This paper explores issues of identity, difference and globalisation in the micropolitical context of a UK school. Drawing on ethnographic data and theoretical perspectives from the sociology of education, development and globalisation, the paper takes the communication of the ‘Third World’ in the curriculum as a case study of the ways in which UK schools engage with difference. Thus, the paper goes beyond the traditional focus on ‘race’ and ethnicity, emphasising the importance of distant difference in the context of globalisation. It is suggested that whilst teachers may identify local and global factors as underpinning the need to engender critical engagements with difference, the realisation of this is complex; the communication of the ‘Third World’ in the school is characterised by contradiction, reinforcing as well as unsettling ethnocentrism. To understand this situation, we need to locate these contradictions in terms of the complex interplay of restructuring processes, policy frameworks and the micro-politics of the school. The paper highlights the impacts of increased assessment and measurement in education alongside policy contradictions around curriculum authority. Teacher empowerment in the articulation of an appropriate curriculum is identified as a priority.