Symondsbury Church of England VA Primary School

The Church of England


ELSA - Emotional Literacy Support Assistants

Supporting the mental Health & Wellbeing of our Pupils

At Symondsbury we have three ELSA’s. The ELSA programme is there to support our children, particularly now in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

What is an ELSA?

There will always be children in schools facing life challenges, no more so than now, that detract from their ability to engage with learning. Some will require greater support to increase their emotional literacy than others. The Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) programme is an evidence-informed intervention delivered by teaching assistants and supervised by educational psychologists to support our children. After a thematic analysis of the programme the following themes were identified: “Feelings and Emotions”, “Engagement”, “Resilience”, “Hopes and Aspirations” and “Relationships”.  These themes recognise that children learn better and are happier in school if their emotional needs are also addressed. The aim of our ELSA in school is to help the children to understand their emotions and respect the feelings of those around them. Our ELSA provides the time and space for pupils to think about their personal circumstances and how they manage them.

 Through the work of our ELSA we aim to provide support for the wide range of emotional needs of our children including:  

Recognising emotion


Social skills    

Friendship skills 

Anger management 

Loss and bereavement 

Research provides evidence to indicate the positive impact of Metacognition and Self-Regulation as well as Social and Emotional Learning. Indicating that it has a positive impact on children's learning. In addition, research by Educational Psychologists on the impact of the ELSA programme on pupil well-being suggests that the ELSA programme has a perceived positive impact on multiple components of pupil well-being including positive emotionsnegative feelingsengagement, resilience, optimism, accomplishment and relationships. The positive well-being changes experienced by the pupils occurred not only through identified strategies, but also by talking.

Who are our ELSA’s?

In our school, Ms Swift and Mr Knowles are our ELSAs.  They work with children across the school, usually on a one to one basis but also in small groups. 

What happens in an ELSA session?

The majority of ELSA work is delivered on an individual basis, but sometimes small group work is more appropriate, especially in the areas of social and friendship skills. Sessions are fun, we use a range of activities such as: games, role-play with puppets or arts and craft.  ELSA sessions take place in our ELSA room/octagon which provides a calm, safe space for the child to feel supported and nurtured. 

How does ELSA work?

Children are usually referred for ELSA support by their class teacher.  Together with the class teacher, the ELSA will identify the target areas, a programme of support will be put in place and all parties will share the strategies that she develops to build continuity and sustainability into the work she does.  Most ELSA programmes will last for 6 weeks, helping the child to learn some new specific skills or coping strategies but most of all it is a chance for them to talk and a chance for us to listen.

How do we know if our ELSA has an impact?

SMART targets will be set for each of the children who receive ELSA support.  Each session will have an objective that the ELSA wants the pupil to understand or achieve. By setting targets for the children, and by also formulating a "baseline" from which we can work, we are able to "measure" the impact of our ELSA. These measures could be linked to attendance, punctuality, a reduction in the number of outbursts, less involvement with the behaviour management system or an improvement in their attainment, achievement, productivity or attitude. Our ELSA isn’t there to ‘fix’ the child and for some of our pupils with complex or long-term needs, it is unrealistic to expect ELSA support to resolve all of their difficulties. However, by building a positive relationship with the children, our ELSA can help them to think about their behaviours, worries and anxieties, and give them the time and space to reflect on these and share honestly their thoughts and feelings. By doing this our children who benefit from our ELSA support can make huge strides in their progress, confidence, belief and become positive learners who are better placed to achieve their potential.  

If you would like to know more about our ELSA then please contact the school and ask for Ms Swift, Mrs Moores (when she returns from her maternity leave) or Mr Knowles.


The Thrive Approach

What is the Thrive Approach?

Thrive is a therapeutic approach to help support children with their emotional and social development. It is a whole school approach based around, current studies of effective learning and current models of child development – in order to help the school to understand the needs being signalled by children’s behaviour.

The Thrive approach offers practical strategies and techniques and is built around online assessments which identify children’s emotional development and provides action plans for their individual needs. Whole classes can also use Thrive techniques and activities to address any issues or as part of PSHE sessions in school.

Research has shown that how we behave is linked to how we feel and our emotions are linked to how we learn. By teaching children to recognise and notice these feelings and emotions it can help with their development and learning.

Children sometimes need some extra support with their emotional growth and this can be temporary or over a longer period of time.

Thrive promotes their emotional and social growth by building positive relationships between a child, their peers and the teaching staff and helps them explore and understand their feelings through various activities.

Why might my child attend a Thrive session?

Many children experience difficulties during their time at school. These may include:

  • Difficulties with friendships.
  • Getting into trouble at playtime.
  • Finding it hard to settle in the classroom.
  • Finding it difficult to manage their strong feelings.
  • Not knowing who to turn to when feelings are too big to manage on their own.

These situations can lead to many different feelings which may seem overwhelming at times. They might include: anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness, confusion or anxiety.

All these feelings are very normal and happen to a lot of children. The Thrive sessions are to help children learn to manage their feelings and teach them strategies that will help promote their learning at school.

What will happen in a Thrive session?

The session may be on an individual basis or as part of a small group of children. During each session there will be an activity which may include:

  • Story telling
  • Circle games
  • Arts and crafts
  • Sand play
  • Movement and relaxation
  • Hand massage
  • Cooking and preparing food
  • Role play and puppet work
  • Games
  • Gardening

Our Vision and Aims

Our Vision is to:

Develop children emotionally so they are able to recognise and distinguish their emotions and learn ways of responding to their feelings appropriately.

We aim to:

  • Provide alternative support for children who are experiencing emotional, social or behavioural difficulties.
  • Provide a safe and calm environment for children to develop their skills.
  • Enable children to take pride in their achievements and enhance self-esteem.
  • Help children to manage their feelings and develop skills to enjoy and participate in school life.
  • Use positive approaches to manage all behaviours.

More Information

For more information about the Thrive approach see the website: or speak to our Thrive trained practitioner, Mrs Roberts.


Peer Mediators

Class 4 have trained as Peer Mediators to support pupils with any disagreements they have may have on the playground.  Conflict is normal and part of every day life.  We want to give the children the tools to help them support themselves and others.


Dorset Council RUOK? Campaign

Asking for help with mental health can seem particularly daunting for young people so as part of Children's Mental Health Week 2023 the RUOK? campaign has just launched with a mission to make access to mental health support easy. Here are some important contacts and we will add some of the information to our ‘Reach Out’ section of the website.


As a school, we have always tried to make the world a better place – it is part of our school vision after all.


One of things we can do is look for the positives in all we do and share some of that happiness around – even with a smile!  A few years ago, the staff did a workshop with ‘Dr of Happiness’, Andy Cope and some of his work was really transformational.  He talked about 7 second hugs and positive pants! He also talked about how the average person lives 4000 weeks – 4000! We’re already on newsletter number 20 this term! If we don’t like Mondays, that’s 1/7 of our 4000 weeks so let’s love Mondays! It was really thought-provoking and inspiring so, this week I thought I would share a link to ‘The Art of happiness’ website and there are some videos and links that I hope you will find inspiring too… These ones are mainly for the grown-ups but that is important too. After all – you can’t pour from an empty cup and your wellbeing is important too!

Dr Andy Cope introduces one of the videos from 'Brilliant Schools' - YouTube

Videos – Art of Brilliance

We always teach the children that a smile is contagious and the children have enjoyed sharing random acts of kindness both in school and in the community.  With that in mind, have you ever read ‘The Pig of Happiness’? It’s a great book that we have shared with the children in the past and will share in our celebration assembly today too.  Here’s the link so that you can watch it with your child at home…

The Pig of Happiness - YouTube