This article assesses the relevance of Basil Bernstein for German-speaking Switzerland. It argues that Bernstein is potentially relevant for German-speaking Switzerland in light of contemporary studies which highlight a connection between social background and differential school achievement. After contextualising Bernstein's theoretical outlook and critically reflecting upon his use of a static concept of social class, it explores past and present applications of Bernstein. The paper thereby shows that the uptake of Bernstein's outlook was and continues to be minimal for the Swiss German context and reasons for this conclusion are explored. In the final sections of the article connections between social background and differential school achievement are explored for contemporary German-speaking Switzerland. On the basis of this analysis, the paper concludes by arguing that while aspects of Basil Bernstein's theoretical outlook are potentially relevant for the Swiss German context, they need to be reassessed in light of the awareness of the variety of interdependent factors which can and do influence the performance of children and adolescents at school.