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ELSA stands

Emotional Literacy Support Assistant 

Over recent years there has been increased recognition of the impact of social and emotional aspects of learning on academic attainment in schools. The ELSA project 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. I was lucky enough to become one of the first 20 or so ELSA's in Lincolnshire.

An ELSA is a Teaching Assistant who has been trained by an Educational Psychologist to support the children with their emotional and social difficulties. Generally this means helping them to increase their vocabulary of 'feelings' words, supporting them to recognise and label their feelings, gathering a set of strategies that they can use to manage these feelings, and providing them with a comfortable and safe environment to explore these feelings. 

Working jointly with the class teacher and the parents the ELSA is able to undertake a planned intervention to help the child address their individual issue. This intervention is generally over 6 to 12 sessions which are on a weekly basis. The intervention will focus on one specific area and be reviewed both during the intervention and at its completion. Each session will last between 30 and 40 minutes. 

Children who struggle emotionally and socially, can often vent their feelings and frustrations inappropriately, causing them to be labelled as 'naughty' as their behaviour is not what is considered acceptable for their particular environment. It is important therefore, that people do not see their time with the ELSA as rewarding 'bad behaviour'. It is equally important that it is understood that sessions with the ELSA is not a 'fix' or 'cure', whilst the ELSA can support the child with their understanding and strategies, it needs to be recognised that a fixed term intervention will not resolve all of the child's (or family's) difficulties. However, it will make them more manageable.