Prevention in schools

Sheila Burton writes.

In response to your request to hear from psychologists working in prevention research or practice (‘News’, August), I would like to draw your attention to the work of the ELSA Network. Over the past sixteen or so years there has been a growing number of emotional literacy support assistants (ELSAs) delivering bespoke support to children in schools across England and Wales.

ELSAs receive up to six days of initial training by educational psychologists, followed by supervision in small groups every half term, also led by educational psychologists. This is an excellent example of educational psychologists building capacity in schools to address the emotional wellbeing needs of pupils. The area directory on the ELSA Network website lists over 150 educational psychology services providing training and continuing supervision to ELSAs, with over 80 per cent of these registered with the network.

There is considerable research and evaluation evidence on the impact of this work, much of it referenced on the website. The ELSA network promotes fidelity to the original model to uphold the effectiveness of this preventative work with children and young people in all phases of education. This work takes an interactionist perspective on children’s mental wellbeing needs, recognising that whatever characteristics a child has, they have been contributed to and are sustained by social and environmental influences.

ELSAs are supported to understand the communicative function of behaviours and to develop individualised programmes of support to increase children’s emotional literacy skills, empowering them to develop their own problem-solving and coping strategies. The work of ELSAs has attracted positive responses from CAMHS, and in some cases health services have even contributed funding to subsidise training in their local area.

Sheila Burton
Chair, ELSA Network
Wimborne, Dorset

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