This paper attempts a comparative analysis of classification and framing relationships as they are exemplified in the four papers presented in this Special Issue. In particular, it interrogates Bernstein's assertion that education is simply a relay for power relations external to it and examines approaches to educational leadership and administration that follow from such analysis. It is concluded that in different times and places power relationships external to education are often complex and contested, producing a variety of relays and attempts at classification and framing that serve differing interests and are articulated through policies containing significant internal contradictions. In such circumstances contingency and immediate local influence may affect the practice of educational leadership as well as offering scope for subversion, resistance, simulated consent and collective action. The possibility of a public pedagogy through which such complexities could be articulated is raised and its importance to the practice of educational leadership affirmed.