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Gambling harm in the PSHE curriculum

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

The PSHE curriculum was updated in September 2020 to include education surrounding gambling harm for the first time. [1, 2] Despite this change, compared to drugs, alcohol and tobacco education in Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education, education on gambling harm is neglected. [3]

There is no mention of gambling education in the PSHE primary education curriculum (Table 1) despite the increasing convergence of gambling and gaming.

In secondary education, pupils are only required to learn about the risks of online gambling and debt accumulation (Table 2). There is no mention of addiction to gambling and the physical and psychological risks and consequences on the individual who gambles and those around the individual who gambles. Unlike what is seen in the curriculum for drug, alcohol, and tobacco education, there is also no mention of links to other mental health conditions.

The difference in the amount of coverage on the PSHE curriculum shows gambling harm is not taken as seriously as alcohol and substance addiction despite the WHO reporting that "the gambling-related burden of harm appears to be of similar magnitude to harm attributed to major depressive disorder and alcohol misuse and dependence. It is substantially higher than harm attributed to drug dependence disorder." [4]

It is also important to note that gambling harm is only included in the curriculum within 'internet safety and harms' in spite of a significant amount of gambling harm arising from land-based venues.

Moreover, the inclusion of gambling disorder in the DSM-V in the ‘Addictions and Related Disorders’ category alongside substance addictions suggests the need for a holistic and overarching view of addiction in meaningful education and awareness. [4]

Table 1 – Primary

By the end of primary school:

Internet safety and harms

Drugs, alcohol and tobacco

Pupils should know

  • that for most people the internet is an integral part of life and has many benefits.

  • about the benefits of rationing time spent online, the risks of excessive time spent on electronic devices and the impact of positive and negative content online on their own and others’ mental and physical wellbeing.

  • how to consider the effect of their online actions on others and know how to recognise and display respectful behaviour online and the importance of keeping personal information private.

  • why social media, some computer games and online gaming, for example, are age restricted.

  • that the internet can also be a negative place where online abuse, trolling, bullying and harassment can take place, which can have a negative impact on mental health.

  • how to be a discerning consumer of information online including understanding that information, including that from search engines, is ranked, selected and targeted.

  • where and how to report concerns and get support with issues online

the facts about legal and illegal harmful substances and associated risks, including smoking, alcohol use and drug-taking.

Note. Taken from website (3)

Table 2 – Secondary

Schools should continue to develop knowledge on topics specified for primary as required and in addition, cover the following content by the end of secondary:

Internet safety and harms

Drugs, alcohol and tobacco

Pupils should know

  • the similarities and differences between the online world and the physical world, including: the impact of unhealthy or obsessive comparison with others online (including through setting unrealistic expectations for body image), how people may curate a specific image of their life online, over-reliance on online relationships including social media, the risks related to online gambling including the accumulation of debt, how advertising and information is targeted at them and how to be a discerning consumer of information online.

  • how to identify harmful behaviours online (including bullying, abuse or harassment) and how to report, or find support, if they have been affected by those behaviours.

  • the facts about legal and illegal drugs and their associated risks, including the link between drug use, and the associated risks, including the link to serious mental health conditions.

  • the law relating to the supply and possession of illegal substances.

  • the physical and psychological risks associated with alcohol consumption and what constitutes low risk alcohol consumption in adulthood.

  • the physical and psychological consequences of addiction, including alcohol dependency.

  • awareness of the dangers of drugs which are prescribed but still present serious health risks.

  • the facts about the harms from smoking tobacco (particularly the link to lung cancer), the benefits of quitting and how to access support to do so.

Note. Taken from website (3)


1) PSHE Association and GambleAware launch gambling education handbook. Available from:

2) T Menmuir. UK Schools to introduce Gambling curriculum for September 2020. SBC News. 16 March 2020. Available from:

4) Professor M Abbott. The epidemiology and impact of gambling disorder and other gambling-related harm. World Health Organisation. 26 June 2017


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