The island and rural education authorities have the best pupil:teacher ratios and lowest class sizes in Scotland, according to the 1995 school census. East Dunbartonshire is worst off.
A Scottish Office bulletin, which details information on pupils and teachers in each of the 32 education authorities for the first time, reflects the fact that councils serving scattered communities have to staff very small schools.
The figures show Shetland, Western Isles and Orkney have the lowest PTRs in primary schools with 12.8, 13.3 and 15.2 pupils respectively to each teacher; Argyll, Highland and Perth and Kinross are next in the league. East Dunbartonshire has the worst ratio at 22.1 pupils per primary teacher. The national average is 19.6.
Secondary PTRs also show the island councils out in front in the same running order - Shetland (8.5), Western Isles (9.5) and Orkney (10.9). Moray, Dundee, Dumfries and Galloway are next best, while East Dunbartonshire again has the poorest record of 13.9 which is shared with Aberdeenshire and East Renfrewshire. The national average is 12.9.
East Dunbartonshire, which ironically has some of the top-performing academic schools in Scotland, also emerges as worst off for pre-five provision: 5.8 per cent of three and four year olds receive a council nursery education (amounting to one school and two classes) against a national tally of 36.8 per cent. Dundee has the best pre-five coverage with 57.7 per cent of three and four year olds in nursery schools.
Ronald McInally, chairman of East Dunbartonshire education committee, told The TESS that the figures confirmed the council's own growing awareness that the area "had been shortchanged by Strathclyde who saw it as a middle-class community with no problems, and we're only now discovering the extent of the under-funding".
Mr McInally said their schools achieved good exam results and were popular with parents. Many were at full capacity but he said the main reason for the high PTRs was the severe pressures on expenditure, particularly the staffing budget. This was reflected in the fact that East Dunbartonshire had the lowest costs per primary and secondary pupil in Scotland.
Among the four cities, Dundee has the best PTRs in both primary and secondary schools with Glasgow second; Edinburgh is fourth for primary ratios and Aberdeen for secondary.
The bulletin also shows there were four fewer primary schools (2,333) and one fewer secondary (406) on the census day last September compared with the previous year. The number of nursery schools was unchanged at 239 while departments attached to primary schools increased from 540 to 557.