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. 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. It also supports the development of spiritual capacities, as children learn to understand who they are and what makes them unique.
In order to support the fulfilment our vision, 'that all may flourish as unique children of God', we are lucky enough to have a qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistant at Westbury-on-Severn C of E. Mrs Noad 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. Mrs Henry is also undertaking this training.
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 arts and craft.
In ELSA we aim to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs: Recognising emotions, Self-esteem, Social skills, Friendship skills, Anger management, Anxiety, Loss and Bereavement. In this way, we ensure that we care for all aspects of our children's lives, including their spiritual as well as their emotional development.
Where are we based?
At Westbury school we are lucky to have our own pastoral suite, the Dandelion Suite, which is where our ELSAs are based. This consists of the Reflection Room and the room at the front of the school. These two areas have been resourced to provide a comfortable and calming space for individual and groups to work in a supportive and nurturing environment.
We are also developing the area outside the Reflection Room into a Peace Garden which we can use to work in and that all our school community can access if they need a peaceful place to reflect or calm or take a break.
How does ELSA work?
Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher or on occasion their parents. Every half term Mrs Noad, Mrs Henry and Mrs Roseblade meet to discuss the referral forms and to identify and prioritise which children require a weekly programme for the next 10 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 are able to 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 reasonably be expected of an ELSA. The Educational Psychologist that works with our school would be able to offer advice on suitability or nature of ELSA involvement in complex cases.
So what do the children think?!
On completion of their ELSA programmes, we ask the children to reflect on their experiences and to kindly leave us some feedback. Here are some of the lovely comments we receive:
"I like coming to ELSA, it makes me happy!"
"ELSA has helped me with confidence".
"It has helped me a lot with my anger and my problems in the playground. I enjoyed it very much!".
"ELSA has helped me to cope better when I am worried".