10 effective ways to teach gambling prevention in PSHE

Anne Bell from the PSHE Association provides advice on how to deliver gambling prevention education safely and effectively

Anne Bell

'We must educate children about the risks of gambling'

The Gambling Commission’s Young People and Gambling Report (2019) found that 11 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds had spent their own money on gambling in the week prior to being surveyed – a higher percentage than had consumed alcohol or cigarettes.

Children also have unprecedented access to online gambling opportunities and advertising with half of UK 10-year-olds now owning a smartphone, according to Ofcom data.

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It is therefore welcome that secondary schools will be required to "teach about the risks related to online gambling including the accumulation of debt" in secondary schools from September as part of statutory health education.

Learning on self-agency, managing peer influence, emotion regulation and risk management lay the foundations for topic-specific teaching.

However, given the complexity of the issue – for example, the increasingly blurred lines between gaming and gambling – primary schools should lay the groundwork, and new lessons and guidance from the PSHE Association and GambleAware and will support them to do so.  

To help do this as effectively as possible teachers should be aware of some key PSHE principles that will inform their teaching.

1. Avoid one-offs: Consistent PSHE education that includes gambling prevention work is more effective than brief, one-off interventions delivered in isolation.

2. Build protective factors as well as teaching about risk factors: Lessons should deliver key knowledge, but also help pupils develop strategies and attributes to be able to apply this knowledge in real-life situations.

3. Promote positive social norms: Learning should aim to reduce the perception that gambling is something that ‘everyone does’ yet should avoid stigmatising gambling.

4. Create a safe learning environment: Negotiate ground rules with pupils, make sure activities are distanced, questions are handled safely and suitable support is signposted.

5. Start where young people are: Lessons should be adapted to meet the needs of different school contexts and year groups, in line with pupils’ maturity and learning needs.

6. Don’t set out to shock, shame or scare: Shock tactics don’t work – and can do more harm than good – never try to make pupils feel afraid or ashamed about their own or others’ behaviour.

7. Don’t provide a "how to" manual or inspire risky behaviour: Use personal stories and resources with caution – input should never glamourise gambling or give pupils details about how to access, engage in or hide such behaviours.

8. Assess and evaluate learning: It’s important to know if work has been effective – build in activities that demonstrate or assess what has been learned to inform future planning.

9. Base learning on evidence of what works: Learning intentions must reflect evidence of what works and of safe practice – effective training can help with this.

10. Embed within wider approaches: Plan ways to link gambling work with wider PSHE provision to maximise impact.

Much of this can be applied to various potential harms and risks taught in PSHE education, not just gambling, and can therefore be partly developed through teaching on other issues such as drugs and alcohol. 

Focused approaches

More specifically, though, a growing body of gambling prevention research and wider research and theory have identified a number of promising approaches to specifically address gambling related issues.

Research suggests that teaching on the following issues may be protective:

  • Understanding of probability, odds, house edge, randomness, superstition and other "thinking errors" such as a sense of deservedness.
  • Understanding of gambling industry strategies to draw people in and keep them gambling.

Further information about this research and related approaches is available in the PSHE Association How to address gambling through PSHE education teacher handbook which is freely available on the PSHE Association site alongside primary and secondary lesson plans. This work has been commissioned by GambleAware.

Visitors or external speakers can also play a role when chosen wisely. Their expertise and creative resources can add interest and a fresh voice on this important health education topic.

However, it is important to be aware of safe and effective practice guidance when working with visitors on any PSHE topic. See our guidance and podcast on working with visitors and speakers to learn more.

Anne Bell works for the PSHE Association. As a member of their subject specialist team, she develops resources and training to support schools’ PSHE education delivery

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