Ruth Pomeroy, Higher Level Teaching Assistant and ELSA and Eileen Maceachern, SENCO, Mile Cross Primary School
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What did we do?
At Mile Cross Primary School, we have had ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) support in place for several years now, but with an ever-growing number of children experiencing social, emotional and mental health difficulties, waiting times for support had become too lengthy. A grant from the Inclusion Fund enabled us to train seven additional members of staff as ELSAs which has had a hugely positive impact within our school.
The training has made me really stop and think about how I’m responding when something happens. It’s impacted on the way I interact with children in the school and supported me developing really positive relationships.
Newly trained ELSA
It had quite an effect on me because I was pushing everyone away at the start and I questioned it at first, but it really helped because I could get everything out and re-arranged it. It was nice to have someone who didn’t just say I understand.
Year 6 Pupil
This project has already made a difference in our school and will continue to benefit our school, our children and our families, now and in the future.
Summary of impact
This training has given members of staff the skills and confidence to support children with a wide range of difficulties, for example; bereavement, family break up, anger and anxiety management.
NOA funding has given us the opportunity to up-skill and develop key staff in order to create a sustainable programme in school. We have already seen the impact in terms of our provision and our school culture, but also, more significantly, the impact on individual children who have participated in ELSA sessions. Their difficulties have not disappeared, but these children have been helped to develop coping strategies; building their resilience, self-esteem and confidence. These are skills that our children will be able to develop further throughout their lives.
We refurbished our ELSA room to create a more comfortable and inviting space and purchased new resources conducive to delivering effective ELSA sessions.
All of our ELSAs are class-based support staff. They have dedicated 1:1 time for ELSA sessions but can also deal with issues as they arise in the classroom and the wider school; supporting children at the times they need it most.
With this skill base in school, we were able to develop a Young Carers network, establishing a system for another vulnerable group of children requiring dedicated support. Our ‘Creative Carers’ meet regularly and the network is highly valued by children and families.
What would we do differently
It takes a special person to be an ELSA; we chose our ELSAs carefully and trained staff with a range of personalities and different strengths. Some staff have found it difficult to timetable sessions alongside their existing commitments so this is something to really plan in advance.
Although sessions don’t necessarily require many resources, access to suitable games, craft materials and books can help children to open up and work through their difficulties.
All practicing ELSAs need to take part in six weekly supervision sessions with an Educational Psychologist so schools need to consider this ongoing cost within their CPD budget. For more information on the ELSA network, take a look at their website.
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