The first pilot training of 14 school-based ELSAs started in Hampshire in October 2003. There were about 90 more ELSAs trained the following school year, and the project continued to grow rapidly over the remainder of the decade. This has been a core project within the Hampshire Educational Psychology Service involving many of its psychologists in the initial training of ELSAs and most in their ongoing supervision. In March 2012 there were 623 active ELSAs in total in 84% of Hampshire schools. The majority have at least one ELSA, many have two and some even three. The total number of people that had been trained as ELSAs in Hampshire at that time was 948. The difference of 325 reflects ELSAs who have retired, moved schools, left the area or moved on to other roles, some having trained as teachers. We are confident that those working in a different capacity will still be making use of the valuable skills they developed while in the ELSA role.   

Having pioneered this work, Hampshire has been pleased to support the development of the ELSA initiative in other local authorities across the United Kingdom.

The project has become so established that several supplementary training packages have been developed to further enhance ELSAs' skills. These include courses on Counselling Skills for ELSAs, Attachment and Solution-Focused Approaches.

Counselling Skills for ELSAs is a three session course comprising one full day and two half days. The focus is on honing basic counselling skills to help children share and reflect on their concerns. ELSAs are discouraged from trying to provide the children with solutions. They explore ways of guiding conversations that enable the children to develop their own coping skills and strategies for managing difficulties. The use of a range of practical resources is explored to enrich conversations with children, including the use of puppets, miniatures, stones etc, and the creation of life maps and feelings graphs.

Attachment is a full day course that introduces ELSAs to the core principles of attachment theory and helps them to consider ways of supporting children and young people to develop secure relationships. There are separate courses for ELSAs working in primary and secondary schools.

The one day course on Solution Focused Approaches introduces ELSAs to some of the principles and techniques upon which solution focused brief therapy is based. Such approaches assist children and young people to recognise their own strengths and competencies, enabling them to focus on what they can do for themselves to bring about desired changes. To read some feedback from a course participant, please click here.