'I enjoyed school, but I underachieved'

If your child's results aren't quite up to scratch, they're in good company, says Grace McCann

Dismal or disappointing results do not a loser make. The following well-known people messed up in the sixth form but came good in their chosen careers. If you are worried that your child has spent too much time on the sports field or in the high street, read these stories and take heart.

George Alagiah, newsreader

Keen to study at Durham University, he missed the results he needed first time around but retook his exams and eventually got in. "My O-levels were fine - I got nine or 10 - but at A-levels I came a cropper. I passed, but not with the right grades for Durham," he told The Independent. Alagiah thinks he was too heavily involved with activities such as editing the school magazine. "The headmaster gave me the keys to the sixth-form block for extra study at weekends."

Estelle Morris, Arts Minister

The former Education Secretary completely failed her A-levels. "I was content at school and enjoyed it but I think I underachieved," she said. "I am sure I didn't work hard enough and that has driven me ever since." Morris had passed seven O-levels. She became a teacher, and then an MP in 1992.

Anne Widdecombe, MP

There was early upset for the formidable Tory when she failed to get into St Anne's College, Oxford, but she achieved good enough A-levels for a place at Birmingham to read Latin and ancient history. "My political ambitions hardened and I thought Oxford would be a good place to engage in politics," she told The Independent. I sat the entrance exam for Lady Margaret Hall in Latin; I had almost finished a degree in the subject." At Oxford she plunged into student politics but let her studies slip. "My third in PPE [politics, philosophy and economics] was my greatest triumph, as I did no work as far as the exams were concerned."

Richard Hill, rugby player - England and Saracens

"I failed my A-levels and decided to retake them," Hill said in a newspaper interview. He decided to give his rugby a bit of a break that year. "But after Christmas, I got a call asking me to go to a final England Colts [junior England squad] trial. Can't turn that down, I thought. So I was dragged back into it, but it was always what I wanted." However, Hill still managed to graduate from Brunel University.

Jimi Mistry, actor

Acting occurred to Mistry only after he messed up in the sixth form. He told journalists: "I never wanted to be an actor until I was 18. I failed my A-levels miserably, and my father said, 'You have got to have a direction'. He drew up a list of good and bad points of what I had to offer, and one of them was being able to entertain. So I went to drama school."

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine