At St Joseph’s Primary School, we employ an ELSA. The ELSA programme is there to support our children, particularly now in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Research published by the Education Endowment Foundation in their Teaching and Learning Toolkit provides evidence to indicate the positive impact of Metacognition and Self-Regulation as well as Social and Emotional Learning.  In addition, research by the Journal Educational Psychology in Practice on the impact of the ELSA programme on pupil well-being suggests that the ELSA programme has a perceived positive impact on multiple components of pupil well-being including positive emotionsnegative feelingsengagement, resilience, optimism, accomplishment and relationships. The positive well-being changes experienced by the pupils occurred not only through identified strategies, but also by talking, and forming a close relationship with the teaching assistant. These are some of the reasons why, at St Joseph’s Primary School, we have invested significantly in the training and development of our ELSA and the promotion of their role across the school.

What is an ELSA?

There will always be children in schools facing life challenges, no more so than now, that detract from their ability to engage with learning. Some will require greater support to increase their emotional literacy than others. The Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) programme is an evidence-informed intervention delivered by teaching assistants and supervised by educational psychologists to support our children.  The programme covers the following themes: “Feelings and Emotions”, “Engagement”, “Resilience”, “Hopes and Aspirations” and “Relationships”.  These themes recognise that children learn better and are happier in school if their emotional needs are also addressed. The aim of our ELSA in school is to help the children at St Joseph’s Primary School to understand their emotions and respect the feelings of those around them. Our ELSA provides the time and space for pupils to think about their personal circumstances and how they manage them.

Through the work of our ELSA we aim to provide support for the wide range of emotional needs of our children including:

Recognising emotion


Social skills

Friendship skills

Anger management

Loss and bereavement

Who is our ELSA?

In our school, Miss Maxwell is our ELSA.  She works with children across the school, usually on a one-to-one basis but also in small groups.  Miss Maxwell has had special training from educational psychologists to support the emotional development of children in school.  The ELSA room is where individual or groups of children will access help and support. Our ELSA is a very active member of staff around school. You will find Miss Maxwell at the gate or on the playground at the start and end of the school day which allows parents and carers to gain open access to Miss Maxwell and it allows her to engage with children at the start of the day to try and make the start of everyday a positive one.

What happens in an ELSA session?

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 ELSA room which provides a calm, safe space for the child to feel supported and nurtured.

How does ELSA work?

Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher, parents/carers or the SENCo.  Together with the class teacher, Miss Maxwell will identify the target areas, a programme of support will be put in place and all parties will share the strategies that she develops to build continuity and sustainability into the work she does.  Most ELSA programmes will last for 6 to 12 weeks, helping the child to learn some new specific skills or coping strategies but most of all it is a chance for them to talk and a chance for us to listen.

How do we know if our ELSA has an impact?

SMART targets will be set for each of the children who receive ELSA support.  Each session will have an objective that the ELSA wants the pupil to understand or achieve. By setting targets for the children, and by also formulating a “baseline” from which we can work, we are able to “measure” the impact of our ELSA. These measures could be linked to attendance, punctuality, a reduction in the number of outbursts, less involvement with the behaviour management system or an improvement in their attainment, achievement, productivity, or attitude.

Our ELSA isn’t there to ‘fix’ the child and for some of our pupils with complex or long-term needs, it is unrealistic to expect ELSA support to resolve all of their difficulties. The needs of these children would be discussed within our Pastoral and SEND Team meetings. However, by building a positive relationship with the children, our ELSA can help them to think about their behaviours, worries and anxieties, and give them the time and space to reflect on these and share honestly their thoughts and feelings. By doing this, our children who benefit from our ELSA support can make huge strides in their progress, confidence, belief and become positive learners who are better placed to achieve their potential.

If you would like to know more about our ELSA then please contact the school and ask for Miss Maxwell or Mrs Stack (SENCo).