The democratic state was determined to transform South African society and to deal decisively with the problems bequeathed to it by apartheid. A great deal of the writing about educational reform in the period after 1994 is characterised by a weak theorisation of the state, even where it is obvious that such a theorisation is intrinsic to the analysis being presented. Although the locus of the research and analysis is education policy, the analysis explores the nature of the post-apartheid transitional state. The research presented that relates empirical observations and analysis to a broader theorisation about both educational policies and their implementation. These policies and the legislation are examined to illustrate the overall intention to provide welfare and social services, including education. The political and social transition presently taking place in South Africa raises important issues for social research. A further objective of the research was to lay the basis for similar longitudinal studies in other areas of social policy.