The guidance, to be published next month, will encourage schools and local authorities to have clear policies stressing the importance of "well- directed" and properly marked homework, though it will stop short of dictating a precise amount of time children should spend studying at home.
Instead, it will provide examples of good practice drawn from a study comparing two groups of secondary schools - seven picked out last year by Chris Woodhead, chief schools inspector, as high flying and seven with an average record.
The research found a clear correlation between exam success and the number of pupils given more than six hours' homework a week.
The Government's move comes a year after David Blunkett, shadow education spokesman, announced that Labour would lay down specific guidelines on homework hours. Mr Blunkett said last night: "All the evidence from overseas is that homework makes the biggest difference in overcoming socio- economic differences in family background."
Plans to give parents and teachers greater freedom to set up their own schools from scratch may be included in the Conservative's election manifesto.
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