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What is ELSA?

There will always be children 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.

We are lucky enough to have a qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistant here at Holmer Green First School and Pre-School. Our ELSA, Mrs Pearce, 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.


She helps children understand their emotions and respect the feelings of those around them.  She provides time and the opportunity for children to think about their personal circumstances and how they manage them.


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, role-play with puppets or arts and craft.

ELSA sessions take place in a calm, safe space to ensure that the child feels supported and nurtured.

An ELSA aims 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?

Children are referred for ELSA support by their class teacher. This could be as a result of concerns shared by parents or after observations made at school.


The Inclusion Leader reviews the referrals to identify and prioritise which children require the sessions. Sessions are then planned to facilitate the child in developing new skills and coping strategies to manage social and emotional demands more effectively. Each session lasts from 30-45 minutes, usually weekly, for at least half a term.


Supporting – not fixing

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


What ELSAs can do is provide emotional support and aim to establish a warm, respectful relationship with the child and to provide a reflective space where they are able to share honestly their thoughts and feelings. ELSAs use active listening, problem clarification and open questions enabling the child 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.


ELSA Training

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. However, we can signpost you to external support that may be more suitable in complex cases.