Q&A: Jacky Lambert Shares How She Founded Tutor The Nation

By Anoop Bhuller

8 months ago

Jacky Lambert, founder of Tutor The Nation, talks to Eleanor Doughty about her education and what it’s like to work in the City

Jacky Lambert was educated in three countries – Korea, Belgium and the UK, where she attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College. After reading politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, she began work as an investment banker. In 2020, she founded the education charity, Tutor The Nation.

Jacky Lambert

Jacky Lambert

Did you enjoy school?

My father was a diplomat; moving countries meant that I had to learn languages very quickly. If you do that from an early age you quickly adapt to it. I think I may be dyslexic but studying in different languages helped.

How did you find education in the UK?

I came to Cheltenham Ladies’ from a French convent in Belgium, where we had mass four times a week. Cheltenham Ladies’ was academically strong, but there was almost no pastoral care. It wasn’t somewhere which formed you – you went there, studied, and then left.

Why did you choose to study PPE?

I got into Oxford for medicine thinking I wanted to be a doctor, but I found dissecting dead bodies off-putting. I left for a year and then came back to read PPE. I wasn’t particularly good at anything and it allowed me to move into humanities-based subjects rather than science.

Did it have the reputation that it has now, as a course for politicians?

No, that image has developed over the past 20 years or so, as many of those now holding great offices of state did PPE. In my day it was considered a degree which gave you a certain amount of flexibility.

Oxford was very male-dominated in those days – did you mind that?

I just felt lucky that I had a place – you could hardly see a man if you wanted, as you only saw them at lectures which were not compulsory, and in the library.

What career did you have in mind?

I thought of becoming a journalist but was put off when I attended a UN debate and afterwards saw all the journalists rushing to the telephones. I realised that they were reporting what had happened – they couldn’t change anything. I thought, let’s see if finance can.

Did you have a good experience in the City?

When I joined Manufacturers Hanover Merchant Bank, they initially put me on the Asian desk and when the men walked in they thought I was the receptionist and tried to give me their coats. I transferred to the French desk because I spoke French, and that was much better.

What sort of attitude do you need to work in that kind of environment?

You have to be goal-driven because you don’t get any prizes for almost winning a deal. It is about having the right temperament, and knowing what you want in life.

When did you have the idea for Tutor The Nation?

In 2020, when the National Tutoring Programme was announced. I thought it was a great idea but that it would be unaffordable. I decided to set up a charity where university students could volunteer to tutor state school pupils for free. In the first year, our pilot scheme had 60 students, and we worked with Bolton Metropolitan Council. Last year we finished the academic year with 580 matched pairs.

What was your motivation in setting up Tutor The Nation?

Part of it is being Korean – education is in my DNA. When Korea came out of Japanese occupation in 1945 it was one of the poorest countries in the world. Everything we have built has been with education, and in Korea if you do well, you can be anything. I wanted to bring something of that to the UK, and give back.

What is the future of Tutor The Nation?

We are now in the process of building up corporate partnerships. We ask very little of them – we say that if one of our volunteers would like to come to their sector, can they consider their CV for employment. It’s a win-win for both sides.

Get involved: Tutor the Nation is always looking for tutors; visit tutorthenation.org to register your interest. If you think your school would benefit from the work of a Tutor the Nation volunteer, get in touch at [email protected]