He warned that the first signs of relative decline had been detected - a serious matter at a time when the education system needed to entice significant numbers of new entrants to the profession over the next few years.
One of the early challenges facing the Scottish Negotiating Com-mittee for Teachers was pay, he said, "I remind the executive and Cosla that negotiations must urgently begin on a supplemental increase given that even the most miserly of indicators - the consumer price index - has risen to a level that triggers the re-opened clause of the last agreement.
"It should be understood that the 21st century agreement set a new pay benchmark for Scottish teachers and we consider it central to the integrity of the agreement that the benchmark is maintained in the light of movements in prices and wages in the economy at large."
Also up for discussion was whether the next pay award should be a one-year or a multi-year deal.
Mr Smith warned that, with the new minority SNP administration, came a risk of near paralysis - "of moving only on the basis of the lowest common denominator", which would be bad for education.
But, more optimistically, there was also the hope of a genuine sharing of power, he said.