TEACHERS have called for a radical overhaul of homework amid fears pushy parents are spending too much time creating “masterpieces” on behalf of their children that have no educational value.

The annual general meeting of the Educational Institute of Scotland heard a variety of examples of tasks that often resulted in too much parental help including building a Viking longship, an item of Charles Rennie Mackintosh furniture and “the Arctic Circle in a box”.

More serious concerns were raised about the impact on children from homes where parents gave little or no help.

And delegates also suggested the explosion in homework in recent years was because the curriculum was so crowded core learning talks were being dumped on parents.

Carolyn Ritchie, from the Glasgow branch of the EIS, said: “Pupils, parents and teachers are pulling their hair out over homework and we need to ask why.

“There are huge pressures on parents and it is simply wrong to assume that a child’s home is a calm place kitted out with an abundance of Blue Peter materials and that there are always willing assistants waiting in the wings.

“How can it be right to ask pupils to make a Viking ship or a motte and bailey castle at home in such circumstances and to praise only the few who can find the means and support to complete such a task?”

She asked: “Are pupils even doing it by themselves? I think not. Why did we ever buy into that myth?”

Ms Ritchie said the problem was exacerbated for families living in poverty who were unable to access a computer at home or whose families were unlikely to take them to a library or museum.

She went on to suggest that an “explosion” in homework in recent years was because there was no longer enough time in the school day to fit everything in.

“In the worst instances it is done to compensate for an over-crowded curriculum which is just wrong,” she said.

“Perhaps it is just an excuse to push some of the work that we can’t get through in the day on to parents in addition to the spelling and sums.

“Core learning should happen in the school where you have the very best resource of a teacher to help you.”

Andrene Bamford, from East Dunbartonshire, said: “At best parents are scouring craft shops and staying up to all hours helping their children create their masterpieces and at worst parents don’t have the time or the resources to help and this in turn helps to widen the poverty gap.

“What do teachers do? Do they mark the “pupil” work, do they cease giving out homework at the risk of parents saying it isn’t enough? We need a sensible policy to give teachers and headteachers a credible sensible policy.”

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James McIntyre, from East Dunbartonshire, said homework was a useful tool, but could be used “as a club” to beat teachers with. “It should be there to help pupils rather than to tick a box,” he said.

Susan Quinn, from Glasgow, argued that initiatives to help poorer pupils’ complete additional work, such as homework clubs after school, were actually counterproductive.

She said: “Teachers’ days can get off to a bad start if homework is not handed in on time and that can have an impact on the school day.

“There is something very wrong with a system that relies on homework.”