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The Oratory Schools Celebrate 160 years


Today, the 2nd May 2019, marks the 160th anniversary of two linked schools in south Oxfordshire: The Oratory Preparatory School and The Oratory School.

The thriving schools have a rich history and are known for being progressive, innovative and delivering an outstanding all-round education. Last year The Oratory School, who have just announced the exciting move to coeducation in 2020, was in the top 3% of schools nationally for value-added at A Level. This year was a record-breaking year at The Oratory Preparatory School with 27 children securing scholarships and exhibitions, including a 25% increase in the number of scholarships ever amassed by our girls in one year.

Notable alumni from the schools include the retired Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge; Lord Berkeley of Knighton (the composer Michael Berkeley); Actor and recent Olivier Award winner, Jonathan Bailey; the newly appointed Privy Counsellor, Sir Edward Leigh MP; Diplomat, Matt Baugh OBE; Rower, Lukas Haitzmann, the youngest person to row across any ocean; and Rugby Union player, Tamara Taylor.

The schools are celebrating this special year with a series of events and two social media campaigns. Celebratory events include a special Mass, barbeque and a Charity Ball supporting The British Lung Foundation and Launchpad Reading. In the summer, a whole day of activities will take place including a Question Time-style debate, a Wine Tasting, a Book Reading and cricket matches, bringing together the whole Oratory family.

Current students, staff, alumni and parents have been invited to share what The Oratory means to them in three words through a social media campaign launched at the beginning of February. Words such as ‘community’, ‘inclusive’, ‘welcoming’, ‘supportive’ and ‘fun’ were popular. This modern day campaign contrasts with historical images shared from the schools archives.

The Oratory School was founded in 1859 by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman with nine boys. The school was situated in Edgbaston, Birmingham, next door to Newman’s Oratory Church. The school moved in the 1920s and was reorganised into preparatory and senior schools, which, between them, now educate 700 children from 2 to 18.

The 160th anniversary year will coincide with the Canonisation of Cardinal Newman, as recently confirmed by Pope Francis. The pupils of The Oratory Preparatory School and The Oratory School will soon be able to say that they attend the only English schools founded by a post-Reformation saint and the first English saint to be canonised in many decades.

“Newman was not only one of the greatest nineteenth century theologians; he was an educationalist ahead of his time,” said Mr Joe Smith, Head Master at The Oratory school. “His rich educational legacy lives on in the Oxfordshire countryside.”

“The Oratory School Association has been providing an outstanding education since 1859. We have a rich history and innovative approach, which is at the heart of our long-standing reputation” said Mr Matthew Stilwell, Chairman of The Oratory School Association.