St John The Baptist Catholic Primary School "Together, through our words and actions, our work and play,We point towards Christ, each and every day"


What is an ELSA?


ELSA stands for Emotional Literacy Support Assistant.


An ELSA is a specialist teaching assistant with a wealth of experience of working with children. ELSAs are trained and regularly supervised by the Educational Psychologists in Hampshire. An ELSA is a warm and caring person who wants to help your child feel happy in school and to reach their potential educationally. Their aim is to remove the barriers to learning and to have happy children in school and at home.


Mrs Pearce and Mrs Rooney are our Emotional Literacy Support Assistants


There will always be children and young people in school 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. When our children find themselves struggling and encounter difficulties with their emotional health our ELSAs will be there to listen, provide additional care and support them. To do this they plan and deliver programmes of support and these can be 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 and we use a range of activities such as: games, role-play with puppets or arts and craft.  


Our ELSAs can help with:

Loss and bereavement


Social Skills


Friendship issues


Anger Management



Relaxation Techniques

Emotional-Based School Avoidance (EBSA)



How does ELSA work?


Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher or Senior Leaders, who complete a referral form. Every half term, our SENCO reviews submitted referral forms to identify and prioritise which children require a programme for the next 6 weeks.  The SENCO holds review and referral meetings with our ELSAs to discuss each case in detail. 

With the programme aims in mind, the SENCO and ELSAs 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.

Each session lasts for 30 minutes once a week. Each session includes time to talk (emotional check-in) a planned main activity which will be interactive and may include a game, followed by some quiet, relaxation time. 

We aim to establish a warm, respectful relationship with a pupil and provide a reflective space where they are able to share honestly their thoughts and feelings. We can't necessarily fix their problems but we CAN provide emotional support.

Also, 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.

If additional support is needed, our ELSAs, along with the safeguarding leads, can work with our families to organise extra help from other agencies such as CAMHS, Family Support Services and charities (Andover Mind, Barnadoes). 

Supporting not Fixing


ELSAs are not there to fix children’s problems. In most cases they can’t. What ELSAs are able to do is provide emotional support. As they establish a warm, respectful relationship with a pupil they provide a reflective space where the pupil is able to share honestly their thoughts and feelings. The ELSA uses principle counselling skills (including active listening, problem clarification, open questions, thinking aloud, verbal and non-verbal prompts) to guide helping conversations. They avoid rushing in with suggested solutions, (‘Have you thought of…?’, ‘Why don’t you try…?’). Instead, assisting the pupil to reflect on their concerns and lead them explore possible strategies and solutions for themselves, (‘Could you imagine another way of responding in that situation?’ ‘How do you think x was feeling at that moment?’ ‘What would you have liked to have been able to say/do?’ ‘What do you think might have happened if…?’). Sometimes it is appropriate to suggest some possible coping strategies but the key is to do this tentatively and to leave the pupil with choices, (‘Some people find it helpful to do x , y or z. I’m wondering if any of those things could work for you.’)