Peter Hain, the Welsh education minister, said the move would cut teachers' workload while protecting the broader curriculum and thus safeguard the position of the Welsh language and curriculum.
He added, pointedly, that it would ensure "greater commonality across Welsh schools" and encourage "easier progression from primary to secondary schools". There have been claims that lifting the requirement on English primaries to teach non-core subjects will result in much more uneven provision.
ACCAC, the Welsh curriculum and assessment authority, will write to schools with proposals for slimming down the non-core subjects, such as art and music. The changes will stay in force until at least 2000 when, as in England, the results of a wider curriculum review will be implemented.
Mr Hain's decision should safeguard the position of the arts, notably music, in Welsh primaries.