BRIGHT pupils who perform well in reading and writing tests at Scottish primary schools struggle to achieve the same standards when they reach secondary, a new report shows.

The Scottish Government's first national literacy survey highlights a dramatic drop in standards for many pupils between the final year of primary and S2.

While 90% of pupils in P7 performed "well" or "very well" in reading, the Scottish Survey of Literacy found just 84% reached these standards against a higher benchmark in S2.

In writing, 72% of pupils in P7 performed well or very well, compared to 64% by S2, while figures for talking and listening dropped from 58% in P7 to 46% in S2.

Last night, businesses, parents and opposition politicians called for greater efforts to ensure the promotion of both literacy and numeracy.

Lauren Paterson, senior policy executive with CBI Scotland, said: "Employers have long been keen for schools to ensure all young people emerge with the essential core skills of literacy and numeracy.

"Unless our young people make sustained progress in these areas during their time in education they face major difficulties subsequently in their working lives."

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said the statistics showed the "drift in engagement so often apparent" as children move to secondary.

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, called for more rigorous testing.

"Literacy and numeracy is the cornerstone of good quality Scottish education and we believe there should be much more rigorous testing of the basic skills before pupils leave primary," she said.

However, the Scottish Government insisted the majority of pupils performed well and said national quango Education Scotland would produce new materials for teachers to ensure improvements.

Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, said: "Schools are achieving and sustaining high performance in reading and writing, with more than 90% performing within or above expected levels. Of course, we want all children to achieve their full potential, and that is why we continue to focus on driving up standards."

Mr Allan said the new school curriculum – the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – would also help by making literacy the responsibility of all teachers.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, also backed the impact of CfE.

"CfE, properly supported and resourced, will continue to emphasise the importance of both literacy and numeracy, as well as tackling other key issues such as the challenges some pupils face following the transition from senior primary to the early years of secondary education," he said.

The issue of declining standards in early secondary is not a new one in Scottish education.

For more than a decade, school inspections have highlighted similar concerns, with a key report in 2009 describing the long-term impact. "Difficulties with literacy and numeracy and an apparent reluctance or inability to engage with demanding areas of learning ... can become entrenched at these stages," the report by the former HM Inspectorate of Education found.

One of the reasons for the slump is the onset of adolescence, which appears to be happening much earlier than in previous generations.

Peer pressure, contemporaries' views of what is "cool" and the risk of being bullied or branded a teacher's pet also interrupt the flow of learning.

Yesterday's literacy survey highlights this growing lack of engagement, with just 14% of pupils in P4 saying learning was boring compared to 37% at S2. More than 90% of P4 pupils enjoyed reading compared to 62% at S2.

The survey found a particular impact on pupils from the most deprived areas and noted girls continue to outperform boys.