On 18 September 1847, around 600 teachers, from all parts of the country, attended a meeting in the hall of the High School, Edinburgh, to give birth to the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Although several local teacher associations predated this event, the creation of a national teacher union, the Educational Institute of Scotland – a global first – was a momentous step.

In the sole written history of the early days of the EIS, A Centenary Handbook of the EIS, AJ Belford, a past president and future general secretary, described the year in the following terms:

“1847! A year when men and women were suffering and brooding; when wild passions were fermenting under a peaceful exterior. Politicians and statesmen failed to gauge the destitution and despair of the population; in vain the plaintive voices and wasted forms of people appealed to despots and monarchs. 

Hardly had 1848 opened when the streets of Europe were streaming with blood.

It was in those days that the Educational Institute of Scotland was founded…but not merely for mutual benefit did those teachers associate; believing in the worth of human personality, they wished to proclaim the necessity for education and to establish the value of sound learning.”

Now, 175 years later, the validity of those founding principles remains as current as ever. Throughout its history, the EIS has been an authoritative voice in Scottish education, but in celebrating this anniversary we have chosen to focus more on the period from the late 1960s onwards, which saw the EIS transition from being a venerable institution into a modern, campaigning, combative and effective trade union.

This is not a chronological history, therefore, but a selection of themes and events that illustrate that progression and which, we hope, will engage and inspire members, strengthening our collective resolve to continue to campaign for those twin ambitions of the 

“promotion of sound learning and the benefit of teachers.”


EIS 175 Anniversary

Research, interviews and substantive writing:
Adi Bloom

Design and lay-out:
Stuart Cunningham and Paul Benzie

Additional writing and research:
EIS Comms Team and assorted staff members

Printed by:
Ivanhoe Caledonian, Seafield Edinburgh

Graham Edwards, Mark Jackson, Elaine Livingston, Toby Long, Ian Marshall, Alan McCredie, Alan Richardson, Graham Riddell, Lenny Smith, Johnstone Syer, Alan Wylie


Thanks to the many former activists and officers who gave of their time to be interviewed and taken a stroll down memory lane. And of course a very special thanks to the EIS members who created this history through their activism and commitment to the cause of Scottish Education.

© 2022 The Educational Institute of Scotland