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 as high-flying by Chris Woodhead, the chief schools inspector, 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, Labour's education spokesman, announced that his party 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 socioeconomic differences in family background."
Labour would recommend that primary-age children should spend a minimum of half an hour every night on homework, while secondary-school pupils should study for 90 minutes.
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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