The ELSA Team at Grafham Grange School

We have a team of 3 ELSAs (Emotional Literacy Support Assistants) at Grafham who work in conjunction with the Therapy Team to support the student’s needs. Our Team is made up Chloe Adam (Fridays), Emily Langenegger (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday) and Matt Hammond (Thursday).

Please note that ELSA interventions are offered to support students in a variety of ways, however our level of training is not the same as those on the Therapy Team. This means that for more in depth intervention, ELSA may not be appropriate but a member of the Therapy team will be able to help.

What is ELSA?  

ELSA is an initiative developed and supported by educational psychologists. It recognises that students learn better and are happier in school if their emotional needs are also addressed.

ELSA’s are 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, sensory items and arts and craft.  ELSA sessions will take place in our ELSA room which provides a calm, safe space for the student to feel supported and nurtured. ELSA session usually happen once a week, for between 6-12 weeks, however this can be changed to fit the need of the pupil.

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?

Students can be referred for ELSA support by their tutor. PAL or SENCO. Target areas of concern will be identified using an assessment sheet. With these in mind ELSA’s 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.  ELSA is a pro-active intervention; ELSA sessions are planned and specifically targeted. They are not to be used as a reaction to a specific event (e.g meeting with a child because they are in crisis)

Supporting – not fixing

ELSAs are not there to fix students 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 students 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 student’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 supervises the ELSA 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 student on their communication skills. It covers: listening skills; tone of voice; loudness/quietness of voice; emotion; gestures/body language; eye contact. We also look at communicating our emotions and emotional vocabulary.

Self esteem

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

Anger Management intervention

This intervention is intended to help students who struggle to regulate their emotions. It promotes 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.

Anxiety and worries intervention

This intervention is useful for students who struggle to regulate their emotions or suffer high levels of anxiety. It uses psychology-based techniques, aimed at helping students to calm down in school. This Anxiety and Worries intervention covers emotions, relaxation, calming down techniques and learning objectives around anxiety and worries. Students will learn about emotions during each session and will also learn relaxation and calming techniques. This knowledge and these skills will help them to become more emotionally literate.

Loss and grief (bereavement and separation)

These sessions are aimed at helping student to cope with the death of a loved one but can be adapted to help student whose parents are separating/divorcing. Each student 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 student to discuss their feelings; give the student the opportunity to share memories and information about their loved one and create artwork to reflect their memories; provide an opportunity for the student to create a memory box to store precious memories; enable the student to identify important people in their life which can help them to cope; and help the student to learn coping strategies and calming down techniques.

Emotions games and activities

Enhancing student’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. Students are helped to recognize and name these emotions, understand what they mean and describe them. This intervention is particularly useful with younger students.

Friendship and social skills intervention

This intervention is aimed at students who find it difficult to initiate and/or maintain friendships or struggle to cooperate with others. The sessions include activities which encourage the students 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 students 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.