Such activities, if well taught, can provide children with opportunities to practise the skills that Chris Woodhead is so anxious to promote.
Children are encouraged to research the topic by using books and CD-Roms (reading) and then discuss designs with their fellow pupils (speaking and listening). They collaborate to make their products (more speaking and listening) and evaluate their work in verbal or written form. In addition to developing literacy they also learn design technology skills, possibly numerical skills (dimensions and scale) and hopefully something about Greek civilisation.
Many primary teachers I have spoken to recently have said that they feel the foundation subjects will become marginalised when more emphasis is placed on literacy and numeracy. While I am not against initiatives to improve the teaching of these key skills, I think it would be a great pity if a consequence of this was an impoverished curriculum.
Subjects such as design technology, art, music, history and geography can be excellent vehicles for developing children's skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening, numeracy and information technology. They are applying these skills in the context of activities they enjoy. Children like making things; they also enjoy music, learning about the past and the world around them. If the curriculum is made too narrow and prescriptive much of this enjoyment of learning will disappear and with it the opportunities to develop the skills of literacy and numeracy in real contexts.
Jerry Seymour 10 Pembroke Drive Telford, Shropshire