It is always useful to leaf through the resolutions that come up for discussion at the annual conference of the Educational Institute of Scotland, being held in Perth this week. If the agenda of 55 motions and their amendments is dominated by anything, it is by the concerns that would be expected: class sizes, workload, discipline. Equally noteworthy are the issues that barely raise their heads above the parapet, pay being the most obvious. We cannot assume, of course, that the official agenda represents the membership's concerns.
Union conferences are a mixed, and peculiar, bag. They allow everybody to let off steam, they focus the minds of the delegates through debate and they can even ensure the grassroots holds the leadership to account (although a defeat for the EIS executive is a rare thing these days - even when it loses the vote).
But these very virtues also contain destructive forces: anybody listening to education union debates might wonder why anybody would want to touch a school with a barge pole, so negative are the experiences to which teachers give vent. At least the Scottish unions have avoided the "Easter plague"
south of the border, where their counterparts take to the conference stage at the same time and accentuate the negative tenfold.
As the EIS brings the teacher conference season to an end in Scotland, its members ought to have much to celebrate as well as to bemoan. Schools - even colleges, increasingly - are havens of industrial peace unknown in recent times. The problem all the unions have is how they are going to find the people who will lead them on to the broad, sunlit uplands of the future, as the old guard comes up for retirement. In that sense at least, they are a microcosm of schools.