Young People and Education
Gambling Education in Scotland
Education is a hugely important part of life and it generates strong opinions. Educational theory is for experts and teachers. We tread very lightly therefore in asking just two questions around the place of gambling education in Scotland, focusing on secondary schools. This is a very wordy page so by all means, skip to our conclusion. The main thing to think about is where we place education in priorities given to ways of reducing gambling harms. If this is an area of interest to you we hope you find the ‘longer bits’ useful and of interest. As for all the site, we’d love for your feedback and comments.
One in fifty 11-16 year olds in the UK are identified as having serious difficulties with gambling and up to a further 2.7% at risk of harm.
One central requirement of the 2005 Gambling Act (which is currently under review) is protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
Campaigners from many positions have sounded alarms about the normalisation of gambling, saturation advertising, blurring of borders between child-friendly games and gambling (such as loot boxes). Children do not only learn in school. They learn from their friends, parents, the media, and they are ‘scocialised’ to adopt the values of the wider world where, in this case, gambling is heavily promoted as great fun.
Children at Risk
Age is only one variable. Others include gender, educational attainment, learning difficulties, ethnicity, religion, and the degree to which widespread unjust inequalities impact an individual. So, there is no ‘block’ of 11-16 year olds, no category that defines each individual. Some 11-16 year olds will face no risks whatsoever of gambling harms; others, in particular contexts such as social deprivation, will display greater vulnerability than the quoted one in fifty (which even as an average, whole-population figure is shocking).
Other age groups and contexts, such as 18-25 year olds, university students, 25-35 year olds and so on have been shown to have their own tendencies to harms, and within each population will be variables. Variables should also include styles of gambling, frequency and on what devices.
We’ll focus upon the 11-16 year old age group here bearing the above in mind. Although it’s beyond our scope it’s important to note in passing that adolescence is a crucial period for mental and emotional development, in particular for consolidating impulse control. Many young people who go on to experience gambling and substance harms are already suffering the traumatic impact of adverse child hood experiences.
“They Should Teach Them about That in School.”
How important is education to reducing gambling harms? A bigger or a smaller part?
How should education about gambling be designed and delivered, and who should do this?
Schools in more affluent areas, and the British public schools in particular, have a better record of achieving good examination results and ultimately of seeing their students grow into top jobs and social positions. As is the case with appointing GPs in deprived communities there is a difficulty in recruiting the best professionals into schools with greatest needs. Cold, but unrealistic, logic would suggest that those with the most pressing health needs and children facing obstacles they did not choose should have more, not less, expertise and resources. There is, unsurprisingly, lower academic attainment in communities suffering multiple disadvantages, though as with everything this is not a law and schools, students, parents and communities consistently achieve excellent outcomes. We are again looking at population tendencies rather than cast iron determinants. In looking at inequalities we saw that education is strongly correlated with health, quality of life and life expectancy. Severe gambling harms are not confined to the poorly educated, but there is a strong correlation between gambling harms and poor educational attainment – compounded with possible adverse childhood experiences, attritional pysychological damages from deprivation and ongoing housing, employment and financial inadequacies.
In Scotland between a quarter and a fifth of adults are ‘functionally illiterate’. This means that they can read and write at basic levels but struggle with more complex materials such as official forms and letters. Add to this a lower level of digital literacy, the devastating effects of which were represented in I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s film about the routine cruelty of the benefits system. In the UK as a whole almost 50% of adults have only the numeracy levels expected of an eleven year old. Higher levels of literacy include the ability to understand complex ideas, assess the truth-worthiness of materials (such as advertisements), read between the lines of texts, and be included in social and political conversations. Put all this together and intuition strongly suggests that this brief survey alone links the importance of education to health and well being, and resilience to exploitation.
Schools try to teach a range of subjects considered important. Reading writing and arithmetic (called the ‘three R’s’ by someone who couldn’t spell!) are essential foundations. If a student falls behind in these the other subjects, or most of them, can become inaccessible. Maths, science, foreign languages, history, geography, literature will not flourish without foundational literacy and numeracy. Art, crafts, design may be welcome relief for some students; others may have been ‘turned off’ by anything to do with school. Physical education, deemed to be very important, needs to be considered against the fact that obesity rates in 12-15 year olds increase by age, with 21% categorised as obese in Scotland in 2018. This figure needs to be understood not as a failure of physical education in schools but once again as an outcome related largely to wider social contexts of deprivation and financial barriers to healthy food and cultural inheritance of dietary preferences. The very best possible education provision cannot counterbalance the ills of society – any more than health provision even of the highest quality can mitigate against the non-medical factors contributing to ill health and ill being.
Most schools and most teachers do their very best for every pupil, and there are plenty of success stories to celebrate. But it does appear that too many young people fail to benefit from the huge life advantage of a good education as understood in the above discussion. But wait! There’s more. A growing child is a delicate creature whose future will largely be built on their childhood learning. So, quite rightly, education commits to providing an ‘holistic’ or whole person curriculum with attention to producing what in times gone by was called ‘a well-rounded individual’. Pastoral care in schools is intended to guide, support and enrich every aspect of a young person’s development. The idea is lifted complete from Christianity, the pastor being the shepherd to the flock. (In Ireland it’s still not unusual to hear teaching described as the ‘second priesthood’). Children are to be guided, led from dangers and harms towards ‘the good’.
These days, we come across a relatively new way of understanding this wider purpose of education. In England, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, and in Scotland Personal and Social ducation (PSE) are part of the curriculum. The PSHE Association is dynamic and committed to campaigning for greater weight to be given to this important part of education. It now has a compulsory place in the national curriculum; gambling education was recently made a compulsory part of it. If you’d like to pause here by the way take a look at the PSHE’s guidance and materials about gambling. These resources are excellent in exploring the many important nuances of delivering education, based on solid theory and, importantly, tend towards placing all PSHE including gambling in a whole-school approach, led by senior staff, demonstrating development from ages five to sixteen, integrated into the whole curriculum and delivered across subjects, all against any common tendency to ‘drop in’ for instance a couple of sessions about gambling. In Scotland the area is less developed, more fragmentary and we’ll examine it below. Pastoral care and PSHE/PSE overlap. Somewhat confusingly, to outsiders at least is RSE (relationships and sex education), and RSHE (relationships, sex and health education) which the Westminster Department for Education made compulsory in English schools from September 2020. PSHE now includes RSHE! Sometimes all these acronyms are as complicated as algebra!
What would you find in PSE or PSHE? Officially, a great deal. Take a quick glance at the Programme of Study for PSHE across the different key stages and age groups. Only a brief look shows how much is covered. There is less developed guidance in Scotland though similar areas and topics are covered in schools. A lot depends upon differences between individual schools, including how much importance they attach to it. There are also many variations in how it’s taught – or, in an importantly better way, how things are set up for students to learn. Particular topics covered may include drugs, alcohol, tobacco, citizenship, challenging prejudices, healthy life styles, managing money, risk, relationships and so on. In recent years, ‘mental health’ has been seen as an important topic. Gambling is a latecomer to the list, and it’s worth noting that when many adults are made aware of gambling harms potential this is a whole new insight, and this includes for teachers and many in the health and social care fields. Crucially, parents are among those who may not be aware of the dangers around gambling harms: ‘reaching out’ to parents to amke them aware is important, possibly in conjunction with schools, but overall a demonstration of the claim that gambling should be the concern of every citizen.
With that background in mind we’ll explore more closely below the nature and place of gambling education in Scottish schools. Generally, knowledge and resources are provided by external agencies, and in Scotland the most prominent provider is FastForward’s Gambling Education Hub and you’ll see there that education for young people is not confined to schools but is found in any youth organisation. Similarly, Paul Pettigrew, a young man with a former gambling addiction founded Gamtalk UK and talks not only in schools but also sports clubs.
We are, then, asking two questions:
How important is education to preventing gambling harms?
How should education about gambling be designed and delivered?
How important is education to reducing gambling harms? A bigger or a smaller part?
Answers to questions like these will differ, often quite widely. The source of the answer may present evidence but as always with evidence there are problems. What is being measured? What isn’t being measured? There may be things which can’t be measured or evaluated such as long term studies of the influence of education on later gambling behaviours. Sources of evidence may have an over-developed emphasis upon presenting their views in the best possible light: for instance, organisations have to convince funders that their work is effective. Often, evaluation contains a certain rhetorical ‘padding’. Evaluation may divert attention from what is important by introducing irrelevance such as positive testimonies from teachers and students regarding the enjoyability of sessions. One big general difficulty is that very often education is seen as a cure-all for social harms. Who would argue that tackling drugs deaths and serious harms shouldn’t be a prime responsibility of education? Perhaps drugs education has various positive benefits for the majority of students but none for those most at risk. How would we know? Is there sufficient independent research?
That last phrase, ‘independent research’, is key. What does it show? Looking at a range of research, common factors include firstly that there is a paucity of research. Some research is methodologically poor. Positive benefits of gambling education tend to be identified as ‘cognitive’, that is of knoiwledge about gambling. It’s worth asking at this stage how useful education about alcohol, tobacco, drugs, healthy diet have been. Generally, it appears that the most vulnerable young people fail to benefit. Scotland has the most awful deaths from drugs figures in Europe: were education effective would the figures be more terrible? Or should we be looking at factors beyond education? There has been a huge fall in tobacco addiction in recent years: is this because of better eduaction or because of the very aggressive government actions to restrict tobacco, principally by annual tax rises, public health campaigns, ban on smoking indoors, hiding products from sight, gruesome images of diseased lungs on cigarette boxes? Or does education complement these measures? Other factors emerge such as the popularity of vaping among young people – cheaper than tobacco and -‘ like ‘alcopops’ – available in a big range of ‘flavours’. There is also the slow cultural shift against tobacco, and smoking rates continue to fall.
Let’s ask some questions as pointers to the complexity of assessing gambling education.
- Is gambling education uniform in Scotland? Do all students receive the same education or does it vary between schools? If it varies how does this relate to a national policy to prevent gambling harms?
- Is gambling education rooted in sound educational theory? Do Scottish schools deliver education soundly based on the broader principles of a personal,, social, health and economic curriculum? Does each school attach high priority to the design and implementation of such a curriculum?
- Are teachers and managers aware of what does not work in gambling education? Research suggests, based on drugs and alcohol education, that students should not be subject to ‘scare tactics’ or any possible glamorisation of gambling.
- Is gambling education ‘bolted on’, delivered as one or a few separate sessions? Or is it embedded in a richer curriculum that treats all risky behaviours as designed to be delivered developmentally through the key stages?
- What is the perceived aim of gambling education? For instance, one educational charity states as a student outcome that they can describe responsible gambling. Given that the phrase ‘responsible gambling’ conforms with industry discourses and suggests that gambling is a legitimate form of entertainment, do we need to be sensitive to possible ‘hidden messages’?
- Is gambling education located in a whole-school approach so that as well as there being specific sessions about gambling (for instance in PSHE/PSE sessions), the topic is treated across the curriculum. For instance, maths looks at probability, English and media education look at advertising and promotion by industry, business studies examines industry profits and consumer losses, health related courses discuss mental and physical problems arising from gambling, social sciences look at ‘risk industries’ and social deprivation.
- Should external providers of gambling education have links with industry, and if so to what extent?
- Is there sufficient independent research into gambling education?
- Are external gambling education providers focused primarily on education as a main, powerful means of reducing harms or do they locate their work within broader contexts such as public health approaches, industry marketing and advertising practices, product design. Is there any danger that educational initiatives focus harms around personal responsibility and other factors thus ignoring such broader contexts?
- Given that gambling education is a relevant newcomer to a crowded curriculum is it not fair to hope that, whatever inadequacies are identified, it will develop over time to achieve a more coherent theoretical base, uniformity of delivery and adequate evaluation procedures? Largely, such development will depend upon a genuine embedding of pastoral, PSHE/PSE within a whole school curriculum.
- With growing attention to mental health and the prevalence of addictions in the population, is gambling education best located in the particular policies schools have to promote good mental health and the nature of addiction?
- Are all students provided with clear support opportunities for their own difficulties? Are they signposted and supported in finding advice about somebody else’s difficulties?
Trust Me: the film
Here is a great example of FastForward’s work. Starting life as a play co-produced with young people the original toured schools in Scotland from the Borders to the Highlands, evolving over time to become a film. Trust Me was premiered across Scotland on 27 May 2021 as a live Youtube event. The screening was followed by conversation between the film’s director and the actors who then answered questions live from schools in Scotland.
Like all of Fast Forward’s work, there is no aim of telling young people what not to do. It is not prescriptive but descriptive, representing choices and journeys made by people in real life, allowing audiences to think for themselves about issues. The film’s website, where you can watch the film, includes sections for young people teachers and youth workers each with relevant supplementary resources.
It’s also very watchable – a must, of course! Click here to watch and find out more. Behind the film are years of hard work and commitment to the value of the arts in education, a clear example of the ‘creative spark‘.
How should education about gambling be designed and delivered, and who should do this?
Education about gambling and other risky behaviours is embedded in a school’s commitment to a sound curriculum policy for personal, social, relationships, sexual, health and economic education. Pastoral care is also involved since students may already have developed difficulties with risky behaviours. In Scotland, how much weight is given to this aspect of education in practice? Then, within this PSHE/PSE curriculum, how much space is given to gambling? Who is qualified to answer these questions, and to what extent has the necessary professional and academic research been done? We aren’t remotely in a position to answer such questions but believe that they are relevant and important.
One thing we have done and anyone can is to look at the websites of schools across Scotland. Here, there is wide variation between individual schools’ policies. While topics like alcohol, drugs and tobacco are common, there is also a common lack of attention to gambling. This suggests that either gambling education is not important or, more likely, there is a general lack of awareness about the scale and prevalence of gambling harms. It can be said at this stage that one of the measurable and effective consequences of actions by external organisations such as Fast Forward’s Gambling Education Hub in Scotland is to raise awareness among teachers. Even where activities are aimed at students, like them teachers become aware. As such external provision increases and develops, it is fair to assume that not only individual teachers and schools but also, via professional networking and training events, the topic of gambling harms receives greater priority. The biggest UK gambling education is YGAM which works in several niches including a focus on university students, parental guidance, teacher training days and resources provision.
For those who are interested in the subject we strongly recommmend reading an evaluation report from the think tank DEMOS about their gambling education pilot project. It gives a good sense of some of the difficulties in evaluating such work, as well as indicating weaknesses and strengths in delivery of the project. In general, and specifically relating to Scotland, there does not appear to be much in the way of research about gambling education but having said that this may reflect the fact that it is a relatively new topic area in schools and as the latter develops so will the former. Introduction of the very best theory and evidence based designs is unlikely to lead to overnight universal achievement of implementation.
Let’s Talk about Personal and Social Education
A 2017 report from the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee with the above title suggests that PSE provision is patchy, lacking a coherent foundation and delivered in individual schools in widely differing ways. The responses to the report afford a fascinating insight into how different organisations and individuals perceive the area and what should be included in it. Some ‘snippets’ throw spotlights on particular issues:
– there is a lack of but a vital need for teachers with expertise to deliver and oversee the curriculum which often deals with very sensitive issues;
– students are not asked what would be relevant to them. Scottish Youth Parliament would like to see, among other things:
Pupils can rank topics according to preference on what they want to learnabout.Consulting with pupils (Simply asking for our opinions would be enough.). Have working group/panels of young people to update curriculum. Peer education.
– PSE is not given sufficient priority;
– Overall, there is an urgent need to review PSE in schools;
– there are no statutory requirements for PSE since the Curriculum for Excellence is based upon allowing professional educationists to devise and deliver the most appropriate curriculum for their school (although ‘Health and Wellbeing’ curriculum is a statutory requirement’
In 2019 a Review of Personal and Social Education further drew attention to inadequacies of PSE while acknowledging cases of excellent practice in some individual schhols.
Among concerns are again that many schools did not give PSE the same priority as numeracy and literacy, noting that in some cases pupils are withdrawn from PSE activities for others. Alcohol and drugs education was found in most schools but the approaches and information were often outdated; elsewhere pupils complained that they had the same lessons year after year. The report called for a review to address the issues found and to deliver findings and recommendations in March 2021. However, the pandemic has delayed work and this is expected now to be delivered in March 2022. An Education and Skills Committee meeting in January 2021 discussed proposed actions and progress so far. This is available here, Agenda item 3 (pages 21 ff.). There are some very positive ideas here but it would be reasonable to see developments towards more adequate PSE taking time. Meanwhile PSHE England has been keen to help out its colleagues north of the border. In Scotland as elsewhere it is the enthusiasm of engaged professionals who so often bring about changes in education.
Gambling Education and PSE
Given the above, it is not too surprising that gambling education has had little attention in the main discourses. This reflects other parts of society such as health and care provision where lack of awareness of the seriousness of gambling harms is the first thing that needs addressing. Education Scotland’s website returns one result for ‘gambling; which is a link to Fast Forward’s Scottish Gambling Education Hub. They do great work and are particularly to be applauded for their involving young people in design, and their employment of interactive activities including drama and other arts. Like many other organisations Fast Forward (in its response to the review of the 2005 Gambling Act) calls for a compulsory levy on gambling industry profits which would enable research, treatment and education to be funded direct from governments. They are also pushing for a focus from Education Scotland to result in curricular integration of gambling education. A problem they face is that they are currently reliant on voluntary gambling industry funding which makes firm financial planning in the longer term difficult. This reflects a growing consensus of opinion across the political spectrum, public health, medicine, academia, think tanks and many other organisations are calling for a statutory 1% levy to be made on gambling profits (money which will be distributed not by the industry’s preferences but by whatever government departments, such as Health and Social Care, deem appropriate). An instance here of how complex relationships between institutions such as politics, education, health and wellbeing, and industry interact. That said, the industry has committed to increasing its voluntary funding so that already organisations are better able to plan ahead. BeGambleAware for instance has just announced its new five years strategy which goes eyond its traditional work in education and treatment to develop research and a ‘whole-sector approach’, involving multiple agencies such as public health and community/third sector organisations: GambleAware_Organisational_Strategy_2021-26
Evidence suggests from PSHE/PSE teachers that many feel uncertain about the myriad topics and subject matter they are called upon to facilitate learning. One way forward suggested in Scottish government thinking is to identify core elements of PSE and ensure initial teacher training, including specialist PSE training, are complemented by ongoing teacher professional development. Rather than a customary focus on alcohol and drugs, perhaps gambling could be included in a broader conception of behavioural risks.
Gambling education in English schools has been compulsory since 2020. The PSHE have a great handbook for teachers, How to address gambling through PSHE education
A PSHE Association guide: Gambling: a teaching resource to promote resilience (written 2016, revised 2020) provides three lesson plans and notes which are very well worth looking at: they show just what can be done and how classroom activity is best implemented: LESSON PACK Gambling education – Promoting resilience (KS4)
This is of immediate use to Scottish teachers. It is easy to see how its general principles cross over to other risky behaviours. Of particular interest is its section on the benefits of external visitors but the dangers that need avoiding. The other immediate opportunity in Scotland is to work with Fast Foward.
Shock, Horror! “Health Terrorism”
The PSHE guidebook contains the following.
People tend to think that if a child or young person is
shocked or scared by what they are shown they will avoid
the behaviour in the future. Furthermore, both young
people and teachers (the majority of whom have received
little or no training in teaching PSHE) will often say that
they like ‘hard-hitting’ material and that it engages them
It may appear logical to focus on the dangers of excessive
gambling, for example, through sharing difficult and
emotional details of how badly a person’s life (and that of
their families) has been affected. This is an understandable
assumption, but ‘shock tactics’ can have the opposite
impact to that which was intended50.
In practice it is more likely that shock and fear
(when experienced in a safe setting — in this case a classroom)
will become exciting, in a similar way to watching
a horror film or riding a rollercoaster. This can undermine
the desired learning.
And where lessons focus on the most extreme negative
consequences, they often appear far removed from young
people’s lived experiences. Many pupils will know people
who engage in gambling in an enjoyable way, so to focus
only on extreme gambling behaviours can cause pupils to
doubt how common or true these negative examples are.
This is even more important given that attitudes towards
gambling are not as clear-cut as in other health-related
behaviours such as smoking.
Conversely, if a young person has a gambling problem, or
knows someone else with one, they might feel traumatised
by emotionally charged stories that too closely mirror
their own experiences. Pupils would be expected to relive
difficult experiences in an environment where it is hard
to disengage and where there is limited scope to manage
feelings appropriately. Shock stories can also increase stigma,
reducing individuals’ inclination to seek support.
Among student responses to the 2017 report above was this:
We think that there is too much on subjects that don’t concern us in PSE, for example the dangers of train tracks, alcoholism and ‘buzzing’ (which we’d never heard of). Also, it feels as if the PSE teachers try to scare us with the end results, with shocking videos of people dying, rather than educating us on how to actually avoid situations. The PSE programme is abstinence-centred and there is too much fear, not enough education and discussion. (Anon- Views of a group of young people, S1 to S4, attending a high school in Edinburgh)
You can see a range of responses and comments from students and others at pse comments
The crucial issue raised here is of social norms. The vast majority of students have not run into difficulties with alcohol, drugs or gambling. While such dangers represent an urgent need for wider society to address, for though the percentages of people with difficulties is low it is still far too high and the scale of suffering immense, most pupils require straightforward information ungarnished with horror. It’s true too that it’s a school’s wider remit to challenge stigma and engender understanding of how some people may involuntarily fall prey to behavioural and substance harms as a dimension of mental and emotional distress. Indeed, for older students social studies could, perhaps should, examine harms from gambling, alcohol and drugs as important social issues. The ‘social norm’ is that most people are not so affected, students’ peers are not so affected. There is a danger that emphasis on worst case scenarios distorts understanding of norms. Young people may overestimate the numbers of their peers engaging with risky behaviours and some may become involved themselves as completely ‘normal’. Some students with experience of gambling may find presentation of extreme harms does not match their own lived experience; other students may feel shame and guilt about their own behaviours and delay seeking support. There may be students who are very worried about family members’ gambling, and their fears may be exacerbated so that they will not approach pastoral staff for help.Incidentally, PSE does not work in a vacuum: not only are other curricular areas and school ethos important, pastoral support systems are vital. Other students, as evidenced by listening to them, simply find these parts of PSE irrelevant, boring, repeated year after year, matching nothing in their own experiences of life.
It would be good to have a neat conclusion but unfortunately our conclusion must be that there can be no neat conclusion or answers to our questions. Expert and qualified research may have more precise suggestions as to the way forward, although all such research we have looked at calls for further research. Nevertheless, we propose the following observations in full awareness of our lack of expertise, knowledge and resources. At the very least we have tried to think about complex issues rather than jump to neat opinions or conclusions without any thought. We hope that the future brings more solid research to the important field of gambling education.
1. Although it’s true that education is ‘a good thing’, we need to consider its priority in relation to many other initiatives to reduce gambling harms. It has been argued, for instance, that too much emphasis on education deflects attention from work to examine industry practices including marketing and advertising and product design, and the adequacy of current legal and regulatory frameworks. The best educational thinking (from PSHE Association and DEMOS does in fact include getting students to look at such issues.
2. It seems that there is a wide agreement that educatin should not try to shock students into behavioural changes. The best practice ise seen where the ojectives are to raise awareness, give knowledge and information, and signpost support. Such objectives can be evaluated.
3. The two best practices we found are from Fast Forward’s Scottish Gambling Education Hub, and the guidance given by the PSHE Association (Personal, social, health and economic education}. The former is Scotland’s ‘go-to’ provider of education, and is noted for co-production with students, interactive learning using a drama and other arts=based approaches with other resources. They are on course to ensure every child in Scotland receives some education about gambling. The latter offers everything from lesson resources to the benefits and dangers of inviting external speakers.
4. While in England gambling education has been compulsory since 2020 there is no such requirement in Scotland. It appears that at national government, education and health levels, Scotland lags behind Westminster (Scotland has its own education and health systems). This would be reflected by England’s establishing NHS specialist treatment services while Scotland ha snone.
5. Although the situation in England has some way to go and is being vigorously promoted by professionals, PSHE (where gambling education is usually located) is more advanced than Scotland’s PSE, Personal and Social education. Provision is patchy and varied and government findings have found it needs much improvement. A review with recommendations is due in March 2022.
6. There have been some good quality research studies which indicate good practice as well as weak practice. We recommend the DEMOS report evaluation of pilot gambling education projects. This report highlights students’ reponses and attitudes to such education generally which is often negative, particularly as they don’t see the relevance to their lives. Similar findings from listening to studnts have been seen in Scottish reports of 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Overall, it appears that in the specifically Scottish education context much development is required. This includes the wider development of PSE, foundational theory for delivering education about risky behaviours, teacher training, and greater prioritising by national health and education systems. Not for faint hearts! A positive sign has been the collaborations between formal education sectors and third sector organisations. The latter, such as Fast Forward, also work in informal education settings wherever youuth organisations exist.
There are examples of excellence in Scotland but attaining good provision for every young person in Scotland seems some way off. To reach it will require firstly a will to do so, then a range of work within the educational sector and across its links with other sectors. Optimistically, a start has been made. There is a need to educate about risky behaviours but doing it badly or inadequately carries the risks at best of no efficacy and at worst of negative outcomes.
In reducing Scottish gambling harms the place of formal education needs assessing by good quality research which will take time if it takes place at all. An analogy often used is to show that reduction in tobacco use owes significantly less to education than to sweeping government measures such as annual tax rises increasing price, smoking bans, advertising bans, severance of sprts sponsorhip. This is a somewhat ‘easy’ analogy. For one thing, the issues around tobacco in modern times go back 80 years filled with debate and polarised rhetoric. For another, we still don’t have a stable picture of gambling harms and prevalence, and the gambling landscape is changing all the time with digital technological developments. Still, we could ask rhetorically whether similar strong measures require more immediate attention than education. Advertising, sports sponsorship, youth-directed quasi-gambling all involve learning environments: young people live, it has been said, in a world where gambling is ‘normalised’. They have learned, that is, that it is normal to gamble.
Welcome to the debate! Perhaps young people should be invited to it too. It’s a personal issue. It’s a social issue. It should be part of Personal and Social Education.