What is Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA)?
There will always be children and young people in schools facing life challenges that distract 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.
We are lucky enough to have a qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistant at Sandling primary school - Miss Ferguson. 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, we use a range of activities such as: games, role-play with puppets or therapeutic activities such as mindfulness or arts and craft. ELSA sessions take place in our very own 'ELSA area' within the nurture room which provides a calm, safe space for the child to feel supported and nurtured.
In ELSA we aim to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs:
- Social skills
- Friendship skills
- Anger management
- Recognising emotions
- Loss and bereavement
How does ELSA work?
Children are referred for ELSA support by their class teacher. Every term I will liaise with our Lead DSL Miss Coombes to discuss the referral forms and to identify and prioritise which children require a weekly support programme for the next 6-8 weeks. With the programme aims in mind we then plan support sessions to facilitate the pupil in developing new skills and coping strategies that allow them to manage social and emotional demands more effectively.
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 can 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 be expected of an ELSA. In these cases, school supports parents with signposting other avenues of support for example children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). The Educational Psychologist that works with our school has regular supervision sessions with our ELSA, and can offer the school advice on suitability or nature of ELSA involvement in complex cases.