Children from poor neighbourhoods showing early aggressive behaviour are at risk for criminal offending. The role of education as a mediator, neighbourhood disadvantage and aggression as moderators for criminal offending were examined in a lower-income, community sample (n = 3,521; 48% males), across a 40-year period from childhood to mid-adulthood. Educational attainment accounted for 15–59% of the effect from childhood risk factors. Aggression was found to be a moderator such that aggressive children with low education had the highest odds of criminal offending. A protective effect was found where aggressive children who managed to obtain more education had reduced odds of offending. Research conceptualizing education as a ‘control’ variable does not address its role in the processes leading to criminal offending.