The Oratory School

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The Oratory School
Coat of arms of John Henry Newman.svg
Motto Latin: Cor ad cor loquitur
(Heart speaks to heart)
Established 1859
Type Independent day and boarding
Religion Roman Catholic Oratorian
President The Lord Judge
Head Master Joseph Smith
Second Master Matthew Fogg
Chairman of the Governors Christina Hill Williams
Founder John Henry Newman
Location Woodcote

51°31′57″N 1°03′30″W / 51.532562°N 1.058421°W / 51.532562; -1.058421Coordinates: 51°31′57″N 1°03′30″W / 51.532562°N 1.058421°W / 51.532562; -1.058421
Local authority Oxfordshire
DfE URN 123282 Tables
Students 280
Gender Boys
Ages 11–18
Houses 5
Colours Oratory gold & black          
Publication The Oratorian
The Buzz
Former pupils Old Oratorians

The Oratory School (/ˈɒrətɒri/)[1] is a boys' independent Roman Catholic day and boarding school in Woodcote, 6 miles (9.7 km) north-west of Reading. It is the only remaining all-boys Catholic boarding school in Britain.[2] Founded in 1859 by John Henry Newman, The Oratory has historical ties to the Birmingham Oratory and is the only school founded by 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.[3] 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.[4]

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".[5]


The Oratory School was founded in 1859. The first boys arrived before work began on 1 May that year.[6] 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.[3]


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.[4]

Real tennis[edit]

The Oratory is one of five schools in the United Kingdom with a real tennis court (others being Canford, (Wellington College) 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.[7]

The school's main entrance

Notable head masters[edit]

The current head master is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.


Sexual abuse[edit]

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.[8]


In February 2014, there were allegations that an older pupil had been beating younger students and killing animals outside school.[9]

Leavers' day photo[edit]

In May 2018, it was reported that several sixth form students had attended their informal leavers' day photo as slaves and 'cotton pickers'. When the group of boys arrived for the photo they were turned away by the headmaster. The students later returned to the school and a photo of them within the school grounds was shared on social media. The students later stated that several of their black friends supported their choice of costumes and had joined in by dressing as the slave owners. A spokesman for the school apologised for the students' behaviour and said that the school condemned all forms of racist behaviour.[10]

The playing fields

Notable alumni[edit]

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 & Frederik Ferrier, and Portuguese royal Afonso, Prince of Beira.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, ISBN 9781405881180
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 November 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b Shrimpton, Paul (2005). A Catholic Eton? Newman's Oratory School. Leominster: Gracewing Publishing. pp. 26, 29, 41–43. ISBN 9780852446614.
  4. ^ a b "Profile". Good Schools Guide. Archived from the original on 14 March 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Independent Schools Inspectorate report 2007". Archived from the original on 5 November 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  6. ^ Newman’s Letters and Diaries, Volume XIX, p.120.
  7. ^ "Website of the International Real Tennis Professionals Association". Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  8. ^ Thorne, Lucy (16 January 2015). "Jonathan O'Brien appeal: Former The Oratory School teacher loses bid to cut sentence". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016.
  9. ^ Millward, David (6 February 2014). "Industrial tribunal told of 'appalling behaviour' of pupils at Oratory School". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016.
  10. ^ "Boarding school students slammed for dressing as 'slaves' for leavers' photo". Reading Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-05-12.
  1. Cardinal Newman's School:150 years of The Oratory School, Reading by Tony Tinkel

External links[edit]