The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority was this week given the go-ahead for the long-awaited review of the curriculum, expected to result in a slimming down of detail.
But it has warned against radical reform and told the Government that teachers believe further disruption will detract from raising standards.
While it was accepted that there was a "strong case for changing specific aspects of the national curriculum, few schools are arguing for a root-and-branch revision", the QCA said.
There will, however, be more room for "life skills" subjects like citizenship and personal, social and health education as well as spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. These should be given a formal place, the QCA recommends.
The QCA is to seek views on some major issues, including whether or not it is practical to have a full national curriculum at key stages 1 and 4. Ministers have already indicated they would prefer a simpler approach in the early years.
Overall, says the QCA, the review should emphasise aims and outcomes, rather than detailed prescription.
At key stages 1 and 2 the QCA is to consider an "appropriate level of entitlement" in art, music, PE, history, geography and technology to ensure a broad and balanced curriculum.
At key stage 4, it has urged ministers to examine the role of the curriculum in relation to providing "pupils with the attitudes and skills needed to become lifelong learners".
The QCA went on: "The review should consider in this context whether the current level and nature of prescription is sufficient, necessary, reasonable and practical." It added that 94 per cent of secondaries admitted in a survey that they had responsibilities for education in citizenship, but felt inadequately prepared to handle the subject.
Meanwhile schools in all sectors said they believe such topics were being squeezed out by the demands of the curriculum.