Spiritual Life

OLA is a Catholic school, which warmly welcomes pupils of all other faiths and beliefs. Many parents choose the school because of its strong Christian ecumenical community and its ethos.

  • In the Senior School all students and staff meet three times a week for assembly. In the Junior School all come together for morning prayers on at least three days of the week. On other days there are assemblies delivered by classes following a rota system, and once each week there is classroom based worship organised by the children and their class teacher.
  • Senior School Masses are held at regular points during the year and on particular feast days. Year Group Masses are also held every term. In the Junior School Mass is held six times a year in the Chapel and on feast days we join the parishioners in the local parish church.
  • All pupils, staff and visitors are welcome to attend Masses, assemblies and religious services.
  • We work closely with the Parish of Our Lady and St Edmund and its Parish Priest, Father James McGrath, who is available for discussion with any member of the community regarding matters of a confidential, private or spiritual nature.
  • In the Senior School, retreats and other services take place at suitable times throughout the year, which enhance the spiritual life of the whole community. In the Junior School regular services take place, for example Harvest Festival, to which all members of the community are invited.
  • A special leavers Mass is held in July in both the Junior and Senior Schools.
  • Religious Studies is a core subject for all age groups in the school. All Senior pupils take GCSE Religious Studies and the PSHE and Enrichment programmes in the Sixth Form build upon this. PSHE is a regular lesson in both Senior and Junior Schools.

School Mass is celebrated when all meet as a community at prayer. Holy days of obligation and important feast days such as Mercy Day are also celebrated throughout the year.

The Michaelmas term ends liturgically with two carol services, one for each school. Both of these are held in the local parish church. Hilary term ends with a Passiontide service in both schools, emphasising these special times of the year as ones of reflection and preparation.

During the year, Senior School pupils are offered a series of retreats which are greatly valued, nurturing spiritual growth. In our busy and often hectic world, a period of time taken to reflect, to be still and to pray is vital. These days are most enjoyable, with interactive exercises, helping to create a sense of awareness of others, prayer, meditation and Mass, prepared by the pupils.

In the Junior School there are times set aside for personal reflection, often linked with PSHE and circle time, or, at key points in the liturgical year, religious services which are held involving all members of the community.

Diocesan Validation Report 2011 (328 KB)

What is a Catholic School?

Parents considering an OLA education can sometimes be uncertain what we mean when we say that the school is ‘Catholic’. ‘What difference does this actually make on a day to day basis?’ is the question most likely to be posed. I cannot think of a better way of summing up what we do at OLA than by quoting a few lines from an address Pope Francis gave to schoolchildren in 2013. As ever, Francis showed his ability to encapsulate in a few words what many people have struggled to express in whole volumes. He told the children:

‘School broadens not only your intellectual dimension, but also the human one. I would like to focus on two fundamental values: freedom and service. Before all else be free persons! Freedom means knowing how to reflect on what we do, knowing how to evaluate which are the behaviours that make us grow. It means always choosing the good. Being free to always choose the good is challenging, but it will make you persons with a backbone, who know how to face life, courageous and patient persons.

‘The second word is service. In your schools you participate in various activities that prepare you not to be wrapped up in yourselves or in your own little world, but to open yourselves to others, especially to the poorest and most in need, to work to improve the world we live in.’

Freedom, the Good, Intellect, Service: these words encapsulate the essence of an OLA education. Our aim, as Francis says, is to set children free to be themselves, to release their potential and become the people their gifts and talents show that they can be. Cultivation of the mind goes hand in hand with developing the whole person, ensuring that our pupils develop a moral sense in an increasingly value-free world.

Intellectually curious young people, challenged to explore what makes life worth living, are far more likely to become balanced, well-rounded adults than those drilled in a more narrow school. This is the vision we have for our students at OLA. Come and see for yourself.

Stephen Oliver, Principal


During the year, pupils are offered retreats, which are greatly valued, nurturing spiritual growth. In our busy and often hectic world, a period of time taken to reflect, to be still and to pray is vital. These days are most enjoyable, with interactive exercises, helping to create a sense of awareness of others.

Junior School Religion Policy

Junior Worship Policy


Our Lady's Abingdon comes under the Parish of Our Lady and St Edmunds in Abingdon, which is part of the Pastoral Area of Thames ISIS, which in turn is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth.


Parents and staff work together to help pupils develop into happy, balanced individuals with a clear framework of beliefs and principles. We aim:

  • To enable each pupil to recognise his/her own value as a unique person
  • To enable them to understand their own physical, sexual, moral and spiritual development
  • To enable them to appreciate and consider the feelings of others
  • To enable them to make informed decisions and to assume responsibility for their own actions, so that they acquire the skills necessary for maintaining relationships and an awareness of their roles in society.

Topics are pertinent to the pupils’ stage of development and to the values and priorities which we wish to encourage.

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