School autonomy has been identified as having an impact on a school’s performance, yet less has been reported about the effect this has on students’ goal orientations and engagement with mathematics. In a national study conducted in schools across Australia, measures of school autonomy were collected from teachers and school leaders, along with students’ perceptions of the mastery and performance goal orientations of their classrooms and personally using surveys. Schools were identified as having high or low levels of autonomy on the basis of school leaders’ responses. For the study discussed in this paper, a subset of 14 schools for which matched student and teacher data were available provided students’ responses to a variety of variables including goal orientations. The findings suggested students in high-autonomy schools were less likely to hold a personal performance approach and avoidance goals than their peers in low-autonomy schools. Fifty-five case studies conducted in 52 schools provided evidence of some of the practical aspects of these findings, which have implications for systems, schools and teachers.