we must adhere to this."

But a Department of Education spokesman said gifts of $50 could still be accepted if they were declared on a gift register or declined if deemed inappropriate.

"The $50 amount is a reporting threshold, not a strict limit for all types of gifts," he said.

Central Coast P and C president Sharryn Brownlee said parents just wanted to express gratitude to dedicated teachers and the notion it could be construed as bribery was offensive to the vast majority of hardworking teachers.

"It is silly to say the gift to the teacher should be singled out," she said.

"Their argument was the parent gained influence over the teacher, and that says they believe teachers can be bought or influenced by a parent … it is saying teachers are up for sale."

"They are talking about corruption, but until they're giving out a bottle of Grange, it is an over-reaction in a school setting to some of the corruption and the backhanders which go on in parliament and elsewhere."

As previously revealed by The Daily Telegraph, some Sydney school parents have handed teachers communal gifts of wads of $300 cash and $465 Visa gift cards.

Beverly Hills Public School principal Danny Squires also warned parents to make sure their gift of thanks does not amount to a cent more than $50, and reminded parents gifts were by no means compulsory.

"We are approaching that time of year where parents and students want to express their gratitude to staff members for all their hard work during the year," he said in a newsletter this month.

"Please also remember that it is not necessary to give a gift. The greatest gift we receive is the progress your children make during the year as our students."

The Department of Education's Code of Conduct policy states: "You must never ask for money, gifts or benefits and you must never accept any offer of money, or accept a gift or benefit greater than a nominal value ($50). To do so may amount to bribery, which is a crime."

Originally published as 'Bribery': Grateful parents warned to keep teacher gifts small



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