The Oratory School
|Motto||Latin: Cor ad cor loquitur
(Heart speaks to heart)
|Type||Independent day and boarding
|Religion||Roman Catholic Oratorian|
|President||The Lord Judge|
|Head Master||Joseph Smith|
|Second Master||Thomas Hennessy|
|Chairman of the Governors||Christina Hill Williams|
|DfE URN||123282 Tables|
|Colours||Oratory gold & black|
|Former pupils||Old Oratorians|
The Oratory School // is a boys' independent Roman Catholic boarding and day school in the English county of Berkshire, some 6 miles (9.7 km) north-west of the town of Reading. It is the only remaining all-boys Catholic school in Britain. Founded in 1859 by Blessed John Henry Newman, The Oratory has historical ties to the Birmingham Oratory and is the only school founded by Cardinal Newman. Although a separate entity from the nearby Oratory Preparatory School, it shares a board of governors and a common history. Newman founded the school with the intention of providing boys with a Roman Catholic alternative to Eton College. For the academic year 2015/16, The Oratory charged day pupils up to £7,750 per term, making it the 25th most expensive HMC day school. It is a public school in the British sense of the term.
According to the Good Schools Guide, the school "enjoys inspirational leadership, has achieved GSG 'overall best in UK' for three years running and is consistently at the top of the tree", with "state-of-the-art" boarding facilities and an ongoing refurbishment programme under way.
The Independent Schools Inspectorate said in 2007: "Pupils and staff show deep and committed support to the Catholic values that underpin the school", and "genuine excitement and enjoyment shine through in sporting, musical and creative activities. Individual pupils and teams have achieved distinction in a wide range of activities, particularly in sport", and pupils "have recently represented Great Britain in rowing, shooting and real tennis, England in cricket and Ireland in rugby".
The Oratory School was founded in 1859. The first boys arrived before work began on 1 May that year. The objective was to provide a Roman Catholic alternative to other schools, particularly for the sons of converts from Anglicanism who considered existing Catholic schools culturally and socially inferior. The idea of founding a school had been in Newman's mind for some time before that and education of the young was an abiding interest. In the early 1850s he had been invited by the Irish Catholic bishops to establish a Catholic university in Dublin, but it did not prove a success, though he was able to formulate the principles published as The Idea of a University. When the Irish project came to an end, he was approached by a group of Catholic laymen, principally converts to Roman Catholicism from the Oxford Movement, to set up a Catholic boarding school for boys run on English independent school lines, rather than the monastically based Catholic schools that already existed such as those run by the English Benedictine Congregation (Worth, Downside and Ampleforth). The original school was opened next to the house of the Oratory Fathers in Edgbaston, Birmingham.
In 1922 the Oratory School moved from Edgbaston to Caversham Park, Caversham. In 1942 (when Caversham Park was requisitioned to become a BBC listening station, now BBC Monitoring), and after a short sojourn in exile at Downside, it finally removed to its present location at Woodcote Estate, Berkshire. The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory handed over control of the school to a Governing Body in 1931, but links with the Birmingham, London and Oxford Oratories remain strong.
The school has an orchestral and choral tradition, with former choristers of Westminster Cathedral among the pupils. The school's prestigious youth choir, known as 'Schola Cantorum', has over 60 pupils and requires high performance caliber and therefore standard auditions, they have performed at venues such as Windsor Castle and for the Pope, as well as frequent venues and performances to public around London, most recently Nelson's mass and Zadok the Priest in Hyde Park. Around half the pupils across the school play a musical instrument or attend singing lessons. Several pupils have recently joined the National Youth Choir of Great Britain.
The Oratory is one of four schools in the United Kingdom to possess a real tennis court (others being Canford and Radley) and plays this sport, hosting championships and international tournaments. It was the first location in the United Kingdom to construct a Real Tennis court for 80 years, finishing the building in 1990. Over recent years the UK Professional Singles Tournament has been held at the court, and in April 2006 the World Championships were held there in which world no. 1 Rob Fahey (Australia) beat USA player Tim Chisholm.
Notable head masters
The current head master is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.
- 1862 – 1865 Tom Arnold
- 1867 – 1868 Gerard Manley Hopkins
- 1910 – 1921 Edward Pereira
- 1933 – 1939 Illtyd Trethowan
In February 2013, it was discovered that Jonathan O'Brien, a former teacher, had been involved in sexually abusing boys aged ten to sixteen while working at The Oratory in the 1980s. O'Brien was sentenced to thirteen years imprisonment.
In February 2014, there were allegations that an older pupil had been beating younger students and killing animals outside school.
Former pupils include tenor Gervase Elwes, war artist Simon Elwes, Rugby union player Danny Cipriani, Olympic gold medallist John Pius Boland, Victoria Cross recipient Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, Made in Chelsea stars Francis Boulle and Frederik Ferrier.
- Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, ISBN 9781405881180
- Profile on the Good Schools Guide
- Independent Schools Inspectorate report 2007
- Newman’s Letters and Diaries, Volume XIX, p.120.
- Shrimpton, Paul (2005). A Catholic Eton? Newman's Oratory School. Leominster: Gracewing Publishing. pp. 26, 29, 41–43. ISBN 9780852446614.
- Website of the International Real Tennis Professionals Association
- Thorne, Lucy (16 January 2015). "Jonathan O'Brien appeal: Former The Oratory School teacher loses bid to cut sentence".
- Millward, David (6 February 2014). "Industrial tribunal told of 'appalling behaviour' of pupils at Oratory School".
- Cardinal Newman's School:150 years of The Oratory School, Reading by Tony Tinkel
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