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Powell's School Church of England (VA) Primary School

ELSA - Emotional Literacy Support Assistant     

What is an ELSA?

An ELSA is an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant. ELSAs are trained and supervised by educational psychologists. We have four ELSAs at Powell’s: Mrs Collings, Mrs Wrigley, Mrs Fonte and Mrs Robertson. ELSAs aim to help to ensure that children feel happy in school.

The ELSA intervention is part of our holistic approach to meeting the needs of our pupils at all levels. We consider emotional literacy support to be very similar to delivering a maths or English intervention, to help support a child in the areas that they need. Being emotionally supported will also help a child to reach their potential educationally by reducing any barriers to learning. We know that a happier child will always be more ready and open to learn.

ELSAs help children to understand their emotions and respect the feelings of those around them. They provide a consistent private space, time, and the opportunity for children to think about their personal circumstances and how they manage them.

Mrs Collings, Mrs Fonte, Mrs Wrigley & Mrs Robertson in our lovely ELSA room


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 and ELSAs are trained to use a range of activities such as games, role-play with puppets or arts and craft to support the child. ELSA sessions can take place in our ELSA rooms or outside, they are relaxing areas to help children feel nurtured.


ELSAs aim to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs such as:

  • Recognising emotions
  • Self-esteem
  • Social skills
  • Friendship skills
  • Managing ‘big’ feelings
  • Loss and bereavement


How does ELSA work?

Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher, senior leaders, the SENCo or by parents’ request.  The ELSAs and SENCO meet regularly to discuss the referral forms and to identify and prioritise which children require the weekly sessions.  They 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. The sessions initially last 6 weeks, followed by a review to reflect on whether the support needs to be continued. There is usually a waiting list for ELSA support, but this is regularly reviewed, and we work to try to keep wait times as short as possible.


Supporting - not ‘fixing’

An ELSAs role is to provide emotional support rather than ‘fix’ problems or take them away.  The ELSAs aim to establish a warm, respectful relationship with a pupil and to provide a reflective space where they are able to openly share their thoughts and feelings.

It is important to recognise 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, support will be designed to target specific aspects of a child's need.  Training and development of ELSAs is an on-going process and wisdom is required to recognise when issues are beyond the level of expertise that could reasonably be expected of an ELSA.  In this case, it may be appropriate for school to sign-post to other avenues of support.


What next?

The ELSA will liaise with teachers, and parents if they would like, to discuss progress. Once the sessions finish, the child will hopefully be able to implement and transfer any guidance and any new skills taught into their regular routine. It may be that further support is required in the future, with a similar or different focus, in which case the child can be re-referred back to an ELSA.