All the articles in this volume are concerned with the experience of school, though their focuses are often very different. Some seek to describe the experiences of teachers and pupils themselves; others their immediate determinants within schools and the strategies adopted to deal with those pressures; others focus on the extra-school determinants of school experience; yet others are concerned with the possibilities of and strategies for change. The interest in experience is a relatively recent phenomenon. The 1950s were dominated by three brands of sociology: structural functionalism, conflict theory and empirical social research. The first saw societies as systems made up of institutions and roles which performed functions for the whole and whose structure was maintained by the whole. 2 The conflict theorists argued that conflict and change, not consensus and equilibrium, were the characteristic features of societies and that structural functionalism was conservative in that it simply justified the status quo and made change almost inconceivable. 3 The empirical social researchers adopted a commitment to a rigorous quantitative methodology, carrying out large-scale surveys, for example on the social distribution of attitudes. 4