Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSA)
There will always be children and young people in schools facing life challenges that detract from their ability to engage with learning. Some will require greater support to increase their emotional literacy than others. ELSA is an initiative developed and supported by educational psychologists. It recognises that children learn better and are happier in school if their emotional needs are also addressed. At our school the ELSA’s are:
Mrs Atkins, Miss Roper and Mrs Dewis
They have been trained by an Educational Psychologist and Specialist teacher to plan and deliver programmes of support to pupils who are experiencing temporary or longer term additional emotional needs.
The majority of ELSA work is delivered on an individual basis, but sometimes small group work is more appropriate, especially in the areas of social and friendship skills. Sessions are fun, we use a range of activities such as: games, role-play or therapeutic activities such as mindfulness or arts and craft. ELSA sessions take place in a safe space, so the child feels supported and nurtured.
In ELSA we aim to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs such as:
Self esteem and confidence, Managing emotions, Developing Social Skills, Managing loss and bereavement, Improving Friendship skills and Managing Anxiety
How does ELSA work?
Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher. Children will then be prioritised and will usually work weekly for around 6-8 weeks. With the programme aims in mind, support sessions will be planned to help the pupil in developing new skills and coping strategies that allow them to manage social and emotional demands more effectively. No ELSA session will happen without parental/guardian permission.
Supporting – not fixing
Remember, ELSAs are not there to fix children’s problems. What we can do is provide emotional support. We aim to establish a warm, respectful relationship with a pupil and to provide a reflective space where they are able to share honestly their thoughts and feelings.
It needs to be appreciated that change cannot necessarily be achieved rapidly and is dependent upon the context and complexity of the presenting issues. For children with complex or long-term needs it is unrealistic to expect ELSA intervention to resolve all their difficulties; however, support will be designed to target specific aspects of a child’s need. Training and development of ELSAs is an ongoing process and wisdom is required to recognise when issues are beyond the level of expertise that could reasonably be expected of an ELSA. In these cases, school supports parents with referrals for specialist counselling, play therapy or to CAMHS. Our team have regular supervision sessions with an Educational Psychologist and they are able to offer advice on suitability or nature of ELSA involvement in complex cases.