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. Some will require greater support to increase their emotional literacy than others. Emotional literacy is about understanding and coping with the feelings of ourselves and others. It involves developing high self-esteem and creating positive interactions with other people. Being emotionally literate helps children to focus better on their learning and has a positive impact on their general happiness and well-being.
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. ELSAs are specialist members of staff with a wealth of experience of working with children.
At Westbourne, we have 5 members of staff who have been trained by Educational Psychologists to plan and deliver programmes of support to pupils who are experiencing temporary or longer term additional emotional needs.
Our ELSAs (Emotional Literacy Support Assistants) are:
The majority of ELSA work is delivered on an individual basis, but sometimes small group work is more appropriate, especially when the focus is on social and friendship skills.
Sessions are fun and we use a range of activities including games, role-play with puppets, activity sheets or arts and craft. ELSA sessions take place in our very own 'ELSA room' which provides a calm, safe space for the child to feel supported and nurtured.
In our ELSA sessions we aim to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs including:
Recognising and Managing Emotions
Friendship Skills/ Friendship Issues/ Peer problems
Loss and Bereavement
Low Self-Esteem/ Confidence
How does ELSA work?
Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher, our SENDCo, Miss Aves or our Family Support Worker, Mrs Ofoego. We then meet to discuss the referrals and to identify and prioritise which children require ELSA support.
Our programme of ELSA support runs for 6-8 sessions which last between 30 and 40 minutes. The sessions are not intended to fix children’s problems but are a means of supporting a child through a situation and a way of encouraging them to begin to open up and talk and to learn strategies to deal with their emotions.
An ELSA will use counselling skills, including active listening, problem clarification and open questions in order to enable a child to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
What the children say about their ELSA sessions!
On completion of their ELSA programmes, we ask the children to reflect on their experiences. Here are some of the lovely comments we have received:
"ELSA has encouraged me to make more friends."
"ELSA has helped me a lot. It’s helped me to say rather than hiding it. It’s helped me know what to do rather than hiding my worries.”
"ELSA has made me feel happy. I can talk about my feelings.”
"I’ve enjoyed ELSA! I can talk about how I’m feeling. I like the worry jar. I
empty all the old ones then I don’t feel worried anymore!