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The Oratory School
Woodcote, RG8 0PJ, UK Reading
+44 (0)1491 683500

From the Head Master

Welcome to The Oratory School website. I hope that you will enjoy exploring the school and if you wish to take your interest further I would welcome an opportunity to meet with you in person. The Oratory is a friendly but purposeful community dedicated to the individual within a society. We believe that each boy should develop in his own way within the context of a corporate environment, fulfilling his own potential as a fully-formed young man. 

The school motto of "Cor ad cor loquitur" (heart speaking to heart) underlines the pastoral dimension of this school and I could add my own motto of, ‘a busy boy is a happy boy’! Boys need a particular approach to help them achieve their academic potential within their overall personal growth.

Over the last five years an extensive regeneration programme has been underway with boarding houses being refurbished including the completion of two new state-of-the-art houses.  Next will be the improvement and redevelopment of certain academic areas with enhanced teaching facilities and an expansion of the Art Department voted the best at A Level by the Good Schools Guide.

We are situated in acres of beautiful English countryside with easy access to both motorways and airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

As a school of 400 boys we provide small classes and close supervision. The Oratory has an international reputation for a first-class all-round education and at its heart is the Christian vision of its founder, John Henry Newman. The school attracts boys from the UK and across the world, from the Catholic community and also other traditions.

Clive Dytor MC MA

School History

The Oratory School came into being on 1st May 1859. It was founded by Cardinal John Henry Newman, at the request of a group of eminent Catholic laymen of the time, in order to provide a boarding school for boys run on English public school principles for the small English Catholic community. It remained attached to the house of the Oratory Fathers in Birmingham until 1922, when it moved to what is now the BBC Monitoring Station at Caversham Park, Reading. The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory handed over control of the School to a Governing Body in 1931, but links with the London and Oxford Oratories, as well as with the one at Birmingham, remain strong.

The School made a further move in 1942, to settle finally on its present site at Woodcote, north of Reading, some 40 miles west of London. Over the last sixty years the Governing Body has developed a range of modern buildings in which to house Cardinal Newman’s idea of how to educate the young. The School now educates boys from all religious traditions.

In the 1850s Cardinal Newman was invited to establish a Catholic university in Dublin. He committed to paper his vision of education at university level in The Idea of a University. However, in setting up The Oratory School, in the day-to-day running of which he was closely involved for its first 30 years, he wrote no treatise on secondary education. The Oratory School is the organically evolving substitute for his ideas on secondary education. As the Catholic community has been absorbed into the mainstream of English society so the School now educates boys from within and outside the Catholic tradition.

We embody and practise today our Founder’s spiritual, moral and educational principles, which are just as relevant at the beginning of the twenty-first century as they were when he imbued his School with them. Each individual is to be valued for his own sake; the system should be there to support the needs of the individual, not vice versa. In this way a person’s dignity and sense of self-worth are respected in the way that they should be; as a result they will be more at ease in the society in which they find themselves and more willing to accept the necessary constraints of that society. Furthermore if each individual is regarded as special, then his special needs and gifts will be given proper respect and attention.

The pastoral welfare of the boys in the School, the relationships with their families, the continuing contact with past pupils – all these, therefore, are central to the ethos of Newman’s educational vision.

We are proud to have as our Founder a great Christian thinker, but we are even more proud to be entrusted with his vision for the education of Christian young men to prepare them for the modern world.


The Oratory aims to enable each boy to realise his full potential and this is, of course, as true of the academic arena as it is of every other part of a boy’s development. Almost all boys, in fact, proceed to university and, in order to achieve this goal, the school provides a challenging, broad and flexible curriculum.

Throughout his time at The Oratory, a boy’s academic progress is regularly monitored. We operate a system in which a boy’s effort and achievement in each subject is assessed and recorded every two weeks, with the boy and the parents being informed of the grades. These fortnightly marks can be emailed to parents for their perusal. In this way we can swiftly detect if and where a boy is experiencing difficulties, is under-performing or is not being stretched.

The school’s tutorial system is a great strength. Each boy has an academic tutor who is attached to his House, and tutor groups of between six and twelve boys meet weekly in a dedicated period. This is when fortnightly grades are given out and discussed individually and strategies for improvement are agreed. The tutor period is also an opportunity for discussion and for developing critical thinking. 

At the end of every term a full report explaining the boy’s progress in each subject is prepared and sent to parents. We very much welcome contact with parents and, in addition, to the organised Parents’ Mornings, parents are urged to keep in touch with their son’s Housemaster.


Most boys come to The Oratory at 13+ and go straight into one of the four senior houses. They begin their academic studies in the Third Form (Year 9) and all follow a common curriculum covering a wide range of subjects. Even at this stage, boys are taught in small groups by specialist subject teachers in appropriate rooms. For example, the sciences are taught as separate subjects in laboratories which have all the necessary equipment. A suitable amount of prep is set on a weekly basis and is completed under the supervision of academic staff.

A significant number of boys come to The Oratory at 11+ and spend their first two years in St Philip House before joining a senior house in the Third Form. In their first year they will have most of their classes in St Philip House, but will be taught Science, Art, CDT, IT and Physical Education in the specialist facilities in the main part of the school, while in their second year, boys go to the senior part of the school for all classes. The curriculum followed by all boys in St Philip House is broad and gives the boys a firm foundation for their future studies; a particularly advantageous feature is that they are taught by specialist subject teachers.

In the Fourth and Fifth Forms (Years 10 and 11) boys prepare to sit their GCSEs. Although certain subjects, including English, Mathematics and French, are compulsory, boys may choose their options from about the twenty which are available. Before the final decision about which subjects to study is made, discussions are held between the parents, boy, subject/teachers and Housemaster. Although most boys study eight or nine subjects to GCSE it is possible for boys to take more. In some subjects, including English, Mathematics and French, the boys are setted according to their ability in that subject, while in others teaching is generally carried out in mixed ability groups.

In the Sixth Form boys may choose from more than twenty five subjects and, with our flexible timetable, many different subject combinations are possible. For example, some boys opt to study the sciences and some purely arts, while many select a mixture of arts and sciences. As for GCSE, prior to any decision regarding subject choice being made there are discussions between parents, boy, teachers and Housemaster; the advice of the Careers Master may also be sought in order to ensure that university entrance requirements are satisfied. It is normal for boys to study four subjects to AS Level in the Lower Sixth, although it is quite possible for boys to opt for five if they wish. The AS examinations in the four subjects are taken at the end of the Lower Sixth. Most boys will then go on to study three full A2 levels in the Upper Sixth, although several take a fourth, Further Maths being a particularly popular option.

  • The 6th Form

    Welcome to the Sixth Form page, which I hope will give you a taste of what is on offer both inside and outside the classroom in the Sixth Form of The Oratory School.

    You will find – on the academic front – a short guide to the Sixth Form curriculum: A level choices and other options, together with an outline of how we help with study skills, independent learning, careers guidance and university applications.

    You will find we also have a wealth of extra-curricular activities and other opportunities, from ball-room dancing to debating and community service to cricket tours.

    The pastoral and social aspects of Sixth Form life at a school like The Oratory are an excellent preparation for life in higher education and employment: learning cooperation and teamwork, as well as self-motivation and time management in a busy boarding environment.

    At this key stage in school life, it is good to know that there is plenty of experienced help at hand. All the staff at The Oratory are committed to giving the best and most personal advice and guidance to every boy, to help each one play to his strengths whilst trying new things, and to use well both his talents and his opportunities. These two years in the Sixth Form are the most challenging and the most exciting so far: let us help you to make the most of them.

    Life After School
    The process of applying to Higher Education starts at The Oratory in the summer term of the Lower Sixth when a week’s work experience is followed by a week of university related activities which is provided to gear them up for UCAS.

    Course and university choices, gap years, electronic UCAS forms, Personal Statement writing – all these and more are covered through presentations, outside speakers and personal guidance- with information packs produced for them to take away and peruse over the holiday. They are also given a choice from three or four university Open Days to attend on trips organised by the school.  

    Applying for Art courses, Oxbridge, medicine, US universities – we can give advice on all these areas too.

    In the Upper Sixth, the Head of Sixth Form, Tutors and Housemasters will all be on hand to give help, guidance and encouragement in the application process, and tutor sessions cover student finance, loans and budgeting. Interview training is available for anyone who is interested.

    Other opportunities in the Sixth Form
    Extra-curricular activities for Sixth Formers at The Oratory focus on preparation for life and work, and service. This includes:
    • Work experience
    • Young Enterprise
    • Community Service in conjunction with the Ryder-Cheshire Volunteers
    • Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Gold activities
    • CCF – continuing service and under-officer responsibilities
    • A Christian Citizenship day in Westminster
    • A pilgrimage to Lourdes as helpers to the sick
    • A Lenten retreat
    • The Windhover – a discussion society
    • The Adelphi – a debating society
    • Drugs and Alcohol education
    • The Buzz – school newspaper
    • Interesting societies: astronomy, chess, ballroom dancing
    Sixth Form Kept Busy
    The U6th experience workshops on Interview Skills, which hopefully helped them through the real thing while attending interviews at Oxford, Cambridge and other top universities and institutes. For the L6th English Literature students there is a visit to Stratford-on-Avon to attend a play at the Shakespeare Centre, while the Religious Studies students attended an all day Ethics conference in Oxford. The French students visit the International School at Abingdon where they immerse themselves in the French education system for a day. All the L6th attend a lively Study Skills session, an interactive workshop about learning styles, note-taking and essay writing. Other speakers visit to talk about Gap Years and other up to date topics. In the Summer term boys from Theatre Studies attended a trip to London to see Peter Shaffer's Equus at the Gielgud Theatre.

    Dora Nash
    Head of Sixth Form


    Choosing your career is one of the most important decisions you ever have to make. The careers library contains a wide variety of reference books together with information on most universities and colleges and many prospectuses and booklets are now in the main Library on a "Careers/UCAS" carousel.

    Tests and Questionnaires

    Fifth formers can choose to take the "Preview" diagnostic test which correlates individual skills and interests to career profiles. Although it is usually not possible to equate a personality profile to a particular job, the results of the analysis always provide an insight into aptitudes, experience of psychometrics tests and a basis for future discussion.

    Work Experience
    All lower sixth boys undertake a minimum of one week’s work experience in various fields ranging from media, manufacturing, retail, banking, caring professions, to archaeology, international relations, construction and photography. As part of the process, pupils are expected to write letters of introduction and CVs.

    Course and Conventions
    Various conventions are advertised through the school, including short courses organised via the school’s membership of the Independent Schools Careers Organisation. Obviously, potential applicants are encouraged to attend university open days and Gap exhibitions through which information, and even informal offers of places, can be gained. Some pupils gain from the national conferences organised by both public and private bodies and details of these can be obtained through the school’s careers office.

    Talks and Lectures
    Occasional lectures are given on a year group basis by outside speakers.

    Life After School Week
    This week at the end of the Summer term kick-starts the university application process and includes course and university information, UCAS forms, Open Day visits and Gap Year talks.

    Pupils in the fifth form and lower sixth may choose to attend individual interviews with our external careers advisers from Connexions and ISCO respectively. Reports are sent home on their contents.

    IT Sessions
    With one hundred thousand courses and a multitude of possibilities, computer searches and analyses are vital.

    Dora Nash, Steve Tomlinson, Mary Arkinstall
    Careers Team


    The Oratory School lies in a beautiful rural setting situated in the heart of the Chiltern countryside, between Reading and Oxford, with easy access to motorways and airports.

    Residential accommodation comprises rooms for 1 or 2 persons, all with washing facilities, common rooms with TV & Video, laundry rooms, showers, and kitchen areas. Over £6 million has been spent in refurbishing and redeveloping buildings to bring them to the very highest of standards.

    The school dining room is modern and operates a self-service system which offers a wide choice of hot and cold dishes including vegetarian.

    The school has excellent facilities, which include a modern sports complex incorporating sports hall, squash courts, a real tennis court and a swimming pool. There is also a 12 hole golf course, all weather tennis courts and sports pitches all set in over 400 acres of grounds.

    IT Centre

    State of the art ICT facilities are available throughout the school campus (including access points in student rooms).  All students receive their own email address and have high speed Internet access.

    The ICT facilities are supported by a small team of staff who run a helpdesk as well as maintain and manage all systems.  The Backbone services run at Gigabit (or faster) speeds and consist of 13 servers used to perform a variety of different tasks.


    The School Library has a collection of some fifteen thousand books and has always had an open-door policy for borrowers who are free to use it for browsing, research or quiet work between breakfast and evening roll-call, seven days a week.

    Some changes in the layout of the Library have altered the outlook slightly. More space and light have been created, as well as an area for 'relaxed reading', where the journals and magazines are displayed on a rack and the newspapers on a coffee table. There are even some 'easy chairs'!

    The range of journals has been and will continue to be increased as will a general updating of the book stock. Computerisation of the stock is under way and, when completed, will provide for searches and eventually automated borrowing.

    News from the Library

    Book fairs are held in the Library for a week, giving boys throughout the school an opportunity to browse the “shop shelves” and for many to purchase a book or two.

    Over a hundred titles can be seen on display ranging from “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, “Narnia” and “Fantastic Football Facts” to dictionaries, atlases, “The Last Juror”, “Northern Lights” and “Cooking up a Storm” – a book aimed at teaching boys how to cook for themselves – a number of Sixth Formers were interested in that one!!


    The school actively encourages boys to pursue a large range of extra-curricular activities in their spare time. We run many activities and societies from which they may choose. Some are administered by the boys themselves, with the full support of staff members.

    The range of activities offered is extensive and designed to encourage the introverts, stimulate the reserved and teach leadership, teamwork and self-reliance to all. For the more adventurous and physical pupils there is the Mountaineering Society and also the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

    To cater for the more artistic we have a main orchestra, second orchestra, jazz band and smaller ensembles. Performance opportunities are many and varied, such as providing accompaniment to school plays, taking part in musicals and entering competitions.

    In addition to the above we have two debating societies, a school newspaper ‘The Buzz’ and a Young Enterprise group and much more.


    The Buzz
    The Buzz is the student newspaper of The Oratory School. Each issue carries news items, feature articles, reports on activities and school sporting results and is aimed principally at the internal school audience.

    The newspaper is produced by members of the fifth and sixth forms. A member of staff oversees and advises on the publication of each issue, acting rather like the legal department in any newspaper or magazine. However, an editorial board of pupils decides the layout and content of each issue and each board appoints its successor.

    The Cardinal’s Men
    The Cardinal’s Men is the name given to any group of boys in the school who take part in a drama production. Cardinal’s Men ties are awarded to boys who have demonstrated commitment and excellence, whether on stage or behind the scenes. Culture Blazers are now also awarded for service to the Arts.

    There are usually several large productions a year, for different age groups. Main school plays in recent years, involving Forms 3 - 6, have included such very different offerings as The Servant of Two Masters, Journey’s End, Twelve Angry Men, Inherit The Wind, The Caine Mutiny and Twelfth Night. Forms 3 and 4 have frequently had their own production, the last being Front Page. St. Philip House traditionally ends the academic year with a play in which nearly all boys in the House participate in some way: this year it was Joseph & The Amazing Colour Dreamcoat and a Latin Play.

    Duke of Edinburgh

    The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme in the school goes from strength to strength.

    The Bronze Award - from the beginning of the fourth form, when an initial open meeting is held, boys are invited to register with the scheme and develop their interests and talents and broaden their experience in four main areas:

    Physical Recreation - often rugby, soccer or rowing, but sometimes scuba-diving, cross-country, sailing or riding . Service - at this level most boys follow a First Aid course and gain a certificate, though some prefer to do fund-raising. Skill - which can, and does, range from drum-playing to debating and shooting to model-making. Expedition - a two day trek along the Ridgeway to the White Horse, carrying everything you need, having completed an appropriate training course, and including cooking your evening meal at camp. We currently have over thirty boys actively engaged on their Bronze Award, and hope to improve on our continuation rate by having more than half go on to do Silver this year.

    The Silver Award - is the same as the Bronze but each area is more testing and has to be completed over a longer time.

    The Gold Award - about six or seven students a year continue through to Gold – the real test. All the sections have to be completed over the best part of a year ( a long time when you are seventeen) and the Expedition is a four day affair, which is quite an achievement when you consider that no purchases may be made and no civilisation contacted during that time. There is an additional feature at Gold which is often quite a test of character too – the Residential Project: a week of your own time must be spent among strangers and away from home involved in some project, whether it be for personal development (sailing on a Tall Ship, or attending a summer music school) or for serving the community. Most Oratory boys choose the latter, helping on Winged Fellowship holiday weeks, the Newman trust handicapped children’s holidays or pilgrimages of the sick and disabled to Lourdes. Often these are life-changing experiences and boys go back the following year for more!

    In the academic year 2001-2, our unit has seen 27 Bronze, 9 Silver and 5 Gold Awards made. Statistics of which we are very proud and which we hope to improve on in the future.

    The Award Leader in the school is Mrs Nash and the Expedition Leader and Assessor is Mr Womersley. At least five other staff and occasionally parents are regularly involved in assessments.


    With separate Senior and Junior sections, the Mountaineering Society enjoys regular trips to the Lake District and the Brecon Beacons, the Yorkshire and the Welsh Three Thousand, including Snowdon. Pot-holing, climbing and abseiling are other activities available and, for senior boys, some trips abroad are arranged. In recent years, these have included the tour of Mont Blanc and trekking in the Everest regions.

    Conservation is a Thursday afternoon activity offered primarily to boys in the fifth form. The activities of the group are mainly centred around the management of two areas of the school grounds. One area is a woodland site where dead and over crowded trees and brambles are being removed to encourage the growth of spring bulbs and a greater diversity of wild life. In this area we have also dug a pond and put up nesting boxes. The second site is on part of the open playing fields where a range of shrubs and other plants have been introduced. These should provide nectar for a range of insects and cover for birds and small mammals. It is hoped that these activities will encourage boys to appreciate the environment and show them some of the skills required for its management.


    The broad function of the CCF is to provide a disciplined organisation within the ethos of the school. The aim of the programme is to develop in Cadets powers of leadership by training to promote the qualities of responsibility, self-reliance, resourcefulness, endurance, perseverance and a sense of service to the community. It seeks also to give all Cadets a background knowledge of the methods and conditions of service in the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force.

    The training will be interesting, imaginative and purposeful and will be planned so that it is steadily progressive for the Cadet during the period he serves. The balance between service and adventurous training is 60% : 40% in favour of the former.

    Senior non-commissioned Cadets will normally instruct junior Cadets in syllabus work. This is an essential element of training for the senior NCOs as they guide the juniors through the various activities. The responsibilities of CCF Officers are to ensure that training is planned and that Senior Cadets have been properly trained in the technique of instruction. They will also supervise the instruction to ensure that a satisfactory standard is maintained. Regular Service assistance is available to help with this.

    It is firmly believed that the self-confidence and self-discipline required in Service life are equally vital in the civil life of the nation today. The full commitment of the CCF staff will help provide this environment. The Cadets need to grasp this opportunity and give it their full commitment.

  • Royal Navy
  • Army
  • RAF
  • Remembrance Sunday
  • CCF Citation
  • Biennial Inspection 2006

  • Sport

    Sport plays an important role in the life of every Oratory boy. We believe that providing quality and varied sporting opportunities is essential in a boarding school both for health and fitness reasons as well as the sense of achievement and value that active participation and successful competition bring.

    Our philosophy is based on the dual aims of Sport for all and excellence at all levels.

    We actively encourage as many boys as possible to represent the School in whatever capacity and at all levels and not simply promote the most able. This however, does not compromise our desire to fully extend our most talented performers and enable them to play at the highest possible standard. The School offers Sporting Scholarships. As a thriving Boarding School the boys are involved in games five days a week with our main fixtures taking place on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    Main Sports

    Michaelmas - Rugby
    Lent - Football & Rowing
    Summer - Cricket & Rowing

    In addition to the above we offer many other sports including.......







    Real Tennis







    Self Defence









    Weight Training


    Our facilities are second to none and include 11 rugby/football pitches, six cricket squares, our own boat house, indoor swimming pool, rifle range, squash courts, 12 tennis courts (6 grass), a large sports centre complex including a Real Tennis court and a recently built weight training facility.

    Ian Jordan BEd
    Head of PE & Games

  • Rugby
  • Football
  • Cricket
  • Rowing
  • Golf
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Shooting
  • Ski Team
  • Squash
  • Sports Centre
  • Real Tennis
  • Sports Events
  • Results

  • Admissions

    For additional information regarding the Admissions process, please click here to download a PDF information booklet

    In the first instance parents should arrange a visit to the school to meet the Head Master and see the school in action during term time. The next step is the completion of the Application Form, which should be sent to the Head Master together with the Registration Fee (non-returnable) as set out on the fees list enclosed with the prospectus.

    Boys enter the school either at the age of 13 through the Scholarship or Common Entrance Examinations, or at 11 by a brief, informal interview and examination, or by direct entry into the Sixth Form depending on GCSE results.

    Whilst The Oratory is a Catholic school, boys of all traditions are welcome. Catholic spirituality is at the heart of the school and is expressed by the attendance of Mass in the Chapel and school worship that develops the boys' understanding of the virtues that make the school a real community and extends that concept to home and family life.

    Entry Information

    Academic Awards
    Candidates for this award must be under 14 years of age on 1st September following. Academic awards, including major scholarships, scholarships and exhibitions, are made annually on the results of the Common Scholarship examination held in February. Awards are of varying values, not exceeding half-fees. Candidates must offer papers in the following subjects: English, Mathematics, French, History, Geography, Science, Religious Studies (Latin is optional).

    Music Awards
    Candidates for this award must be under 14 years of age on 1st September following. The examination is held annually in February. Candidates attend the School for audition and interview. Heads of the schools are asked to write reports on their candidates’ academic and musical abilities and personal qualities, which are given careful consideration. The minimum academic standard required is a pass at Common Entrance.

    Art Awards
    Candidates for this award must be under 14 years of age on 1st September following. The examination is held annually in June. Candidates are required to submit a portfolio of work and attend the School for practical tests and interview. The minimum academic standard required is a pass at Common Entrance.

    Sports Awards
    Awards are made to sportsmen of outstanding ability, and the Head Master is happy to discuss the suitability of a candidate for one of these awards on an individual basis.

    St Philip House Award (11 year-old entry)
    Candidates for entry to St Philip House are eligible for similar awards based on their performance in the entrance tests held in January. Candidates sit subject papers in English, Mathematics and non verbal reasoning only.

    There is no examination fee for any of the awards.

    Boys who are not already entered for the School will be required to register before sitting for an award.

    Further details and application forms may be obtained from: The Head Master, The Oratory School. Woodcote, Reading, Berkshire, RG8 0PJ, UK.

    There is a separate Health Centre which is in the charge of a resident and qualified Nurse. The School Doctor visits regularly from his practice in the village and thus is always close to hand in any emergency. Arrangements can be made for travel vaccinations.

    There is a half-term of at least four days in each term. Details of half-term exeats are sent to all parents and guardians termly in advance. Leave-outs can be arranged at other times, provided it does not conflict with the curriculum and extracurricular activities.

    Travel Arrangements
    The school provides a coach service to and from Reading station at the beginning and end of each half-term and parents are notified of the times in the regular termly letter. A coach is also provided to Reading station on Saturdays and from the station on Sunday evenings for boys who are out of school on leave-outs. The school can also assist with travel arrangements to and from airports for boys travelling overseas.

    Overseas Parents
    Overseas parents are asked to nominate a guardian, resident in the United Kingdom, to whom reference may be made in an emergency.

    Old Boys' Association
    Advice and support for our old boys via the Careers Department, references etc. are an important part of our 'after-care' service. There is an active Old Oratorians Association which keeps friends in touch with each other and us by a regular newsletter as well as social and sporting functions.

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    Editorial office:
    tel. + 48 (094)