A report from the Office for Standards in Education, due out next week, is expected to recommend that schools should have agreed, written policies on homework, with clear guidance on the purpose of homework, how it should be developed over children's time in school, how often it should be set and how it should be assessed and marked. Pupils benefit more from homework in schools where such a policy exists.
Although most schools set homework, there is inconsistency in the way it is used within and between schools, and in the amount set. The report is understood to say that many primary schools did not specify how much time should be spent on homework, and in lower secondary school classes the time varied from a half hour for each of the core subjects of maths, English and science to an hour for each, or even more, and sometimes varied from one subject to another.
School inspectors are expected to advise that schools should review the place of homework in their programmes. Where homework is taken seriously, it can raise standards, increase the coverage of the curriculum, lead to more effective use of lesson time, improve pupils' attitudes to learning and improve their organisational and study skills.
They will urge teachers to mark homework with the same rigour as classwork, plan it as an integral part of the curriculum and give pupils feedback on their efforts.
The findings are expected to show that many children spent more time on homework than they were told to - some because they enjoyed it, some because they needed the extra time, and some wanted to do better. Ten and 11-year-old girls, in particular, spent extra time on their homework projects, to reach higher standards or to please their teachers.
But the report will also say that most parents' complaints have to do with the quantity of homework - more often that there is too little than too much.
However, the worthwhile homework practice of having home-school reading links for infant children often fades away in junior schools.
The OFSTED report, Homework in Primary and Secondary Schools, will give examples of good practice.
Most schools use homework diaries, including a homework schedule for pupils, which are seen by pupils as useful tools in organising their work.
The report will also point to "homework charters" telling teachers, parents and pupils what is expected, as well as the "homework clubs" and weekends sponsored by the Prince's Trust, which allow pupils the time and space to concentrate on their work and on subjects of interest to them.
Research in 1993 by Professor John MacBeath of Strathclyde University found that homework clubs were one way of raising achievement among inner city children.