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Emotional Literacy Support (Elsa)

What is ELSA?

There will always be children and young people in schools facing life challenges that detract from their ability to engage with learning, and 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.

Mrs Griffin is a qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistants here at Hayes Primary School. She has been trained by Educational Psychologists 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, using a range of activities such as: games, therapeutic stories, various interventions, role-play with puppets or arts and craft. ELSA sessions take place in a calm, safe space for the child to feel supported and nurtured.

ELSA Sessions aim to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs:

Recognising emotions and feelings

  • Self-esteem
  • Social skills
  • Friendship skills
  • Anger management
  • Loss and bereavement
  • Anxiety

How does ELSA work?

Staff members who work with the child will refer children for ELSA support. Parents who wish to refer their child should talk to the class teacher in the first instance. With the programme aims in mind, support sessions are planned to facilitate the pupil in developing new skills and coping strategies that allow them to manage social and emotional demands more effectively. Each session lasts from 15 – 30 minutes once a week for at least half a term.

Supporting – not fixing

Remember, ELSA sessions are not there to fix children’s problems.

What ELSA sessions can do is provide emotional support. The aim is 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. Trained ELSA’s use basic counselling skills (including active listening, problem clarification, open questions) to guide conversations. They avoid rushing in with suggested solutions and instead assist the pupil to reflect on their concerns and lead them to explore possible strategies and solutions for themselves.

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 ELSA’s 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. Educational Psychologista that work with our school are able to offer advice on suitability or nature of ELSA involvement in complex cases.