ELSA stands for Emotional Literacy Support Assistant and 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. 

The role title of ELSA may only be taken by someone who has attended a full ELSA training course. Mrs Kay, our school's Welfare Officer, has been trained by Educational Psychologists to to plan and deliver programmes of support to children 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 with puppets or arts and craft.  ELSA sessions take place in our dedicated Rainbow Room, which provides a calm, safe space for the child to feel supported and nurtured.

There are a lot of emotional skills that ELSA can help with, including, but not limited to:

  • Social sills
  • Self-esteem
  • Anger management
  • Bereavement
  • Social situations
  • Therapeutic stories
  • Real-life problem-solving skills
  • Friendship
Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher, the SENDCo or on occasion Senior Leaders. Target areas of support will be identified by the class teacher. With the programme aims in mind Mrs Kay will then plan support sessions to facilitate the child in developing new skills and coping strategies that allow them to manage social and emotional demands more effectively. Sessions typically happen once a week across the length of a term and last between half an hour and an hour. As much as possible, sessions are scheduled at a regular time to help children to prepare - the routine can also be beneficial for their emotional needs.

It is important to acknowledge that ELSA is not there to 'fix' children’s problems. What we can do with the input of the programme is provide emotional support. We aim to establish a warm, respectful relationship with a child 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. The Educational Psychologist that works with our school would be able to offer advice on suitability or nature of ELSA involvement in complex cases.