Citizenship lessons will be compulsory for all secondary pupils under the new proposals, writes Sarah Cassidy.
Schools will have two years to get used to the new curriculum before the regulations come into force in September 2002.
But all schools will be expected to introduce "light-touch" PSHE as soon as they receive guidance materials.
The mandatory citizenship lessons will cover negotiation and debating skills, the criminal justice system, central and local government and the European Union.
Ministers and curriculum advisers had promised more flexibility at key stage 3 to allow teachers more choice of which topics to cover.
However, the new-look curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds is only slightly less content-heavy than its predecessor. The secondary curriculum content was never expected to see the same cuts as the primary programme. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which carried out the review, had hoped to reduce prescription in some subjects by scrapping compulsory authors, historical figures and events and replacing them with lists of suggested subjects and topics.
However, after traditionalists condemned the move, arguing that children's access to the classics was at risk, Education Secretary David Blunkett personally intervened to reinstate the compulsory lists - removing the extra flexibility at a stroke.
QCA monitoring had revealed that secondary history was seen as the most overloaded subject. But the review has removed no content - although topics have been reshaped.
Geography has been made slightly more flexible by allowing more choice of countries to be studied by 11 to 14-year-olds.
Secondary maths has undergone the most revision with the current joint key stage 3 and GCSE programme being split into separate programmes of study. GCSE-level has itself been split into two levels - into "real-life" maths for less academic students and a higher programme for the more able. The foundation section is packed with non-statutory examples of how maths is used in everyday life: diet sheets, discounts in shops and calculating VAT. The higher level goes much further and includes simultaneous and quadratic equations and complex 3D geometry.
Team-based sport will no longer be compulsory for 14 to 16-year-olds. Ministers reasoned that teenagers who were not interested in competitive games by the age of 14 would be better off taking up a sport they would enjoy and might continue once they had left school.