The proposed development of extended schools in England is part of an international movement towards community-oriented schooling, particularly in areas of disadvantage. Although on the face of it this movement seems like a common-sense approach to self-evident needs, the evaluation evidence on such schools is inconclusive. In order to assess the likelihood that community-oriented schooling will have a significant impact on disadvantage, therefore, this paper analyses the rationale on which this approach to schooling appears to be based. It argues that community-oriented schools as currently conceptualised have a focus on 'proximal' rather than 'distal' factors in disadvantage, underpinned by a model of social in/exclusion which draws attention away from underlying causes. They are, therefore, likely to have only small-scale, local impacts. The paper suggests that a more wide-ranging strategy is needed in which educational reform is linked to other forms of social and economic reform and considers the conditions which would be necessary for the emergence of such a strategy.