The ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) project was originally developed within Southampton then Hampshire by Sheila Burton, Educational Psychologist. It was designed to build the capacity of schools to support the emotional needs of their pupils from within their own resources. It recognises that children learn better and are happier in school if their emotional needs are also addressed.
ELSA is an initiative developed and supported by educational psychologists who apply psychological knowledge of children’s social and emotional development to particular areas of need and to specific casework.
From academic attainment to all-round development
Over recent years there has been increased recognition of the impact of social and emotional aspects of learning on academic attainment in schools. The Children Act 2004 (Every Child Matters) recognised that schools need to be concerned with the all round development of children.
All children should be nurtured in accordance with their individual needs. 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.
The ELSA model developed in Hampshire
Hampshire ELSAs are Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) who receive six days of additional training from educational psychologists on aspects of emotional literacy including emotional awareness, self-esteem, anger management, social and friendship skills, social communication difficulties, loss, bereavement and family break-up. ELSAs receive supervision from educational psychologists once every half term in a local group of either primary or secondary ELSAs. Supervision groups are normally a maximum size of 8 ELSAs. ELSAs may also receive some additional individual support from their supervisor if needed, usually via email or telephone contact. A school may also ask an educational psychologist working with their school to advise the ELSA on how to support a pupil for whom there is particular concern.
Tips for schools
All staff in school need to understand the ELSA role, how it works and how to get the best from it. Click here for a leaflet that summarises key information.
ELSAs are trained to plan and deliver programmes of support to pupils in their school who are experiencing temporary or longer term additional emotional needs. The majority of ELSA work is expected to be delivered on an individual basis, but sometimes small group work will be appropriate, especially in the areas of social and friendship skills.
Supervision for ELSAs
ELSA as a time limited intervention
Change as a result of ELSA intervention
An ELSA needs to:
- have a warm personality and be able to stay calm under pressure
- be able to gain the confidence of children who are behaviourally challenging or socially withdrawn
- be happy to work independently and show initiative
- be creative in planning interventions and efficient in recording ELSA work
- be eager to learn and develop new skills
Click here for a sample person specification and job description.