Delegates heard from one senior figure in the directorate that advisers and quality improvement officers might feel they had lost an empire, but there was still a key role for them to play.
Opening the conference, Jim Anderson, director of education for Angus Council, conceded that advisers had been working in a hostile environment for the past 15 to 20 years. But Mr Anderson noted the link between authorities that had received poor reports from HMIE and the absence of a well developed quality improvement service.
"It shows there is a job to be done," he said.
Mr Anderson added: "Given the nature of the work we are doing, there is no way we can find an interface with our colleagues in the inspectorate, but we need to assert the importance of what we do.
"What we do and what our colleagues in the inspectorate can't do is offer support to headteachers on an ongoing basis."
He suggested that the proposals in A Curriculum for Excellence offered opportunities for advisers and the directorate. "There is more collaborative work but there is also working alongside headteachers. The notion of giving more flexibility to headteachers is fine but it should not be unfettered - it has to be in the context of local need."
One role for advisers, Mr Anderson said, was to offer challenge to schools "in a non-confrontational way".
The culture of schools, particularly in the staffroom, had to be challenged. "There is a need to chip away at that and encourage our colleagues in schools, especially secondary, to become less cynical and more optimistic."