Teachers will be free to draw up their own syllabuses or let pupils drop subjects.
One idea which is likely to be popular is allowing disaffected 11- to 14-year-olds to drop subjects such as languages in favour of vocational options.
Primary schools which dislike the literacy and numeracy strategies can already opt out of them but may have more confidence to do so if they have been singled out as deserving greater freedom.
All schools will have to continue to provide a "broad and balanced" curriculum and will still have to provide religious education.
Given the recruitment crisis, schools are most likely to use their opt-out of teachers' pay and conditions to raise pay to attract new staff.
Some heads are also keen on the idea of bonuses to reward their best teachers.
But heads will be wary of being dragged into drawing up new contracts for staff. Many will fear coming off second best if they try and make local deals with union officials who have years of negotiating experience.