Famous & Successful People Who Didn’t Do Well at School

a level typography

After all the build-up and hype, A Level results have finally been released. How did you do? Didn’t get the grades that you wanted?

Don’t despair or hang your head in shame; it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes success is fought for and won without a single qualification. Look at some of the people below who didn’t have glittering academic careers, but still went on to become successful, household names. There may be a few on the list that surprise you…

Kate Moss

She’s got the London look and a whole lot more. When Kate Moss was discovered back in 1988 at the tender age of 14, she was still at school, but that all changed – and quickly. Moss went on to become one of the world’s best known supermodels. Her business head is definitely screwed on right, though, and she’s currently worth £55 million making her Britain’s richest model.

Sir Richard Branson

Businessman, investor, entrepreneur and adventurer, it seems there’s no stopping Sir Richard Branson. Three O Levels and a severe case of dyslexia led him to chuck in school at the tender age of 15. Today he’s worth a cool $48 billion.

Joss Stone

Joss Stone sang ‘Free Me’ and perhaps she meant from the constraints of education. Describing herself as ‘more artistic than academic’ she left school at 16 to pursue her dream. And dreams really can come true – she’s the fifth richest British musician under the age of 30. What’s in her wallet? £10 million.

Sir Philip Green

Worth $5.2 billion this Sir had a former life as a shoe importer – going on to set up his first business importing jeans with a loan for £20,000 when he was just 16. Always controversial and rarely popular, it’s still undeniable that he’s successful. Here’s something for every budding entrepreneur to aim for: his wife surprised him on his birthday with a solid gold Monopoly set, featuring his own acquisitions. Wowzer.

Heston Blumenthal

It’s quite amusing to discover that Heston Blumenthal failed his science O Level! He blames ‘going out with the lads, beer, and girls’. Still, continuing to mess about with liquid nitrogen has led to three Michelin starred restaurants and a whole lot of cash. The proof of the pudding…?

Julie Burchill

Walking away from her A Levels just three weeks after starting them, Julie Burchill has proven that the pen is mightier than the sword. Miles of column space, a Channel 4 drama series and 16 books later, you could say that her report might read ‘Couldn’t have done better’!

Simon Cowell

Love him or hate him, Simon Cowell is success personified. No A Levels – just a couple of O Levels – meant a start at the bottom at EMI. Success didn’t elude him for long, though. A net worth of $550 million keeps him on our Saturday night TV screens.

Joey Essex

Yes, really. Who would have guessed that Joey Essex flunked school? He might have asked some seriously silly questions (case in point: “Who’s the prime minister of Essex?”) but he kept us all laughing throughout the series of ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ He has a net worth of £10 million – not to mention great teeth. Reem.

Alan Johnson

Definitely the surprise entrant. Former Education, Health and Home Secretary Alan Johnson was orphaned at 12, left school with no O Levels to stack shelves at Tesco, and then went on to become a postman at 18. By then he had a wife and two children. He’s currently enjoying success of a different kind with his poignant memoirs.

Obviously, here at Oxford Learning College we’re in the business of getting our students the qualifications they need to succeed professionally – and we hope anyone who got their A Levels results recently achieved the grades they were after.

But it’s also a good time to remind anyone who didn’t that it’s not the end of the world, and there are loads of other ways to get the qualifications, skills and experience needed to accomplish your ambitions – as, we think, the above list of people more than proves.

Are you someone who didn’t get the A Level grades you were looking for? Check out our guide to what to do next.