A characteristic of the approach to educational reform espoused by the Socialist Government from 1982, in sharp contrast with previous approaches to reform in Spain, has been its enthusiasm to integrate philosophy with processes of piloting and experimentation. This empirical approach has not had the benefit of an established national tradition of critical evaluation and inquiry (echoing a point that is made by other contributors to this volume), and is possibly hindered by a substantial dependence on internal modes of student assessment (none the less yielding high rates of scholastic ‘failure’) although significant measures have now been undertaken to develop a culture of evaluation. The author reviews the history of educational innovation under the Socialist Government, and detects a significant shift between its first and second terms of office (i.e. 1982-86, 1986-90) from a grass-roots trial-anderror approach which concentrated on classroom practice but was poorly resourced and co-ordinated, to a more global, all-encompassing process of reform which threatens to swamp desired changes in classroom practice with a discourse of system and curriculum regulation which is, ironically, also committed to principles of school autonomy and curricular flexibility.