This paper reports on an investigation into central features of institutional schooling that, collectively, constitute the ‘symbolic architecture of education. In particular, this paper provides an analysis of the practices associated with school un form, badges and mottoes, drawn from a sample of over 500 schools in the state of Queensland, Australia. The analysis reveals a large degree of uniformity in the meaning content of these school icons, derivedfrom a common core of educational values established during the formative decades of universal school but resting on older heraldic principles. The authors contend that the propagation of these values within the iconic discourse of schooling constitute a significant ideological practice that focuses a pupil’s consciousness towards social norms and further reifies the institutional character of education. These processes are not straightforward but are often contested in instances where pupils recreate mottoes in ways which mock the values that are consecrated in the formal symbols of schooling.