How do we support the emotional well-being at Ayios Nikolaos Primary School?
It’s always a pleasure, but by no means easy, talking about ELSA support (Emotional Literacy Support Assistants) at Ayios Nikolaos Primary School because it takes on so many different forms!
We are lucky to have a team of qualified ELSAs now, which helps a lot, as between us we have a wide range of experience to draw upon. It also means that we have the luxury of being able to think about which ELSA would be best suited to the child that needs support.
Most commonly this support takes the form of one to one sessions, which last around half an hour and may take place a couple of times a week or more depending on the level of need. We find that both the children and the ELSAs love these sessions which are based around the children’s interests and the difficult conversations that may happen along the way often occur very naturally, with the child taking the lead. The way that the process evolves, beginning with the ELSA building a bond of trust with the child, before moving on to develop emotional understanding, check self- esteem then branching out to delve more deeply into a targeted area such as managing emotions, friendships or social skills, we find is really effective. The feedback that we receive from parents during the process and at our end-point meetings has been invariably positive, with some even adopting ideas and techniques to try out at home!
Quotes from parents
“I feel like ELSA has made a difference to him, he’s mostly calmer now and has less meltdowns. He gave me a cuddle the other day when he saw I was sad…he’s never done that before!”
“He’s more aware of his emotions and other peoples. When he’s cross he can talk about it, instead of just blowing up. I can’t thank you enough!”
“I really appreciate what you have been able to do; she’s really opened up to us! We use the techniques with our son too now- tell me one good thing and one not so good thing, it gets us talking.”
The ELSA team work hard in order to engage the interest and trust of the pupils…
Work continues alongside the individual and group sessions under many other guises. Being a trickle posting school, mobility has a constant impact upon our daily lives. One of our ELSAs is dedicated to caring for not only our pupils that are in transition but also those that are being left behind. She offers ‘squash and biccies’ chat sessions where those leaving or arriving and their close friends can get together to share worries and excitement. She also works tirelessly to set up Skype links with schools to try to remove the horror of walking into a class on the first day and not recognising any faces. Then of course there are extra ELSA sessions available outside of this if more preparation work is needed. For those left behind, they can come along to our ELSA Hideout based in the library and send an email to their friend or make a postcard.
ELSAs are active throughout the school on every level. The work doesn’t end when the one to one sessions are completed. Pupils check back in with us and us with them, they come and find us if they are feeling ‘wobbly.’
An ELSA is on the playground first thing in the morning ready for an emotional ‘check-in’ if needed. We are around organising games, pom-pom making, mindfulness colouring or simply being there if they need someone to talk to at playtimes, so pupils never have to look too hard to find us and thankfully, now, they also understand that they don’t have to feel sad to speak to us! Although we do recognise that we have a large ELSA team for a relatively small school, we really feel that it is worth the investment as we all know that a happy child is much more likely to be a successful learner!