Amess attended St Anthony's Junior and Infant School, then St Bonaventure's Grammar School (now St Bonaventure's Catholic School), an independent school on Boleyn Road in Forest Gate. He said later in life that his political interests stemmed from his time at St Bonaventure's, where he stood for the Revolutionist Party, whose key demands were for minimum pocket money and the abolition of homework; by the time he became an adult, he was a Conservative. As a child he had a stammer, and speech therapy to correct this resulted in the loss of his natural Cockney accent. Amess went on to Bournemouth College of Technology (now Faculty of Science and Technology of Bournemouth University), where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics and government. Amess taught disabled children at St John the Baptist Primary School in Bethnal Green for a year (1970–71), and then spent a short time as an underwriter (1974–76) before becoming a recruitment consultant.