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At Abbey Primary school we run an Emotional Literacy Programme called ELSA. ELSA stands for (Emotional Literacy Learning Assistant). ELSA support in schools is designed to help schools support needs of their pupils. ELSA acknowledges that children and young people learn best when they feel happier, and their emotional needs are being addressed. At Abbey Primary we have two trained ELSA’s Mrs Potter and Miss Harman.

The initiative was developed and supported by educational psychologists who used knowledge of how children develop socially and emotionally and apply this knowledge to the needs of pupils.


The role title of ELSA may only be taken by someone who:

  • Has attended a full ELSA training course.
  • Regularly attends supervision groups led by educational psychologists.
  • Currently, are developing bespoke programmes to support the emotional needs of children in their school.

ELSAs are trained to plan and deliver programmes of support to pupils in their school who may be experiencing temporary or long term additional emotional needs.

A lot of work that ELSAs do will be on an individual basis with one child, however, there are cases where group sessions may be appropriate such as when working on social skills and friendship skills.

ELSAs will receive support and supervision from educational psychologists but will still report to a line manager within their school. Their school will also help with the identification and prioritisation of children who would benefit from the support of an ELSA. This process works best when there is solid communication between the teachers, heads of year, DSL, SENCos and ELSAs within a school.


What can ELSAs help with?

There are a lot of emotional skills that ELSA can help with, including:

  • Social Skills
  • Bereavement
  • Social Situations
  • Therapeutic Stories
  • Anger Management
  • Self-esteem
  • Real-life problem-solving skills
  • Friendship


How long should an ELSA Programme last?

There are very few cases where ELSA should become a permanent feature of a child’s support system, as the programme works best when there are aims for children to work towards and achieve. At Abbey Primary a course of ELSA sessions is usually between 6-8 weeks, this is always reviewed and is dependent on the child.

Sessions will typically happen once a week across the length of a term and last between half an hour and an hour. Some children may benefit from shorter sessions depending on how long they can stay engaged. Adults working with a child will get to know the ideal session length for them.

During a session, an ELSA should:

  • Check how the child is and how they have been feeling for the past week.
  • Review the content that was covered in the last session and see if any of the information needs to be revisited.
  • To introduce new content through engaging games and activities.
  • End the session in a way that helps the child to adjust to going back to class.