ELSA Emotional Literacy Support Assistants

ELSA Programme (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant)

What is ELSA?

The ELSA programme is a national initiative designed to help schools meet the needs of emotionally vulnerable pupils within their own resources. This is achieved by training learning assistants to plan and carry out unique intervention programs to meet the emotional needs of pupils in their care. It is a programme that recognizes that children learn better and are happier at school if their emotional needs are met.


The programme was created and developed by Educational Psychologists. It continues to be led by Educational Psychologists within Local Authorities as well as the Educational Psychologists who are on the Management Board of the National ELSA Network. It is a programme with solid research evidence behind it and is in use in schools across the United Kingdom.


The initial six-day training gives teaching assistants a basic psychological understanding to be able to recognize and understand the main needs that underpin healthy emotional development in children.

What makes ELSA a unique programme is the fact that the teaching assistants continue to receive constant clinical supervision with the Educational Psychology team after the initial six days of training have ended. This enables them to further develop their understanding, skills and practice giving them a supportive space to reflect on the quality and appropriateness of the support they offer.


What do ELSAs do in a school?

ELSAs plan, conduct and evaluate interventions for pupils who experience emotional and social needs. ELSA's intervention is unique to each pupil and targets development in one of the following areas:

  • Emotional Understanding – learning to recognize and label emotions
  • Ability to regulate emotions - being able to cope with emotions such as over-anxiety, temper or sadness, for example
  • Social Skills and Friendship
  • Self-esteem/Self-worth
  • Skills to cope with loss and grief


Intervention will usually last between half a term and one whole term. The ELSA will work on a specific emotional literacy target that has been identified as relevant to the pupil in question. The process of drawing up a target should take place jointly with the class teacher/co-ordinator.

The majority of the support is individual and builds on the relationship of trust developed between the pupil and the ELSA assistant. Some skills will be extended by doing work in small groups, especially social and friendship skills (although some children will need individual support to begin with).


What do Schools have to say about implementing the programme?

This video discusses the following: 

  • How are the children identified?
  • How do you measure progress?
  • What works well? / What doesn’t work as well?
  • How has the school supported you?
  • What changes have you seen in pupils?
  • How is ELSA different and how does it complement other intervention programmes?

Thank you:
Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn, Bethesda
Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen
Ysgol Corn Hir
Gwynedd and Anglesey Educational Psychology Service
ELSA Network. 


Which Gwynedd and Anglesey schools offer the ELSA Intervention?

In addition to attending the six days of initial training with the Educational Psychology Service, in order to receive annual accreditation as ELSA assistants are expected to

  • Regularly attend supervision with an Educational Psychologist (at least 4 sessions per year)
  • Submit a Case Study annually to showcase their current practice.

We are very proud that over 80 accredited ELSAs are operating in our schools this year (2023-2024), with over 50 working towards their accreditation.

Here is a full list of the schools that offer ELSA intervention:

List of Gwynedd and Anglesey Schools with the ELSA accreditation (2024)


How can my child receive ELSA intervention?

Schools are responsible for prioritizing pupils to receive ELSA intervention because they see the need within the school.

You are welcome to discuss any concerns with your child's class teacher or the school's additional learning needs co-ordinator in order to help the school with the prioritization process.


More information about the programme can be found here: