The role and significance of schooling in maintaining and renewing social disadvantage is particularly evident in upper secondary education, and especially so in the high-stakes final examination at the end of Year 12. This paper focusses on Senior English in this context, with specific regard to the Australian state of New South Wales. Building on a recent study of the outcomes of the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in 2017, it analyses what the data reveal about the relationship between Senior English and social inequality in this instance. It does so with reference to a brief account of the history of English teaching and senior secondary curriculum policy in New South Wales and also, comparatively, a now well-established comprehensive study of senior secondary schooling in Victoria. It concludes with some implications of this account for further investigations of Senior English and subject English more generally, as well as of the social meaning of senior secondary education in Australia, in particular with regard to the nexus between curriculum and assessment, knowledge, and power.