The Scotsman (p1) reports that writing is a particular cause for concern, with barely a third of 11-year-olds and only one in five of 14-year-olds achieving the expected levels.
The report, carried out by the Scottish Executive's assessment of achievement programme, noted: 'Only a few pupils seemed to have mastered the punctuation of direct speech, although most realised that some speech marks were needed.'
The survey of almost 7,000 pupils, aged nine to 14, from 270 schools, found that fewer than half of 14-year-old pupils attained the expected level in reading.
Keir Bloomer, the president of the Association of Directors of Education, said the problem among 13 and 14-year-olds had been known for some time, but their had been little action. He called for a much greater sense of urgency in addressing the situation.
'I think schools will be concerned at what the survey shows and will be anxious to try and bring about improvements. But in order to address these issues effectively, there needs to be more radical thinking about how the curriculum is planned in secondary schools than we have had up to now.'