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 1,350 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's formal links with the Brompton Oratory go back to the foundation of the school by The Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri (London) and continue as the Fathers of this Congregation are the trustees of the School. The London Oratory School and The Brompton Oratory continue their close working relationship which includes the Oratory Fathers supplying chaplaincy to the School and the School supplying the Schola choir for the parish.
The school is notable for educating the children of politicians, including three of the four children of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, children of Harriet Harman and former 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In 1959 the two central schools were amalgamated and in 1962 it was decided that the Daughters of the Cross were to be withdrawn after almost a century of devoted work.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, now 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.
The 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.
The school marked its 150th anniversary on 27 September 2013 with the celebration of Mass in Westminster Cathedral.Pauline Devereux 2017-present (Acting Head)
David McFadden 2007-2017
John McIntosh, CBE. 1977-2007 (Deputy headmaster from 1971-7, and had taught Maths there since 1967)
Ian G. Gaffney (1963-1977)
Laurence Summerbell (1930-1957)
Dr. John Menzies Duffy (1890-1930)
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 for the remainder of their Secondary Education. This is up until the age of sixteen..
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.
The traditional sport of the school is rugby and the London Oratory is commonly seen as a 'rugby school'. During the sport's history at the school, 56 Middlesex county championships have been won. Furthermore, a large number of Oratorians have gone on to represent England at international level, both at junior and senior levels. Three OOs have also played in the Cambridge varsity XV. 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. Both the 1st and 2nd XV play a full calendar of matches over the course of the season, against fellow schools in the South East, including The Oratory School, Dulwich, St. Paul's, Wimbledon College, Eton, Berkhamstead and Harrow, as well as a number of schools from further afield. The first overseas rugby tour was to Galway, Ireland in 1970, winning all matches and then to New York in 1979 and was followed by tours to San Francisco in 1983, Canada in 1988 and Australia in 1990. The 1st XV and 2nd XV toured Australia in July 2011, the first major tour for 21 years. 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. The house rugby competition also takes place in the Michaelmas term.
Rowing started at the school in the 1960s on a very basic level. After a long period of inactivity, rowing was reorganised as the London Oratory School Boat Club around the turn of the century. The boat club has, in the past, entered the Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, yet qualified for the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup for the first time in 2015. In 2016, the 1st VIII won the Child Beale Cup for School first eights at the National Schools Regatta.
Cricket is also a 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.
The School hosts a 25-meter, indoor swimming pool in its grounds. The School holds its annual house swimming gala in the pool with teams competing from each of the six houses. There are no football teams who represent the school, however each form from each house puts forward a team for the annual house football competition. The London Oratory School Fencing Club was recently founded. Other sports offered by the School are volleyball, tennis, netball, hockey, angling and athletics. As well as the pool, the school has a newly renovated gym, which contains weights apparatus, bikes, treadmills and rowing machines.
The Schola Cantorum was established as a means of providing Catholic boys from the age of seven with a rigorous experience of 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 allows 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 16th 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. 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 funds for various charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Save the Children and the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program.
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 during the Trinity term. 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 on this occasion.
The Principal Celebrant is usually a high-ranking official of the Catholic Church. Recent Celebrants have included: Leo Cardinal Burke (2013) 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.
The Arts Centre which was inaugurated in 1991 by the then Prime Minister John Major, has a 305-seat theatre, with fly-tower, dressing rooms and orchestral pit, art studios and gallery space, a pottery, music teaching rooms, music technology suites, a recital area, practice rooms and four classrooms dedicated to each of the Junior House classes. In the foyer there is a large bronze sculpture of Athena by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and major series of his original prints. In December 2006 the Arts Centre was renamed the John McIntosh Arts Centre in honour of the recently retired headmaster.
Throughout the year there is a varied programme of concerts, recitals, plays, and exhibitions by pupils, parents and visiting artists and performers. In previous years the school has presented Macbeth, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado about Nothing and The Tempest, Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and The Hypochondriac, Gogol's The Government Inspector, Shaw's The Devil's Disciple and Pygmalion, Beckett's Endgame, Edward Bond's The Sea and Stone, Toad of Toad Hall, The Elephant Man, a number of one act plays including four by Chekhov, Arthur Miller's The Crucible and A View from the Bridge, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy, Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus, and a production of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. The sixth form usually put on two productions a year, with a play in the Michaelmas term and a musical in the Lent term.Hayley Atwell, actress
Simon Callow, actor
Brian Duffy, filmmaker, photographer
The Safety Fire, pop music band - Joaquin Ardiles, Sean McWeeney, Derya Nagle and Lori Peri
Peter Egan, actor
Simon Gipps-Kent, actor (attended 9/70-6/74)
Jerry Hayes, Conservative MP from 1983-97 for Harlow
John Kearns (comedian), comedian.
Gene Lockhart, actor
Alan Mowbray, actor.
Beno Obano, rugby player
Michael Swift, Irish rugby union player.
Mick Whelan, trade unionist and General Secretary of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF)