Cancer, what cancer? Six fabulous feel-good stories from A-level results day

From a bad boy cleaning up his act to 'the British Taylor Swift', these students are proof that if you want something badly enough, you just might get it

With all this results day excitement, celebration and, inevitably, some disappointment in full flow, here are six feelgood stories of success.

A* in her eyes

Talented songstress Gem O’Reilly is celebrating getting the grades she needs for university, but has decided to pass up her English degree to make a bid for stardom. The 18-year-old from Middleton in Greater Manchester hit the seventh spot on the download country music charts earlier this year with her first EP, Teenager.

Dubbed a British Taylor Swift, she has developed quite a fan base after posting videos of her songs on YouTube and gigging in some prestigious Manchester venues.

Explaining her choice, Gem, from Rochdale Sixth Form College, said: "I've had to take quite a risky decision. I'm taking a year out to explore this very hard industry. I want to make a living out of making and performing music. I've been trying to get the best grades I can as a support behind me and try to pursue this career to wherever I can. Being young and in the music industry, you have to explore this while you are young or you will regret it later on.”

The great ambulance dash

He may have been driven to an exam in an ambulance, but 18-year-old Jeremy Budd from Horfield is off to study maths at Cambridge. Suffering from Asperger’s syndrome and sensory neuropathy, he has limited mobility and and lacks a sense of pain in certain situations. His statistics exam in January came under threat when heavy snow meant he was unable to walk to his school - cue St John Ambulance to the rescue!

"The exam started at 9am and I was worried I wouldn't make it. I was so grateful when the ambulance came to pick me up,” he said. “I've always done well at school but today I was really surprised with my results. I am really, really happy."

Jeremy bagged himself four A*s alongside two 'outstandings' in Cambridge’s Sixth Term Examination Papers. He flies to Denmark tomorrow with proud dad Chris to attend a maths conference.

Jeremy Budd will be heading to Cambridge to study maths (PA)  

Bad boy comes good

Self-confessed Great Yarmouth bad boy Nino Harris, 19, failed his first year at sixth form college after regularly skiving classes after spending school nights drinking with friends. Failure proved a shock to his alcohol-fuelled system, however, and he returned to work hard. Today, he was accepted by the University of Oxford to study for a degree in biochemistry, after scoring three A*s.

"I failed all my classes and never turned up. I would find myself waking up at 3pm and not taking anything seriously. My family didn't think I was going to get to university, they gave up on me a bit - and I don't blame them, given how I behaved. But this shows no matter how low you get, with a bit of hard work you can turn it around.”

Nino’s not all bad-boy-come-good though, as his U grade in general studies suggests - he ignored all the questions and drew a picture instead.

Watch out Oxford, bad boy Nino Harris is on his way (PA)  

Cancer, what cancer?

Not many things can beat cancer in the adversity stakes, but Tom Woodward wasn’t going to let the disease hold him back. The 18-year-old Brighton College student was diagnosed with testicular cancer part-way through his A-levels, meaning he had to juggle revision and exams while undergoing chemotherapy. Despite this, he has gained an A* in psychology and two As in English and history to secure his place at Bristol University.

“It was pretty stressful but I didn’t have any choice so I had to get on with it. I'm pretty relieved now. I have been given the all-clear and I just have to have check-ups done every three months”, Tom, a keen rugby player, explained.

Tom Woodward beat cancer to win a place at Bristol University (PA)  

Hitting it for six

You’d think one A* is amazing, right? Well 18-year-old Kate Prescott from Swanmore has gone and earned herself a stunning six, in maths, further maths, chemistry, physics, general studies and the extended project. The Peter Symonds’ College student is now destined for Cambridge University to study natural sciences.

"I'm speechless really. I guess I did work a little bit. Really, I did work really hard, I didn't have much spare time, but I have achieved what I wanted. I'm surprised I have done so well because I had a lot of subjects so, although I was predicted A*s, I could have slipped up with some of them.

"I don't think that A-levels are getting easier; perhaps people are just getting better," she suggested. "Everyone works very hard to do well."

Kate Prescott scored a whopping 6 A*s (PA)  

Dyslexia no barrier for Devon girl

Penny Banks, 17, from Honiton, will be heading to Girton College, Cambridge having tackled problems with writing to achieve a string of top A-level grades.

“I can't think in a straight line and find it really difficult to write fluidly but the support at school has really made a difference”, she said. "I was finding it really difficult to concentrate in exams and now wear ear plugs - something I would never have thought of - so that I can sub vocalise better and block out any exterior sounds."

The scholar from Queen’s College in Taunton has also campaigned against global hunger with the national If campaign - she even met David Cameron at Downing Street in June ahead of the G8 summit.

Dyslexia sufferer Penny Banks achieved top grades (PA)  

News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Sales Executive

£18 - 24k OTE + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Executive ...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant - IT Channel - Graduate

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a Value-Added I...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor