London Oratory School

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Template:For Template:Infobox UK school The London Oratory School, or more commonly known as The Oratory, is a prestigious Catholic day school for boys aged 7-18 and for girls aged 16-18 situated in Brompton, London. Founded in 1863 by The Fathers of The London Oratory in Chelsea, London, The London Oratory is historically linked to, but not formally affiliated with, fellow Oratorian institutions, the nearby Brompton Oratory or The Oratory School, an independent boarding school in Berkshire. The school celebrated its 150th anniversary on the 27th of September 2013 with the celebration of Mass in Westminster Cathedral. The school is renowned for the quality of both its choral and instrumental music, with the majority of pupils who go on to Oxford and Cambridge, reading music.


The London Oratory School admits 160 boys to the first form, as well as twenty boys who join the senior school from the Junior House. The School educates boys aged 7–16 and boys and girls aged 16–18 in the sixth form. There are around 1350 pupils including about 350 in the sixth form. The School shares its religious and cultural identity with the Congregation of the Oratory who founded the School and are its trustees. The school is also strongly connected to Brompton Oratory. <ref name="Ofsted 2006">Template:Cite web</ref>

The 2008 Good Schools Guide said that there is "Much that is excellent but also much potential for building this school – in bricks and mortar terms as well as educationally and spiritually."<ref name=GSG>Template:Cite web</ref>

The Ofsted report published in 2006 states that "provision for music throughout the school is outstanding and the specialist music course enables talented students to achieve excellent standards.".<ref name="Ofsted 2006"/> The quality of the musical, sporting, artistic and academic curriculum is a reflection of the inheritance from St Philip Neri who saw a path to the beauty of God in the majesty of music and the arts.

In 2012, 97% of sixth formers achieved grades of A*-C in at least 3 A level subjects.

The school is notable for educating the children of a number of politicians, including three of the four children of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and children of Harriet Harman MP and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg


The education of children has always been an important part of the work of the Fathers of the London Oratory in Brompton, Knightsbridge. They opened their first school in King William Street in the City of London in 1852 and two parochial schools in Chelsea in 1856. Seven years later, in 1863, at the request of Cardinal Wiseman, who wanted to provide a wider education for Catholic children than was available at that time, the Oratory Fathers established a school for boys in Chelsea, and in 1870 a school for girls staffed by the Daughters of the Cross. These schools were fee paying and they were the forerunners of the present school.

Both schools flourished but in the early part of the last century Cardinal Vaughan asked the Oratory Fathers to inaugurate the first Central Schools for Catholic children. This they did in 1912, developing the two schools which ceased to be fee paying, into Central Schools on a site in Stewart's Grove, Chelsea. During both World Wars, sixty six Oratorians lost their lives fighting for their country. In 1959 the two central schools were amalgamated and in 1962 it was decided that the Daughters of the Cross were to be withdrawn after almost a century of devoted work. In 1963 the school was classified as a four-form entry grammar school admitting only boys since there were already many more selective places for girls than boys in the schools in the diocese. However those girls currently at the school were, on the insistence of the newly appointed headmaster (who had applied for and been appointed head of a mixed school), allowed to remain at the school to complete their education. With the later introduction of girls into the sixth form which remains in place up to the present day, there was effectively no period since 1959 when girls at some point were not attending the school.

The school moved to its present site in 1970, becoming an all-ability school for boys, with six forms of entry (180) at 11+, with girls being admitted annually to the sixth form.

In September 1989 the school, formerly a voluntary-aided school, became a grant-maintained school, continuing in the trusteeship of the Fathers of the London Oratory, who own the building and grounds and appoint the majority of the governors.

A Junior House, occupying a newly built block adjacent to the Arts Centre, was opened in September 1996, to which 20 seven-year-old boys are admitted for a specialist music education, with a strong emphasis on Catholic liturgical music.

Under the Academies Act 2010, the school became an Academy in August 2011.


  • Mr David McFadden took over as headmaster on 1 January 2007
  • Mr John McIntosh, CBE. 1977-2007 (Deputy headmaster from 1971-7, and had taught Maths there since 1967)
  • Mr Ian G. Gaffney (1963-1977)
  • Acting headmasters.
  • Dr. Laurence Summerbell (1930-1957)
  • Mr John Menzies Duffy (1890-1930)
  • Various headmasters (1863-1890)

School Arms

The shield contains elements from the arms of the patron saint of the school, Philip Neri and from Cardinal John Henry Newman. The three stars are taken from the emblem of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri and the river at the centre of the shield is taken from the coat of arms of Blessed John Henry Newman who first established the Oratory in England. "....grant and assign such Arms and Crest accordingly know ye therefore that I the said Garter in pursuance of his Grace's warrant and by virtues of the Letters Patent of my office granted by The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty do by these presents grant and assign unto The London Oratory School aforesaid the Arms following that is to say gules a bar wavy argent between three mullets of eight points and for the Crest upon a Helm with a wreath argent and gules issuant from a celestial crown or a demi-lion bleu celeste grasping a staff or flying therefrom to the sinister a pennant argent charged with six Gouttes in fess gules..... and used by The London Oratory School aforesaid on seals or otherwise in accordance with the Laws of Arms...."


House Colour Patron Saint
Campion St. Edmund Campion
Fisher St. John Fisher
Howard St. Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel
More St. Thomas More
Owen St. Nicholas Owen (martyr)
Southwell St. Robert Southwell (Jesuit)

Junior House

Twenty seven-year old boys are admitted to the Junior House for a specialist musical education, including instrumental tuition. Some of the boys are admitted as choristers and sing in The Schola. Boys admitted to the Junior House are full members of the school and are expected to continue their education at the school until the age of eighteen.<ref name="">"The London Oratory School Junior House"</ref>

Pupils are selected on the basis of their musical aptitude and are required to take part in musical and, in the case of choristers, choral activities arranged outside normal school hours, including weekends and holidays, and to learn at least two musical instruments.<ref name=""/>

London Oratory School Schola

Template:Main thumb The Schola Cantorum was established as a means of providing Catholic boys from the age of seven a rigorous choral education within the maintained system, something hitherto only available in the independent system. The development carried the full support and encouragement of the late Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Hume.

The school's close association with the Oratory places it in a strong, if not unique, position to provide this form of specialist education and to contribute to the development of traditional liturgical music. The partnership between the Oratory and the school provides ideal opportunities for the school to train boys within the context of a living tradition and liturgy.

The Oratory in London is part of a dynamic liturgical and musical tradition which goes back to the sixteenth century when the first Oratory was established in Rome at the time of the Counter-Reformation. Both Palestrina and Victoria were closely associated with the Oratory and Philip Neri, its founder, and Victoria became an Oratorian. In particular, the Oratory in Europe has been closely associated with the development of polyphony and the chant. The Oratory in London has a reputation for maintaining this tradition and for providing some of the finest liturgy and liturgical music in Europe today. The school has a strong musical tradition and for many years has been closely associated with liturgy and music of the Oratory.

The Schola sings at the Saturday evening Mass at the Oratory every week in term time and at other Masses and services during and outside term, and in the School Chapel during the week. In addition to the liturgical commitment, concert work and touring are a regular feature of the choristers' lives.

Choristers normally join the school at the age of seven and are selected by audition, examination and interview, although places may sometimes be available to boys who join the school, at a later stage.

The Choristers rehearse at 8 o'clock every morning, as well as for an hour immediately before services, and frequently during the lunch break and after school. They receive voice training from one of London’s top vocal coaches and all boys are given individual voice lessons. When their voices change, they devote more time to their instrumental music. Their interest in singing is kept alive until their voices have developed sufficiently to enable them, where appropriate, to return to the Schola as Choral Scholars, when they benefit from the unique opportunity of singing alongside professional lay clerks from the Oratory Church Choir. Choristers are fully involved in other aspects of the musical life of the school.In addition to liturgical and concert performances, the choir has recorded film soundtracks and audio albums.<ref name="NYT filmography">"London Oratory School Schola - Filmography", The New York Times, Accessed 2 May 2008</ref> The choir is most famous for its contribution to the double-platinum award winning soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The choir also works extensively for charity, helping raise thousands of pounds for various charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Save the Children and the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program.



The traditional sport of the school is rugby. Rugby has been played at the school for over a century and the school is regarded as being one of the best rugby schools in the country. All teams in the school compete in their respective leagues, including the Daily Mail Cup. In the first form, rugby is compulsory. The majority of the 180 boys turn out to play most Saturdays for fixtures against other schools. By the VI form, the number of boys is reduced to a first and second XV. The School's 1st XV have even recently toured to Australia, and tours to Ireland and Wales are common further down the school. The school organises its own U12/U15 Sevens Tournament and also organises a national sevens competition at U16 level, which is held at London Irish. Rugby is played at the School's sports grounds at Barn Elms on the banks of the River Thames



Further upstream lies the School boathouse at Chiswick. Rowing at The London Oratory has only taken place for about the last forty years. In the past the School has put forward boats for the Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. The School also enters the Schools' Head of the River Race. As well as the most important regattas, such as The National Schools Regatta, the School also races in local heads and regattas. The boat club possesses an expansive fleet of boats.


Cricket is also a popular sport at the School with at least one team representing the School in each year. There are 4 cricket nets in the School grounds which are used for after school practice during the summer months. The School's cricket teams host matches at Barn Elms and play in a few county cups and leagues, for example the Middlesex Schools' Cup. Cricket is also the main sport in the Junior House.

Other sports

The School hosts a 25 meter, indoor swimming pool in its grounds. Because of this, the School provides waterpolo as an option in games and fields a waterpolo team. The School holds its annual house swimming gala in the pool with teams competing from each of the six houses. There is also a state of the art fitness centre at the school, with its own climbing wall and treadmills. There are no soccer teams who represent the school, however each form from each house put forward a team for the annual house soccer competition. The London Oratory School Fencing Club was recently founded and currently trains after school. Other sports offered by the School are volleyball, tennis, hockey, angling and athletics.

The Patronal Festival

thumb Staff and Students assemble in the Brompton Oratory Church to honour the School's Patron, Saint Philip Neri. The School celebrates its Patronal Festival with a Pontifical High Mass on the feast of Saint Philip Neri, 26 May, or on the nearest Friday that falls in term time. The Mass is followed immediately by the distribution of prizes to Award Winners and the presentation of Ties and Badges of Office are presented to the Senior Prefects. The official handing over of duties from the outgoing Senior Prefects to the incoming Senior Prefects occurs when the Senior Prefects Badges and Ties of Office are issued. All members of Staff traditionally wear full academic dress (gowns and hoods) on this occasion, though in recent years the current Headmaster, David McFadden, has notably declined to do so.

The Principal Celebrant is usually a high-ranking official of the Catholic Church. Recent Celebrants have included: The Right Reverend Bishop Alan Hopes, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster (2012); The Reverend Paul Keane, Old Oratorian and Chaplain to the University of Essex (2011); The Very Reverend Richard Duffield, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Promoter of the Cause of Canonisation for John Henry Cardinal Newman (2010); The Very Reverend Robert Byrne, Provost of the Oxford Oratory (2009); The Right Reverend Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop Emeritus of Lancaster (2008); The Right Reverend Dom Aidan Bellenger, Abbot of Downside (2007); Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville, Archbishop Emeritus of Birmingham (2006); The Right Reverend Dom Cuthbert Brogan, Abbot of Farnborough (2005); The Right Reverend Bishop Alan Hopes, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster (2004); The Right Reverend Bishop George Stack, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster (2003); Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster (2002); Bishop Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds (2001); Bishop Victor Guazzelli, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster (2000); The Abbot of Ampleforth (1999); The Catholic Chaplain to Harrow School (1998); the Provost of the London Oratory (1997); the Apostolic Nuncio (1996); George Basil Cardinal Hume (1995); Dom Stanislaus Hobbs of St Benedict’s Abbey, Ealing (1994); the Master of St Benet’s Hall, Oxford (1993); and the Provost of the Oxford Oratory (1992). Traditionally the Principal Celebrant also preaches on the life of Saint Philip, although this is not an absolute rule. It is customary, however, for concluding comments to be directed to those pupils leaving the School.

The Guard of Honour is a tradition employed by The London Oratory School for the Principal Celebrant of the Mass and senior guests. It is customary for the Combined Cadet Force, consisting of the Army and RAF divisions to mount the Guard of Honour before the Mass as the Principal Celebrant enters the Brompton Oratory. The London Oratory School CCF has been badged to the Irish Guards since 2010. Previously the Army Section wore the cap badge of the Royal Green Jackets. Major General W G Cubitt, CBE, Major General Commanding the Household Division and General Officer Commanding London District was the Reviewing Officer at the CCF Biennial Inspection and oversaw the re-badging, together with the Regimental Adjutant and staff from Regimental Headquarters, making the London Oratory CCF the only Combined Cadet Force badged to the Irish Guards and one of the few CCFs badged to a Household Division Regiment.

Music at the Mass is provided by The Schola Cantorum and Chamber Choir assisted by The London Oratory Sinfonia. Organists for the ceremony have included David Terry, Nicholas O'Neill, Steven Grahl and Jeremy Filsell.

Awards are offered for many aspects of School life, from the curricular to the extra-curricular life of the School.

The end of the Patronal Festival is traditionally marked with the School and congregation singing the School Song, “Quam bonum est”. After Mass there is a reception for the Guests, Senior Prefects, Award Winners and their parents in Saint Wilfrid’s Hall, which is adjacent to the Brompton Oratory.

Don Bosco Institute

The relationship between the Don Bosco Institute in Kabarondo, Rwanda and the London Oratory School in London, England began in 2000.

Until 2009, it was primarily based on donations from LOS to DBI. Library shelves were filled, computers were brought, dormitories and washing facilities were built, a volleyball pitch was laid, and a bio-gas water heating system was installed.

Behind the scenes, from 2009, LOS parents began to contribute to the cost of educating genocide orphans. All of this still carries on, and makes a huge difference to the lives of pupils at DBI.

But in 2009 the relationship really developed when teachers from both schools visited each other, and when the relationship began to influence what was being done in both schools' classrooms.

Finally, in 2009 volunteers began to go out from amongst school leavers of the London Oratory, to spend some of their ‘gap year' time at DBI. They go as independent volunteers, who just happen to be former pupils of the London Oratory School.

They will live in a small house of their own, just outside the school grounds, and they are there to act as English teaching assistants in the classrooms of DBI, to help develop and enrich the extra-curricular activities of the school, to develop a community service programme in the market town of Kabarondo, and to act as co-ordinators in Rwanda for all the joint school curricular projects as they develop.

Notable Old Oratorians

  • Hayley Atwell, actress
  • Simon Callow, actor
  • Charles Ejogo, businessman
  • Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, 3rd Baron Howard of Glossop
  • Tony Geraghty, writer
  • Michael Dolan, Oxford Boat Race rower
  • Simon Gipps-Kent, actor, attended 9/70-6/74
  • Jerry Hayes, Conservative MP from 1983-97 for Harlow (school governor)
  • Michael Swift, rugby union player
  • Joaquin Ardiles, Sean McWeeney, Derya Nagel and Lorenzo Peri of Progressive Metal act The Safety Fire
  • Brian Duffy (photographer), Filmmaker and photographer.
  • Alan Mowbray, Actor and recipient of the Military Medal.
  • Gene Lockhart Actor.
  • Paul Stapleton, England international rugby player.
  • Christopher Mollard, Great British fencer.



External links

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