The development of the definitions of education in England over the last hundred years has been marked by a sense of continuity ; change has come about in an evolutionary way. Different social systems or institutions can tolerate different levels of internal conflict. In education, goals particularly at societal level are vague, as for instance the demand for secondary education for all. I t is, therefore, easy for the schools to justify to the public as legitimate their interpretation of any definition. This intrinsic vagueness is one source of change within an educational system, but in England there has been an additional source. The strong support of the ideology of laissez-faire has made possible a wide range of tolerance in the three major definitions of education made in 1870, 1902 and 1944, thereby permitting an ongoing process of minor redefinition. Since 1899 this process has been made official by the creation of the Consultative Council (later the Central Advisory Committees). The reports of these bodies have given quasi-official standing to the many minor redefinitions of sectors of the educational system that otherwise might not have gained easy recognition. This piecemeal method of redefinition has given continuity between major definitions of education and enabled educational revolutions to take place in an evolutionary setting.