Scotland's largest
and most effective
education trade union

Join the EIS

Created: 21 March 2007 | Last Updated: 06 March 2015 | Printer Friendly Version Printer Friendly Version | Make Text Smaller Make Text Larger |

Our history

For over 160 years we have worked for teachers in Scotland. "the promotion of sound learning” was set as our initial main task.

In the decades that followed, the Institute became a leading policy maker in education, a political force influencing government education policy and later, a negotiating body on teachers’ pay and conditions of service.

In the 1970s the we became a fully fledged trade union, affiliated both to the TUC and STUC.

In the early years of the 21st Century we developed further its professional role, through appointing Learning Representatives in the organisation and also promoting continuing professional development opportunities in partnership with a number of universities.

From 1847 to 2010 our membership increased a hundred fold – from 600 teachers at the inaugural meeting in Edinburgh to about 60,000 today from all sectors of education – nursery, primary, secondary, special together with further and higher education.

Following a preliminary meeting in January 1847, we were formally constituted at a meeting attended by 600 teachers from all parts of Scotland held in the Royal High School, Edinburgh, on 18 September 1847. Dr Leonhard Schmitz, Rector of the Royal High School, became the first President.

In the first ever EIS Presidential address, Dr Schmitz said that Scotland was the first country in Europe in which a regular system of education had been established and that, on that day, it also became the first country in Europe to establish a ‘national association of teachers, resolved and determined to provide their country with the best system of education that they can devise.’

Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter to the Institute in 1851. The Charter said that the objects of the Institute were to promote sound learning, advance the interests of education in Scotland and certify the qualifications of persons engaged, or desiring to be engaged, in the education of young people in Scotland.

Our role as an examining and certificating body appears to have been short‑lived as there was a trend, at a very early date, towards allowing other bodies to assume responsibility for the training and certification of teachers and this trend continued until 1965, when the establishment of the General Teaching Council represented a substantial move towards giving teachers themselves the right to decide who should be admitted to their profession.


1847 Founding of the Educational Institute of Scotland ....."for the purpose of promoting sound learning and of advancing the interests of education in Scotland".

1851 Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter to the EIS. Membership at the time: over 1,800. Among the powers conferred on the EIS was the power to award a degree of "Fellow of the Institute". In 2007, the EIS remains the only trade union which awards degrees.

1900 Increasingly the EIS became involved in matters of pay and conditions of service.

1917 Other small teaching organisations joined the EIS..

1918 National minimum salaries scale for teachers came into operation.

1939 National Joint Council formed. This was the first time that the EIS had been able to negotiate pay and conditions of service on a national level.

1971 The EIS became affiliated to the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

1976 A further education section was established within the EIS.

1977 The EIS became affiliated to the Trades Union Congress.

1982 The Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee (SJNC) became the national forum for negotiations of pay and conditions of service.

1985 Lecturers in Central Institutions joined the EIS.

1987 The EIS set up a political fund, not for party political purposes, but to protect the ability of the EIS to campaign and to challenge politicians and political decisions.

1988 Lecturers in Colleges of Education joined the EIS..

1994 The AGM approved a new structure and constitution for the EIS and also the setting up of area offices for the first time.

1999 The setting up of the Scottish Parliament, a move long supported by the EIS.

2002 First partnership with a university (University of Paisley) for the delivery of CPD to teachers.

2003 First EIS Learning Representatives appointed. Members of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Association join the EIS and a new Self Governing Association (EIS-FELA) is born.

2005 First Chartered Teachers emerge from the partnership with the University of Paisley.

2010 Membership stands at about 60,000.

EIS History


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