This is the Oratory School, London. It was reputed to be the best.
It rejected my son Kit.
Kit was 10 when we applied for him to attend this school in 2000. We had lived in nearby South Kensington and all my children attended the Oratory’s feeder school, Our Lady of Victories RC Primary school. We attend the Our Lady of Victories Church regularly – three of my children were baptised at the church – and still attend this church.
Additionally, Kit’s father was also the head of faculty at St Thomas Aquinas in Birmingham, an Oratory school.
On the day of the interview, Kit cycled to the London Oratory School on his own. He was a confident, sporty sort of chap and though not terribly academic, he was not that bad in his studies.
But The Oratory School rejected him after the interview. We were flabbergasted, as we were not allowed to apply to the other Catholic school in the area, Cardinal Vaughn. The choice was either or: you couldn’t apply to both.
As Catholic education was very important to us, we decided – with heavy hearts – to send him to school near his grandparents: to St Simon Stock all the way in Kent. He had to take two trains to get to school each day and once, he was picked on very severely by bullies on his journey to school. And my boy had not even turned 12 then.
But with his indomitable spirit, he won medals and trophies in karate and go-karting.
After that, we moved abroad and Kit had three years at an international school. He got his International Awards, did passably well in his studies, collected great experiences as he embraced everything in his robust, enthusiastic and boisterous way.
At 18, he decided to join the Royal Navy. Much to our surprise, he passed the Admiralty Interview Board with flying colours! We knew he would pass the Fitness Selection Test easily, but AIB???? He was up against other 18-year-olds who went to Welbeck College and /or came from distinguished naval families.
And so, Kit began his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Southampton University, fully funded by the Royal Navy. Whilst there, he added on to his arsenal of medals: in boxing and fencing. After his first degree, the Royal Navy paid for him to do a Masters, and then he went on for officer training at Dartmouth Royal Naval College in the UK and Annapolis Naval Academy in the US. He went on foreign tours of duty (including six months in the Middle East) before being awarded the prestigious job as the Deputy Weapons Engineer on the Queen Elizabeth, a post he held for two years during the building of the aircraft carrier. The biggest accolade for him, however, was when he was picked to be the Day Officer when the crew of 600+ came onboard. When his 2-year posting ended, he was invited to do a second Masters, this time in Guided Missiles Technology, which he is completing now, before his next posting, working towards his next promotion to Lieutenant Commander. He is often on TV and newspapers (the photo on the right was from Daily Mail and the one below is a screenshot from BBC’s recent programme, Britain’s Biggest Warship):
His whole life is his job. He is ambitious and embraces all the experiences the Royal Navy gives him. He took up every opportunity that was offered to him and did well.
So this is the boy that the Oratory School deemed to be “not good enough” or “not right” for its hallowed halls. I’m glad it didn’t affect him. It wasn’t the “best” school anyway, but one of the many. And Kit certainly has not lost out by not going to this school.
Ironically, my grown-up children now live within 100 metres from the school, next to Brompton Park, and as I walked past the schoolboys heading for the school today, I want to get this message out to all parents:
The concept of “best” school does not exist. The best is already in your child. Nurture it. School is just part of the story.