It is only in the past 50 years or so that sociologists have attempted to analyse schools — to find out what makes them ‘tick’ as institutions. Already it appears that this enterprise has fallen on hard times. The sociology of the school has subsequently been fragmented into a number of perspectives which attempt to capture their internal life. Often, these seem to be quite irreconcilable and lead to quite different conclusions. An approach which deals only with the meanings of humour in the classroom does not blend too easily, for instance, with the attempt to predict examination results from pupil grouping strategies and management styles. Nor does the image of the school as a reproducer of class and gender relations sit well with the search for the ‘effective’ which dampens down rates of truancy and delinquency in the neighbourhood. This tendency towards fragmentation of a single sociological perspective into diverse traditions of research and interpretation has also meant that there has been a corresponding identification of researchers with specific interest groups within the school such as with teachers, administrators, or pupils of different backgrounds. The substantive and the theoretical focus of institutional analysis has therefore become very blurred.