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08 November 2019

Kev Clelland is Operations Director at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM). Here he reflects on a first collaboration with Racing to School and his charity’s mission to support young people through education.

Guide, not tell

YGAM is a national charity with a social purpose to inform, educate and safeguard young people about gaming and gambling. We also aim to build digital resilience amongst young and vulnerable people, helping them to make informed decisions and understand the consequences around gambling and gaming.

The charity achieves this through evidence-led, evaluated and accredited education programmes and resources for anyone that works with or cares for young and vulnerable people, including teachers, youth workers, community volunteers and mental health specialists. YGAM also works closely with universities and students to raise awareness of problematic gambling and gaming across campus.

Inspired by a personal story

The charity was set up in 2014, following the devastating experiences of our CEO Lee Willows and our Founder Patron Anne Evans. Lee was close to losing his liberty to the consequences of addiction and Anne Evans lost her son Alan to problem gambling.

Pupils think up words of association at an interactive session

I joined YGAM as our first Education Manager for the North of England in March 2018. Prior to joining the charity I spent 10 years in the education sector, mainly working in primary schools, although I did gain some experience of teaching in a secondary setting after participating in the Outstanding Teacher Programme in 2015.

As a teacher, I developed a keen interest in the health and wellbeing of young people, realising its role in providing a safer and more inclusive environment for students to engage in their studies.

Developing workshops that work for schools

Since joining YGAM, I have helped the charity develop its offer to schools, working with the education team to enhance our workshop content and the resources we provide to delegates; and as the charity has grown, so have I, moving on to head up our education team and I am now Operations Director.

I am a huge sports fan and love participating and watching. Before training to be a teacher, I worked as sports writer in Scotland, and I love football, cricket and rugby (league and union) and run marathons in my spare time (11 to date). Living only a couple of miles away from Wetherby and growing up in York, I have been to the races a number of times, but football is my real passion.

Newmarket Academy students during YGAM workshop with Racing to School

Sport is a universal framework for learning values

You have to be 18, of course, to place a bet and lots of young people we work with are under 18. However, at YGAM we believe in guiding not telling.

For lots of punters, placing bets is just a bit of fun, an opportunity to socialise, or time away from the pressures of work or family. However, for others it can become an addiction and can be harmful to our mental health.

We believe it is vital that we are doing all we can to inform, educate and safeguard people, and in YGAM’s case that means young people, so that when they reach the age when they can gamble that they do so responsibly and are aware of the potential risks.

Sport has the power for learning values

Sport does provide a universal framework, thus contributing to the development of soft skills needed for responsible citizenship and that’s why we believe it can help us get our message across.

We have worked with a number of football clubs and their community sports trusts, training their staff so they can share our message, and we are always looking to work with other partners to increase the number of young people we reach.

Kev Clelland at Newmarket Academy with Racing to School
Kev Clelland joins forces with Racing to School speaking to pupils in Newmarket school

Spotting the signs and getting help

Horseracing can definitely help young people make informed choices through a better understanding of gambling and the potential risks, helping them spot the signs and to know where to get help. I’ve seen this through the objectives of Racing to School. As with all charities, we are always looking for financial support but we also encourage people to champion our work in the media.

I would encourage anyone to come along to one of our workshops; to listen to the real-life stories from people who have experienced gambling related harms and to take a look at the up-to-date facts and figures we share. YGAM provides 60+ activities, lesson plans, PowerPoints and data sheets to offer as much support as possible.

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