Qualitative research with socially excluded young people in a prime underclass locale is the basis for this examination of experiences of schooling in the shaping of youth transitions. Young people's accounts of school disaffection were depressingly familiar. Explanations for persistent truancy - for missing school - related, in part, to powerful, (sub)cultural critiques of orthodox claims about the instrumental relevance of education. Paradoxically, in retrospect the majority missed school, in the sense that they wished they were still there, and many came to hold more instrumental views about education. This research suggests, however, that qualifications appeared to play a minor role in the shaping of overall transitions. The authors conclude that we cannot understand these contradictory, shifting orientations to the value of schooling without understanding the changing structures of opportunity that prevail for young people in different places and their fit with localized, class-cultural tastes and aspirations.