This paper considers what the ‘ideal’ arrangements to promote ‘success’ in schooling for all students – especially so called ‘disadvantaged’ students – look like from a socially critical perspective. In particular, the paper considers the ideal for schools and their communities proposed by what has been termed ‘recognitive justice’ (Gale & Densmore, 2000): a model of social justice that incorporates a positive regard for social difference and the centrality of socially democratic processes. Three conditions of (i) self-identity and respect, (ii) self-development and self-expression, and (iii) self-determination are explored in the paper as a way of conceiving of the social justice literature at large. Specifically, the paper asks and seeks answers from this literature in relation to the following questions: How can schools foster self-respect in and facilitate positive self-identities for students? What part can and should schools play in promoting the development of their students’ abilities and encouraging student expressions of their experiences? What might meaningful involvement in schooling, premised on self-determination, look like?