ELSA – Emotional Literacy Support 

What is ELSA?  

There will always be children 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. 

 We are lucky enough to have a qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistant at Durand Primary. Mrs Brunnock 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. 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.  ELSA sessions take place in our  Resource room which provides a calm, safe space for the child to feel supported and nurtured. 

 In ELSA we aim to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs:  

  • Recognising emotion 
  • Self-esteem 
  • Social skills    
  • Friendship skills 
  • Anger management 
  • Loss and bereavement 

How does ELSA work? 

Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher, Senior Leaders or on occasion the SENCo. Target areas of concern will be identified by the class teacher. With the programme aims in mind Mrs Brunnock will 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 recognize 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.  

ELSA Interventions

Communication intervention

This intervention is meant for working proactively with a child on their communication skills. It covers: listening skills; tone of voice; loudness/quietness of voice; emotion; gestures/body language; eye contact; whole body listening; reflecting back and silent listening.

Self esteem

These sessions aim to enhance children’s self esteem and build their confidence. These sessions consist of activities which aim to encourage the creation of a positive image of themselves; allows the child to identify what is special to them, share their ideas and opinions and celebrate their strengths, successes and achievements.

‘Talkabout’ sessions are run with small groups. This practical intervention is packed with activities and games for developing self awareness and self esteem. Self awareness and self esteem is an essential prerequisite to developing social skills and so this programme is an excellent first step to any social skills intervention.

Anger management interventions

These interventions are intended to help children who struggle to regulate their emotions. They promote awareness of feelings associated with anger and the consequences of angry outbursts; working to establish the triggers to help manage anger and utilise calming down strategies.

Chill skills sessions (anxiety and worries intervention – KS2)

This intervention is useful for children who struggle to regulate their emotions or suffer high levels of anxiety. It uses psychology-based techniques, aimed at helping children to calm down in school. This Anxiety and Worries Group intervention covers emotions, relaxation, calming down techniques and learning objectives around anxiety and worries. Children will learn about emotions during each session and will also learn relaxation and calming techniques through the ‘relaxation time’. This knowledge and these skills will help them to become more emotionally literate. The warm-up games teach a variety of skills such as co-operation, team work, taking turns, communication skills, friendship, self-esteem and confidence. The coming together of a group fosters a sense of belonging and therefore raises self-esteem. Every opportunity should be taken to promote belonging and friendship. Relaxation exercises will help children to manage their anxiety and these are visited each session.

Loss and grief (bereavement and separation) (number of weeks variable depending on the need of the child)

These sessions are aimed at helping children to cope with the death of a loved one but can be adapted to help children whose parents are separating/divorcing. Each child may react differently to the loss of a loved one, so these sessions will be flexible in order to meet their individual needs. These sessions aim to enable the child to discuss their feelings; give the child the opportunity to share memories and information about their loved one and create artwork to reflect their memories; provide an opportunity for the child to create a memory box to store precious memories; enable the child to identify important people in their life which can help them to cope; and help the child to learn coping strategies and calming down techniques.

Emotions games and activities

Enhancing children’s emotional intelligence will raise their levels of motivation, self-awareness, empathy, social skills and emotion regulation. This intervention covers the four basic emotions: happy, sad, angry and scared. Children are helped to recognize and name these emotions, understand what they mean and describe them. This intervention is particularly useful with younger children.

Friendship and social skills intervention

This intervention is aimed at children who find it difficult to initiate and/or maintain friendships or struggle to cooperate with others. The sessions include activities which encourage the children to understand their feelings and those of others and promote peaceful conflict resolution. Social skills are an essential part of life, so developing these early helps children to interact appropriately with others and assist them to build positive relationships with their peers. These sessions will consist of a variety of games and activities which aim to encourage turn-taking, enhance speaking and listening skills, encourage concentration, understand actions and consequences and encourage empathy, develop cooperation and collaboration with others.

Circle of Friends

Circle of Friends is an approach to enhance the inclusion of children who are experiencing difficulties in school by involving them with peers in establishing a mutual support group. Through the group the pupils involved develop meaningful relationships, have fun and together address issues and problem solve. Within the group pupils are able to explore friendships and emotions in a safe and secure environment; learn social skills and strategies that are transferable; and start to evaluate what they are doing for themselves. The group is facilitated by adults who throughout retain the responsibility for determining overall boundaries and direction of the circle and wellbeing of participants, but whose role is to empower the group to make decisions and to be self-sustaining.

Yoga and Mindfulness

Mrs Brunnock is a fully trained children’s mindfulness and yoga teacher and delivers whole class sessions as well as individual and small group interventions.

Regular participation in yoga and mindfulness allows children to: –

* More easily focus their attention

* Identify and release stress

* Expand their self-awareness by identifying their emotions and improving their ability to express themselves

* Increase self-confidence and self-discipline

* Appreciate stillness and peacefulness and to think and behave compassionately

* Gain physical benefits of improved flexibility, circulatory and cardiovascular health, strength building, and improved physical coordination.

The best part is that all of this happens in a non-competitive setting and while having a good time!

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 been really fun and has helped me with making new friendships. I loved making our ELSA group shield and feeling like part of a fun team”. 

 “In ELSA I feel safe to talk about my sister’s illness and to cope with my feelings”. 

 “It has helped me a lot with my anger and my problems in the playground. I enjoyed it very much!”. 

 “I enjoyed ELSA and I want to stay!”. 

 “I found the activities fun! I especially liked, ‘My Perfect Friend’ and I loved working with my partner to make the crocodile with moving jaws out of lego”. 

 “ELSA has helped me to be more motivated and focused in class”