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Why we love ELSA…

At Applied Psychologies, it’s our job to support the whole school system as well as individual children and young people. This is why the team finds ELSA such a positive and powerful intervention. Well trained and regularly supervised Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) do amazing work throughout settings offering wellbeing support to those who need it – young people and adults alike.

We asked the team a series of questions to find out why ELSA is such an important training to them and why it is such a passion project from them.


Question 1 - What impact have you seen the ELSAs have in the schools you work with?

As a team, we have all seen the impact ELSA’s have on the whole school’s ethos and culture. By championing the importance of empathy, emotional literacy and wellbeing, schools are giving children and young people powerful experiences of feeling supported and safe.

This enables them to:

  • share, process, and deal with uncomfortable feelings

  • explore their identity

  • become more empathetic to others

  • develop self-respect

  • develop confidence 

  • develop self-advocacy.

The children learn that adults can help them to be more successful in managing their emotions.


We have also noticed they don't just support children and young people but inevitably support the staff. Staff feel more skilled at supporting their own needs and this in turn develops confidence. ELSA's can also help with signposting others and help generate ideas about how to meet a range of children’s emotional and wellbeing needs in school. They can support staff with safeguarding and CP, as they often receive disclosures from pupils feeling safe and able to share information, they have previously kept secret.


Question 2 - What examples do you have of how ELSAs can help children and young people?

We have seen ELSAs provide children with a safe space and a safe person with whom they feel able to share their thoughts and feelings. We also see children excited to access the ELSA support, then following their help we see the impact of receiving the right support can have on the children and young people.

Here are some examples:

"One situation comes to mind of a young person who experienced a very traumatic bereavement. Through the safe relationship he had with an ELSA in school, he was supported to gradually engage in work, re-building his confidence and sense of identity. The ELSA’s confidence also bloomed through the course of their work together, as she saw how much of a positive impact she was having. The young person finally had a space to explore the thoughts and feelings he hadn’t known how to express. "


"A KS2 child who worked with an ELSA in school, completed work focused on developing her self-esteem and confidence. They created a beautiful ‘all about me’ booklet which highlighted her strengths and things she felt proud of."


"An ELSA who worked in her the role in school for a long time.... She would regularly walk around school simply to check-in with students she had worked with over the years. Giving subtle nods and winks across classrooms to let children know she had them in mind. Her established role enabled her to have a huge influence throughout school, using thought-provoking questions on displays across school to promote children’s discussions with one another on topics of friendship, kindness, citizenship and more. This helped to develop children’s self and social awareness right across school."


"An ELSA helped a young person develop problem solving skills, which helped them find their own solutions to situations that were emotionally overwhelming for them. This made them become more aware of their own feelings and more reflective of the feelings of others.”


Question 3 – What schools would benefit from having an ELSA?

All schools would benefit from ELSAs, irrespective of their type and size. If there are children and young people in it, ELSAs can only benefit the school community! But they need to be willing to allow the ELSAs time and a protected space to complete their work and attend supervision.


Each child should leave school every day confident that someone in the school building cares about them. Many children absolutely feel this way, and confidently so. For many children, this comes from their class teacher and wider classroom staff. For some children, an ELSA fulfils this role, because these children need a little more support to feel understood and cared for.


Question 4 - What is your favourite part of ELSA to teach and why?

"I most enjoy the interactions and discussions with ELSAs which are stimulated by the ELSA training. People who are keen to get into the ELSA role are generally so caring, kind and dedicated to supporting their students."

"ELSA training can be really empowering for school staff who are keen to do more to support the emotional needs of their students but are not necessarily given the time, training or resources."

“I enjoy learning myself and hearing how staff adapt the curriculum to suit the needs of their pupils.”

“Working with a group of people establishes a team element, which is another great aspect of ELSA.”

"Working with puppets and therapeutic story writing because both approaches can help to depersonalise the feelings the child or young person is experiencing. This enables the ELSA to work in a way that is perceived as non-threatening.  These sessions have also highlighted how creative ELSAs can be!"


Question 5 - What is the reward of ELSA to you?

“Empowering staff within school to know they are making a positive difference. The best way for us at Applied Psychologies to support a wide range of children is by supporting the staff who work with those children in school every day. We also see how ELSAs grow in confidence and the enthusiasm, creativity, and commitment they bring to the role.” 


“We see the ways in which children benefit, providing opportunities to develop greater self-awareness, better understand their own feelings, coping strategies, growth in confidence and ultimately, a better ability to engage in the learning and social opportunities provided by their school, and to be successful.”



Thanks for reading!

We’re running our next ELSA training course this summer term, starting Thursday 18th April. For full details and to book, visit the event page here.

For more information about the purpose of and research on ELSA, visit the ELSA Network here.

And if you want to learn more about our ELSA training or how it could help your school, staff and young people, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!  

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