ELSAs in Bournemouth – what’s happening?

We started the ELSA project in Bournemouth in 2007. Our specialist BESD school has a strong culture of EL and was particularly enthusiastic. 18 of the TAs there were our ‘guinea pigs’. Since then we have run one course a year. In the first year we offered the borough-wide training just to primary schools, but since then we have offered it to all phases. 34 out of the 37 schools in Bournemouth now have at least one trained ELSA, many have more. This includes our two selective grammar schools. All ages, and a wide range of academic ability, are benefitting from ELSA support.

During 2010 we are training TAMHS in-school workers, using ELSA training as the core training. This should encourage sustainability for mental health / EL support once the TAMHS project comes to an end – because there will be ongoing support for the trained ELSAs.

Our ELSAs continue to be managed by their line-manager in school. On-going support is provided by the link EP for the school, the Behaviour Support Advisory Teacher for the school, and our Primary Mental Health Workers. This year, our two TAMHS practitioners are also offering support in the TAMHS schools. We hold an ELSA Network meeting half-termly in each of the three localities in Bournemouth. Supervision is offered at these Network meetings, with the following functions:

  • Normative: how we work, keeping ‘true’ to ELSA principles

  • Formative: new information, education

  • Restorative: support, problem solving

Once initial training is complete, ELSAs are encouraged to do further training, including courses run by the EPS on Attachment, Listening and Counselling, and Understanding Anger. Some of our ELSAs also have other roles in the school such as running the Nurture Group or Parent Support Worker, and access related support and training. This is one way in which ELSA skills are rippling throughout the school, beyond ELSA sessions.

Last year we had a research assistant, Katy Bravery, with us for one day a week, which gave us the opportunity to evaluate ELSA work in Bournemouth and share good practice amongst schools. Katy is now training as an EP at Southampton University.

Schools are incredibly creative in finding space for ELSA work. In one school the Head teacher has donated his room, in another a corridor was partitioned off to make a new room. Here’s the Wave Room: