About ELSA

What is ELSA?


The ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) intervention was originally developed within Southampton, then Hampshire, by Sheila Burton, Educational Psychologist. It was designed to build the capacity of schools to support the emotional needs of their pupils from within their own resources. This is achieved by training teaching assistants to develop and deliver individualised support programmes to meet the emotional needs of children and teenagers in their care. It recognises that children learn better and are happier in school if their emotional needs are also addressed. This intervention is now widely implemented by educational psychologists across Britain.

ELSA is an initiative developed and supported by educational psychologists, who apply their professional knowledge of children’s social and emotional development to areas of need experienced by pupils. They provide on-going professional supervision to help maintain high quality in the work undertaken by ELSAs, thereby helping to ensure safe practice for ELSAs and pupils alike.

Click here for guidance for educational psychology services (Local Authority or independent) interested in introducing ELSA training and supervision in their local area.

The role title of ELSA may only legitimately be used by people who:

  • have attended (or are currently attending) a full ELSA training course delivered by one or more fully qualified educational psychologists (courses lasting a minimum of 5 but more usually 6 days)
  • regularly attend half-termly supervision in small groups (with a recommended maximum of 8 ELSAs per group and duration of 2 hours per session), led by a qualified educational psychologist
  • are currently delivering bespoke programmes of support to individual pupils and sometimes small groups

All ELSAs must be employed within an educational establishment (or other organisation that works with children and young people), and must receive line management support in the ELSA role. For reasons of accountability and safety, the ELSA Network will not endorse anyone to work independently or on a voluntary basis as an ELSA.

Registration of ELSAs

If any of the above criteria do not apply, the role title of ELSA should not be used. Practising ELSAs are registered with local educational psychology service providers who deliver initial training and on-going professional supervision. Each service provider is responsible for maintaining a local register of practising ELSAs and will remove from their register any person no longer fulfilling the role requirements as detailed above.

The ELSA Network only endorses practice that meets these minimum standards. 

Find out more about the network