ELSA - Emotional Literacy Support Assistant

At Burton-on-the-Wolds we have two ELSAs who work across school.  Our ELSAs are Mrs Claire Campbell and Mrs Sarah Kirk.  They work very closely with class teachers and Mrs Parkin (SENDCo).

What is ELSA?

In schools, ELSA stands for Emotional Literacy Support Assistant. ELSA support in schools is a project designed to help schools support the emotional needs of their pupils.

ELSA acknowledges that children and young people learn best when they feel happier and their emotional needs are being addressed.

The initiative was developed and supported by educational psychologists who used knowledge of how children develop socially and emotionally and apply this knowledge to the needs of pupils.

The role title of ELSA may only be taken by someone who:

ELSAs are trained to plan and deliver programmes of support to pupils in their school who may be experiencing temporary or long term additional emotional needs.

A lot of work that ELSAs do will be on an individual basis with one child, however, there are cases where group sessions may be appropriate such as when working on social skills and friendship skills.

ELSAs will receive support and supervision from educational psychologists, but will still report to a line manager within their school. Their school will also help with the identification and prioritisation of children who would benefit from the support of an ELSA. This process works best when there is solid communication between the teachers, heads of year, SENDCos and ELSAs within a school.

In these cases, when a child is identified it is also a good idea to make a note of the kind of emotional support that they would benefit from and what areas an ELSA can work on them with. These priorities can then set the aims of the programme which can also act as individual aims for children.

Working on things that are personal to a child is likely to make the impact of the programme more successful.

What can ELSAs help with?

There are a lot of emotional skills that ELSA can help with, including:

How long should an ELSA Programme last?

There are very few cases where ELSA should become a permanent feature of a child’s support system, as the programme works best when there are aims for children to work towards and achieve. When planning a child’s individual ELSA programme, it is a good idea to plan a term’s worth of work.

Further intervention towards new aims can be put in place at a later date if it becomes required.

Sessions will typically happen once a week across the length of a term and last between half an hour and an hour. During a session, an ELSA should:

If the weekly sessions can be scheduled at a regular time it can help children to prepare and the routine can also be beneficial for their emotional needs.

Some children may benefit from shorter sessions depending on how long they can stay engaged. Adults working with a child will get to know the ideal session length for them.

Some children may not respond well to support stopping all at once, so a graduated end to a programme is often a good idea, and a school ELSA can remind children that it is okay to come and talk to them when they need it.

School ELSAs should understand that not all changes will happen quickly, and one programme may not be able to meet all the needs that a child has. So when planning the work that will go into a programme ELSAs need to be aware of what aims they want to target.