Not getting the GCSE or A-level grades you were expecting can be soul-destroying, but it really isn’t the end of the world - just ask these seven movers and shakers who never quite made the grade but still managed to hit the heights.
The world-famous music and TV talent show mogul left school with just two O-levels (latter day GCSEs) in English Language and Literature. After drifting through several jobs he landed one working in the mailroom at record company EMI, eventually working his way up not only to multi-millionaire and celebrity status but into the ranks of ‘The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures’, reaching number 41 in 2010.
Dame Anita Roddick
The late-founder of The Body Shop originally trained as a teacher but never took up the profession, preferring instead to travel around the world. With her husband travelling the Americas in 1976, she set up The Body Shop to make an income for herself and her two daughters - her only bit of business acumen being her husband’s advice to take sales of £300-a-week.
30 years later and with a 77 million-strong worldwide customer base, The Body Shop was sold to L’Oreal in 2006 for £652 million.
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The Michelin-starred celebrity chef left school with six O-levels - failing science of all things - and cites the distractions of ‘going out with the lads, beer and girls’ as the reason he never performed better.
Undeterred, the self-taught chef worked his way through countless kitchens and now owns three Michelin-starred restaurants across the UK and appears in several of his own, off-the-wall cookery shows.
The Russian steel-magnate came to prominence in the UK after he bought Chelsea Football Club and paved the way for countless future foreign investments in football clubs. His estimated £9 billion fortune makes him Russia’s fifth wealthiest person and the 50th richest in the world and his empire-building started from humble beginnings as after dropping out of college he worked as a street-trader, mechanic and sold imported rubber ducks from his Moscow flat.
Dr. Mark Lythgoe
Now a renowned neurophysiologist and presenter of several television and radio documentaries, Dr. Lythgoe’s medical career got off to an inauspicious start when his A-level results came back with three F grades and an E in physics. With the route to university blocked, his mother persuaded him to apply for a three-year diploma from the Salford College of Technology. What followed was a diploma in nuclear medicine, an MSc in behavioural biology, PhD in biophysics and life as leading name in his field.
Lord Alan Sugar
Never one to underplay how he’s a self-made man who worked his way up from humble beginnings, Lord Sugar wasn’t interested in academic study and left school at 16 to sell car aerials and electricals from a van.
He set up Amstrad just three years later by retailing electrical devices and home computers made up of cheap components and so his empire-building began. At its peak, Amstrad had a stock market valuation of some £1.2 billion.
Another self-made billionaire entrepreneur, Branson suffered with severe dyslexia and left school at 15 with just three O-levels. By the age of 20 he had started up his Virgin business as a mail-order record retailer and so began a £2.5 billion empire that would eventually encompass everything from mobile phones, to festivals, to trans-Atlantic and even space travel.
Branson is arguably the best example ever that even if you don’t make the grade, you can still look beyond the sky as your limit.