This multimethod case study of a Greek vocational school explored teachers’ culture (including beliefs about education, teachers’ role, and students’ nature) using the concept of Pupil Control Ideology to explain problems of disengagement and low morale among staff and students, as well as tensions in relationships. A prominent custodial culture was identified in the school using a functional/apolitical pedagogy to transmit ‘legitimate’ knowledge to students whose working-class background did not produce desired outcomes. This generated deficit views of students, teachers’ sympathy, and a seemingly caring school ethos which was, nevertheless, oppressive. Students’ failings were naturalised and vocational education misinterpreted as merely a streaming device in a system honouring academic achievement and middle-class ways. Teachers were blind to these cultural subtleties, believing they acted ‘rationally’ and altruistically. A humanistic subculture emphasising student empowerment and social transformation consisted of a minority of teachers and was rather marginalised. This disallowed meaningful dialogue and the identification of an alternative rationale for the sector, generating strong feelings of futility. Positive change in this school necessitated the deconstruction and (subsequent) reconstruction of custodial teachers’ worldview as embedded in their practice.