Butlers Court School

'Believe and Achieve Together'

ELSA Support

What is ELSA?


There will always be children in schools facing life challenges that detract from their ability to engage with learning, and some will require greater support to increase their emotional literacy than others. Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (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 fortunate to have three qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistants here at Butlers Court School - Mrs Ellerby, Mrs Freeman and Miss Hutchings. Our ELSAs have been specially trained by Educational Psychologists to plan and deliver programmes of support to pupils who are experiencing temporary or longer term additional emotional needs. They are also Specialist Teaching Assistants with a wealth of knowledge and experience working with children. 


Our ELSAs help children understand their emotions and respect the feelings of those around them.  They provide time and the opportunity for children to think about their personal circumstances and how they manage them.


Some 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, using a range of activities such as: games, therapeutic stories, role-play with puppets or arts and craft.


ELSA sessions take place in a calm, safe space to ensure that the child feels supported and nurtured.


An ELSA aims to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs, including but not limited to:


  • Recognising emotions and feelings
  • Self-esteem
  • Social skills
  • Friendship skills
  • Anger management
  • Loss and bereavement
  • Anxiety


Children are referred for ELSA support by their class teacher. This could be as a result of concerns shared by parents or after observations made at school. Mrs Moon (our Senior Mental Health Lead) reviews the referrals to identify and prioritise which children require the sessions. Sessions are then planned to facilitate the child in developing new skills and coping strategies to manage social and emotional demands more effectively. Each session lasts from 30-45 minutes, usually weekly, for at least half a term.


Remember, ELSAs are not there to fix children’s problems. What ELSAs can do is provide emotional support and aim to establish a warm, respectful relationship with the child and to provide a reflective space where they are able to share honestly their thoughts and feelings. ELSAs use active listening, problem clarification and open questions enabling the child to reflect on their concerns and lead them to explore possible strategies and solutions for themselves.


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 - they receive regular supervision sessions with Educational Psychologists. Wisdom is required to recognise when issues are beyond the level of expertise that could reasonably be expected of an ELSA. However, we can signpost you to external support that may be more suitable in complex cases.


If you would like any further information on the ELSA scheme, please speak to your child’s class teacher.