We promote and equip students with valuable skills for their future development
The Religious Studies course at The Oratory School enables pupils to focus in depth on the Catholic faith, by looking at beliefs, teachings, practices, sources of authority and forms of expression within Catholic Christianity. Pupils will broaden their understanding of religion by studying the beliefs and practices of another major world faith – Judaism. There is also the opportunity to engage with scripture in depth through the study of St Mark's gospel. This specification will not only helps pupils understand theological concepts and religious doctrines, but it will also promote and equip pupils with valuable skills for their future development, such as analytical and critical thinking, the ability to work with abstract ideas, leadership, and research skills.
The course will not only help pupils understand theological concepts and religious doctrines, but it will also promote and equip pupils with valuable skills for their future development, such as analytical and critical thinking, the ability to work with abstract ideas, leadership, and research skills.
The Oratory School was founded by Saint John Henry Newman, and it is to him that the school looks for inspiration and guidance. The Oratory is a Catholic School, meaning that it is a Catholic school that is unashamed of its Catholicity, while recognising that not all the pupils in the school are Catholic. Theology is then a broad term describing that religious formation and study of religion which goes on in the classroom. Here at The Oratory, Theology is firmly founded in the teaching of Catholic Christianity in keeping with the spirit and example of our founder, John Henry Newman, and in line with the Catholic Bishops’ Curriculum Directory. If the pupil is studying the subject to exam level, then it is called Religious Studies – RS – which is the exam boards’ official title for the syllabuses.
The department is housed in large, friendly, dedicated classrooms. There is a large collection of books for pupils to use and the Library is stocked with an excellent selection of reference works. The School Chaplain delivers the Sixth Form core RI teaching.
Fr David Elliott - Head of Theology
In the First, Second, and Third Forms pupils follow the course, “Way, Truth and Life”, the textbooks of which are published by TERE (Teachers’ Enterprise in Religious Education). They cover the gospel narrative of Christ’s life and teaching, Passion, Death, and Resurrection, as well as basic Christian doctrine on God, the Church, the Sacraments, feasts, saints, and the after-life. The aim is to give an excellent foundation of knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Christian faith, which lies at the heart of The Oratory community. In the Sixth Form, a suitably broader range of content is studied: world faiths, ethical issues, Church history, religious philosophy.
For the Fourth and Fifth Forms. all pupils study full GCSE course (AQA Religious Studies, Specification B), on four periods a week. The pupils study the compulsory paper on Roman Catholicism which is 50% of the course. The other 50% is split between two papers: Judaism and Mark’s Gospel. Naturally this course does not examine each candidate’s own faith, but requires a thorough knowledge of the material – as in any academic discipline.
Currently the school is following the Pre-U course of Theology and Philosophy studying Ethics, New Testament, and an Introduction to Philosophy. Pupils are taught by members of the department who are highly qualified in their fields.
Some people think that you would only study Religious Studies if you wanted to become a priest, or a Religious Studies teacher, or just because you were very religious. However, like most of the traditional academic subjects, Religious Studies is studied by anyone who wants to improve their knowledge and intellectual capacity, just as most people who study History do not go on to become historians, nor do students of Mathematics devote their lives to that subject. Religious Studies is a similarly rigorous discipline where students are asked to use their logic, their skills of argument, and abilities to articulate in order to come to reasoned conclusions about the subject.
Religious Studies has much in common with any subject where evidence is sought (the arts and sciences). It shares with English, History, and Classical Civilisation the discipline of analysis of texts and evidence, and seeks to train the student to assess this material in order to draw reasoned conclusions. Although some may think that Religious Studies is very different from the sciences, it actually uses the same approaches in order to find ‘the truth’. Sometimes this is using empirical evidence (assessing material which is proven), and sometimes using the rational side of our brain to prove something or come up with sensible theories.
In 2017 our two candidates both scored the top D1 grade at Pre-U. This demonstrates our department’s ability to get the very best out of our pupils if they work hard.
The Theology and Philosophy Pre-U is taught in three sections with exams at the end of the Upper 6th year. There are three papers:
INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY
Plato and Aristotle: an overview of their philosophies concerning the body and the soul.
Epistemology: Rationalism and Empiricism.
Ethics: Moral absolutism and moral relativism; the Euthyphro Dilemma.
Foundation of beliefs: Rationalism, revelation, and sacred texts.
Conscience, free will and Determinism: Augustine, Aquinas, Libertarianism, Determinism, and Calvin.
NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES
An assessment of life and religion of first-century Palestine: Common religion in Judaism of the first century, and the impact of Roman occupation on the religion and thought of the people.
The Synoptic Problem: Looking at the sources for the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and how similarities and differences raise questions and solutions.
Authorship, dating, and purpose of the gospels: including an assessment of their historical accuracy and readership.
Passion, Resurrection, and Christological debate: This looks at the different narratives in the gospels and assesses the importance of phrases like Son of Man, Son of God, and Messiah.
Jesus’ teaching: Parables, Miracles, Kingdom of God, conflict with authority.
Christian Ethics: Sermon on the Mount, St Paul’s ethics, Natural Law, Aquinas, Fletcher’s situation ethics.
Non-Christian Theories: Utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, Virtue ethics, and existentialist ethics.
Applied ethics: War and Peace, Abortion and Euthanasia, embryo research, genetic engineering, environmental ethics, business ethics.
For the New Testament and ethics papers there are some set texts which the boys will study in a special set texts class:
Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill;
Existentialism and Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre.
At the heart of the Oratorian ethos which Cardinal Newman wanted for his school is the life-affirming nature of a deep and active faith: to be Christian is to be fully and enjoyably human. To this end we make a number of trips and visits each year which combine fun and interest with sound doctrinal input and spiritual reflection.
Our trips include Westminster, a Newman “pilgrimage” to Birmingham, Harvington Hall, Arundel, and nearer to home for the younger years, Mapledurham, Littlemore, and St Albans.