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We promote and equip students with valuable skills for their future development

The Religious Studies course at The Oratory School enables students to focus in depth on ideas in Philosophy and Theology which we believe will enhance their understanding of the world in which we live and form them into mature young people in our modern world. This will include looking at beliefs, teachings, practices, sources of authority, and forms of expression within Catholic Christianity. This subject will not only help students to understand theological concepts and religious doctrines, but it will also promote and equip student 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

The course will not only help students understand theological concepts and religious doctrines, but it will also promote and equip students 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 students 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 students to use and the Library is stocked with an excellent selection of reference works. The School Chaplain delivers the 6th Form core RI teaching.

Fr David Elliott - Head of Theology


In the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Forms students follow the course, “Source to Summit”, the textbooks of which are published by Oxford University Press. These help pupils to learn and reflect on Catholic beliefs and teachings as well as understand moral, philosophical, and ethical approaches to life in the modern day, particularly focusing on the example and witness of good role models for young people today. 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 6th Form, a suitably broader range of content is studied: world faiths, ethical issues, Church history, religious philosophy.

For the 4th and 5th Forms all students study the full GCSE course (AQA Religious Studies, Specification B). The students study the compulsory paper on Catholic Christianity 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.

A Level
Currently the school is following the Edexcel course studying Ethics, New Testament, and Philosophy of Religion. Students are taught by members of the department who are highly qualified in their fields. For more information on Religious Studies at A Level, please click on the tab below.

A Level 

You may think to yourself: ‘Why study Religious Studies in 6th Form?’ Many 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. A Level Religious Studies is also very different from GCSE with a lot more philosophy. Just as most people who study History do not go on to become historians or students of Mathematics devote their lives to that subject, so Religious Studies is a 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 Civilisations the disciplines of analysis of texts and evidence, and seeks to train the student to assess this material in order to make 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.

At A Level, the Theology department is able to draw on the expertise of three dedicated members of staff: Fr David Elliott, Mr Adrian Dulston, and Mr Matthew Fogg.

The Specification
The Religious Studies exam from Edexcel is taught in three sections with exams at the end of the Upper Sixth year. There are Three Papers:


  • The great fathers of Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle. How do we come to know anything at all? What are our sources? How do we even know we exist? What or who is God?
  • Philosophy in the Jewish-Christian world. How does the Bible compare with Plato and Aristotle – what are the similarities and differences? How does our human moral code depend on our religious faith? Does God command things because they are good or are they good because he commands them? Is God the definition of good?
  • Arguments for and against the existence of God. Ontological Argument. Teleological Argument. Cosmological Argument. Moral Argument. Experiential Argument.
  • Why is there evil in the world if God is good?
  • Religion and science. Darwin and eolutionary theory. How does religion respond to scientific challenges?


  • 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. Titles for Jesus. 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, enironmental ethics, business ethics.


For all three papers there are some Scholars’ works that candidates will need to be familiar with, and in the New Testament paper a number of key texts.


At the heart of the Oratorian ethos which Saint John Henry 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.


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The Oratory School

Tel: +44 (0)1491 683500