The school, as a cultural institution, represents the way society selects, transmits, distributes and exerts power as well as principles of social control, as postulated by Bernstein (Bernstein 1975; Bernstein 1996). In the present days, Brazilian educational system is organised in a way that makes school a separate world from the reality: the roles are preestablished and well distributed in space and time. It is a world of punishment, rather than a place of formation - it is oriented to keep kids out of the streets. This paper suggests that the design of the school building have strategic effects on mechanisms of control and status differentiation - building layout have social functions over and above the technical and practical ones as described by the brief and which transcend management procedures. These functions can be described with accuracy by means of the techniques of configurational analysis in a way to reveal the spatial logic of the educational institution. A case study, involving 5 school buildings in Recife - Brazil, is proposed where the theory and method of space syntax (Hillier and Hanson 1984) are applied in order to describe and measure some basic spatial variables. The aims are the understanding of the social properties of the layout as well as of some fundamental strategic differences among the layout of buildings of different periods. It is, in this way, a diachronic study of the school-building type in Recife, Brazil.