A new curriculum for 11 to 14-year- olds could be introduced by 2007 as the Government demands a cultural change to ensure its school strategies succeed.
But the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority faces a race against time after delays to the white paper on 14 to 19 qualifications held up its plans.
Ken Boston, chief executive of the QCA, told the then school standards minister, David Miliband, that it was ready to begin the key stage 3 review last autumn.
In a letter released to The TES under the Freedom of Information Act, Dr Boston said combining this review with the 14-19 proposals and the skills strategy was "a unique opportunity to build a truly coherent education and training system".
But he said the new curriculum needed to be ready for teaching in September 2007, a year earlier than the Government's five-year strategy planned.
A spokeswoman for the authority said that it was unable to progress beyond preparatory stages until the response to the Tomlinson report, delayed from January, is published next week.
Documents inviting bids for the national primary and key stage 3 strategies, also released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal how the Department for Education and Skills intends to meet its targets for school improvement.
The Government missed both its central targets for English and maths at KS3 last year.
The papers say teachers' expectations of pupils' achievements need to rise sharply, and ministers must be less prescriptive and do more to win "hearts and minds" in the classroom.
Capita, the company which won the pound;178million, five-year contract, will have a major role to play from April, with close and frequent contact with ministers, and the chance to be "extremely influential" in setting government policy.
The philosophy of the strategies, which involves the introduction of three-phase lessons in subjects such as English and maths, had remained largely unaltered since 1998, the papers say.
"The department acknowledges the need to move away from the top-down, centrally prescribed approach associated with the early delivery of the strategies towards a solution that is more adaptable and flexible."
The QCA also plans a review of curriculum development for three to 11-year-olds, but that is a lower priority, official papers say.
Once the key stage reviews have put the structures in place, subject reviews such as the QCA's Futures programme will examine the detailed content over the long term.