Could a school have more than one ELSA?
The short answer to this is yes! Many schools have more than one ELSA. It was suggested from the outset that, in view of their size and organisational complexity, secondary schools would benefit from identifying two people for ELSA training. Some schools have more.
Consequences of more than one ELSA
There is a consequence upon the educational psychology service of allowing schools to train additional personnel, namely larger or an increased number of supervision groups. This places an increased pressure upon the educational psychology service, especially since it is recommended to try to keep supervision groups to a maximum of 8 ELSAs in order to engage in a genuine supervision relationship.
If additional ELSAs are trained it is important to establish the principle that they are all allocated at least the minimum specified time for the role. If too little time is allowed it is frustrating for ELSAs who will have undergone training for a role they cannot adequately fulfil. It also limits their opportunity to build and refine their skills.
How much time should ELSAs be given for this role?
The minimum recommended time is the equivalent of a day a week per ELSA unless the school is very small (e.g. around 100 pupils), in which case the minimum would be half a day. This should include some planning and recording time for the ELSA who will be unable to deliver effective programmes without this. There are schools that allocate a much greater amount of time to the ELSA role, even up to a full-time role for some ELSAs
Advantages of more than one ELSA
If an ELSA is absent for a period of time on sickness or maternity leave the school is not left without this valuable support upon which they come to depend.
If an ELSA leaves the school (e.g. to train as a teacher, take up an alternative post of responsibility, move from the area or retire - all of which have happened) there is still some valuable support for pupils until another person can be trained.
The ELSAs are easily able to provide each other with peer support, discussing intervention programmes, sharing ideas and problem-solving any difficulties.
If an ELSA works closely with a pupil in a different capacity e.g. classroom assistant, there is the option of ELSA support being delivered by a different person, thus avoiding role conflict.